Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense / Berliner Jazztage '78 (Kino Lorber)
Reviewed by Kevin Curtin, Fri., Aug. 31, 2012
Fela KutiTeacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense/Berliner Jazztage '78 (Kino Lorber)
Fela Anikulapo Kuti (1938-1997) was as righteous as they come. Music served as his podium for politics; the Nigerian bandleader tore down leaders in his lyrics and thus became a victim of government harassment with over 200 arrests. Leading bands as big as baseball teams, he conducted a form of Afrobeat that melded jazz to funk with African rhythms. Singer, pianist, saxophonist, conductor, and husband to most of his female bandmembers, Kuti's foremost role became that of an activist, as Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense demonstrates. The BBC documentary from 1984 isn't anything special in terms of production (one interview, one performance, and lots of stock footage of Kuti's hometown Lagos), but it allows the frontman to tell his own story, from a middle-class birth and Western interludes to finding his African identity and forever waging a musical war against corruption. The attached concert, Berliner Jazztage '78, taped for German and Nigerian TV, proves that Fela Kuti was a hero: preaching, dancing, and jamming with the power and spirit of Africa in his grip.