Fela Kuti - Coffin For Head Of State
The first half of “Coffin For Head Of State” (1980) deals, via a metaphorical journey, with the harmful impact of Islam and Christianity on Nigeria. The second half describes a real journey: a protest march Fela made, accompanied by his family and members of the Young African Pioneers, on head of state General Obasanjo’s residence at Dodan army barracks on 30 September 1979, the day before Obasanjo retired from the Nigerian presidency. The purpose of the march was to shame Obasanjo for causing Fela’s mother’s death (her health steadily declined after being thrown out of a second-floor window by soldiers during the army’s 1977 attack on Kalakuta Republic). The protesters deposited a symbolic coffin outside Obasanjo’s house. On leaving the barracks, Fela and the other mourners were attacked and ferociously beaten by soldiers.
After the sacking and burning of Fela’s Kalakuta Republic in 1977, Fela wrote several musical responses attacking the culpable Nigerian government, including this mournful tribute to his mother. During the raid, Fela’s mother Funmilayo was thrown out of a second story window, sustaining multiple, severe injuries. She eventually passed away due to medical complications, and Fela, his wives, and his followers, in a bold act of grief and defiance, carried his mother’s coffin to the front gate of the army barracks, asserting that his dead mother in the coffin should assume the position of president of Nigeria. Musically The song’s slow, steady beat and repetitive structure mimics the march up to the barracks, while the lyrics and tone reflect Fela’s overwhelming sadness over the loss of his mother and the state of his beloved Nigeria. “Coffin For Head of State” is Fela’s somber excoriation of those that, “through Jesus Christ our Lord”, corrupt, steal and rob the African people.
Coffin For Head Of State (Instrumental)
Coffin For Head Of State (Vocal)