Fela Kuti - V.I.P.
The lyric for “Vagabonds In Power” was inspired by an encounter Fela had with Sam Nujoma, leader of the Namibian liberation movement, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), on a flight to Lagos in 1978. During the flight, Fela was troubled by Nujoma’s slogan “the struggle continues.” Fela flashed that Nujoma, who was travelling first class, was happy for the Namibian civil war to continue indefinitely, for while it did, he enjoyed a life of comfort elsewhere. Fela’s scepticism increased when after landing at Lagos, Nujoma and his party were whisked away in a fleet of government limos. “…Him no know hungry people,” sings Fela, “him no know jobless people, him no know homeless people, him no know suffering people, him go dey ride best car, him go dey chop best food, him go dey live best house, him go dey waka for road, you go dey commot for road for am, him go dey steal money…” Would Nujoma’s frontline fighters, asks Fela, be treated in the same way?
Performed by Fela and his Afrika 70 at the renowned Berlin Jazz Festival in 1978, this live recording of V.I.P. is possibly Fela’s most profound vilification of the Nigerian government. In his very public address to the European crowd, Fela explains that V.I.P. – normally “Very Important Personality” – really stands for “Vagabonds in Power”, a direct jab both at the Nigerian authorities and power structure, as well as the ruling class. Musically lush, this was to be the last performance of the Afrika 70 – due to inner strife, mostly having to do with, ironically, complaints about pay (rumors were that Fela had announced his intention to fund a presidential run with the spoils from Berlin), the group disbanded.
V. I. P. (Part I)
V. I. P. (Part II)
Originally released in 1979, reissued on vinyl by Knitting Factory Records.