Highlife Jazz: A Stylistic Analysis of the Music of Felá Anikulapo Kuti

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study specifically investigated the stylistic elements employed in by Felá during the highlife jazz era. It situated Felá's music into four artistic periods and analyses structural elements of the music in the 60's-being the first artistic period. Samples drawn from the highlife jazz period were selected and scored in staff notation in order to establish the structure, form and compositional techniques of the composer. The study suggested further structural and stylistic research on the documentation of other popular musicians in Africa so as to preserve their works for posterity.

Keywords: Stylistic elements, music genre, Afrobeat, Highlife jazz

Introduction

A major challenge to the study of African music is the apparent scarcity of materials on urban popular music and a stylistic study of their structure. This view is well articulated by Omibiyi (1981) when she concurs that it is mandatory that scholars broaden their scope of study to include all varieties of musical styles current in contemporary Nigeria .Corroborating this statement are the works of Akpabot (1998) and Adegbite (2006) . According to Akpabot (1998), African music should attract, to a very large extent, scholarly enquiries on analysis of its forms and styles. He stressed further that we should talk structurally rather than descriptively about African Music. Adegbite (2006) also observed that although the level of research into African popular music traditions has increased in recent years, studies devoted to stylistic study of Nigerian popular music remain few.

There is therefore the need to undertake a stylistic study of African popular music the view to understanding the fragments that has been intelligently woven together to make the music a unique phenomenon. In considering musical style as an instrument of sympathetic communication and aesthetic sociability, we would also be able to learn a great deal from situation of musical change concerning the ways in which aesthetic behaviour and its consequences as a variable in socio-cultural life (Mukarovsky, 1970).

Theoretical considerations of this sort, however, can be pursued only against a background of conceptual definition, ethnographic and historical and stylistic description. It is the intention if this paper to investigate the stylistic dimensions of Felá' Anikulapo Kuti'si music in the sixties. In doing this, we would identify the principles underlying the highlife jazz that evolved at the time, identify the musical elements that were incorporated into the music and suggest some fruitful directions that future theoretical and analytical enquiry of other popular music genres might take. Felá incorporated both foreign and local styles in the creation of the highlife jazz. The challenge then is to identify these styles and see how Fela incorporated them into a distinctive genre. Hence, the study will not only be targeting the stylistic components used in the music but also postulate reasons for their inclusion in the body of works. This will help in better appreciation of the forms and structure of the musical genre.

Conceptual Framework

The theoretical framework for this study is based on the concept of identity. Identity has been defined as the set of characteristics that somebody recognizes as belonging uniquely to himself or herself and constituting his or her individual personality for life. This definition describes identity as that unique trait that marks somebody or person out from someone else (Palmberg, 2003). According to Strokes (1994), it is first and foremost the unique individuality of a person. The development of personality is characterized by individual and collective membership in a community. Keller (1992) opined that in traditional societies, one's identity was fixed, solid and stable. Everyone is born and dies as a member of one family or clan, a member of a fixed kinship system. However, this concept of a stable identity was widely criticized by Jacques Lacan (1975/1991). …