The spirit of Fela Kuti lives on in this live rendition of “Pansa Pansa.”
Within the first few beats of this live rendition of Fela Kuti’s composition “Pansa Pansa” the soul starts to stir. This excitement is drummed up by an entrancing afro beat rhythm and foreshadows what’s to come. Backed by his band Africa 70, Kuti seems to set a contract with the crowd that he delivers as a kind of warning: They’re about to be saturated in what he calls the “Underground Spiritual Game.”
“Pansa Pansa” is a defiant critique of the corrupt Nigerian government, and it was this sort of gleeful insubordination that made him a target of the military junta then ruling the country. Kuti’s mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a political campaigner and women’s rights activist, so it’s no wonder this sensibility was reflected in her son.
Captured at the Berlin Jazz Fest in 1978, the film itself does an incredible job of underscoring the drama of this memorable performance. Quick edits hit on the beat. The camera itself has an omnipotent presence, always seeming to be at the right place at the right time.