By Larisha Paul
Twenty years ago, the AIDS-awareness nonprofit Red Hot unveiled Red Hot + Riot: The Music and Spirit of Fela Kuti, a tribute record that recruited over three dozen artists in celebration of the Nigerian musician. Now, after two decades, the record has been made available on streaming for the first time.
Red Hot + Riot: A Tribute to Fela Kuti received an update for the streaming era on its newly released deluxe reissue, which features two hours of previously unreleased alternate versions and additional covers previously trimmed down to accommodate the format of a physical CD.
The lengthy tracklist features appearances from D’Angelo, Questlove, Kuti’s son Femi Kuti, Sade, Baba Mall, Stuart Matthewman, Nile Rodgers, Kelis, and more. One of the previously unreleased covers includes a new take on “Sorrow Tears & Blood” from Common, Zap Mama, and Bilal.
Fela Kuti, who died of HIV/AIDS-related complications in 1997, is one of a number of subjects Red Hot has spotlighted in an effort to destigmatize the conversation around the epidemic. Since 1990, the nonprofit has centered its work around diversity and access to healthcare resources, particularly for women and the LGBTQ+ community.
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In a recent essay published in Billboard, Red Hot founder John Carlin and communications director Upendo Kissai highlighted “Water No Get Enemy,” a Fela Kuti deep cut from 1975 that blended Yoruba and English in a timeless reflection of life and death.
“Fela symbolically compares an institution to a parent who continues to use water after their child drowns,” they wrote. “Regardless of setbacks, the community must continue to provide solutions for our social ailments. Fela conveys that living necessities are non-negotiable regardless of circumstance. The charge to support vulnerable people fighting against global pandemics is non-negotiable.”
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