Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Song of the Day - Cody ChesnuTT: "Afrobama: The Unified Party Anthem"

[Photo courtesy of Flickr user dublabrat]

Nobody in the world of music, except Lil Wayne (and maybe Miley Cyrus), has more heat than Barack Obama. Dude's Rolodex is filled with more names in the music biz than Sophia Coppola and Timbaland combined. Everyday that draws closer to our historic presidential election it seems as if a new artistic tribute is released praising his message of change and unity.

The latest one comes courtesy of Cody ChesnuTT, who many of you know from his collaboration with The Roots a few years back. After laying low for the past couple of years Cody is back with "Afrobama: The Unified Party Anthem" a double homage to two larger than life Africans (remember, Obama's dad is Kenyan).

Now, the title of the song makes the identity of the first African obvious, but some of you might not know who the second is. If you've ever listened to Afrobeat music then it's easy to understand who ChesnuTT is honoring, the legendary father of Afrobeat, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

By creating an homage to Obama in the style of Fela's signature sound, ChesnuTT is comparing two men with transcendent messages of change. Fela used his art as a platform to rail against government corruption and oppression in his native Nigeria (where he survived torture and assassination attempts) by spreading the gospel of Pan-Africanism. While not nearly as revolutionary (after all, Kuti was a socialist in the mold of Kwame Nkrumah and Che Guevara, while Obama is a quasi-liberal more in line with the legacy of RFK), Obama's message could be described as Pan-Americanism, in that the central theme of his candidacy is his desire to unite America across political and ideological lines. In Obama's world, we are all Americans first and foremost, much like Fela believed in identifying oneself as an African above national or tribal affiliations.

Hopefully Obama's story ends happier than that of Fela Kuti, who ended up dying of AIDS in 1997 amid a continuing cycle of dictatorial military rule that continues to plague Nigeria (and many parts of Africa) to this day. What is certain is that his pleas of unity have spawned new generations of Africans (or, African-Americans) to feel a sense of pride and optimism about the future that people across the African continent felt over 30 years before.

Cody ChesnuTT - "Afrobama: The Unified Party Anthem"

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