What was Fela Kuti referring to on "Let's Start"?
March 16, 2022 12:04 PM   Subscribe

The first track of the Fela and Africa 70 album "Live with Ginger Baker" starts off with a track called "Let's Start". Before it begins, he says, "(...) the first tune is called O l'oun t'awa se n'yara Je k'abere. Now, which means... let's start what we have come into the room to do." What was Fela referring to, here? Is it a specific reference, or more of a general statement?

I've tried Googling around, but I can't seem to figure it out. If it helps, here's the lyrics, though there isn't much more to work from.

I ask because I kind of love it as a general statement, but knowing that Fela led a deeply political life (and faced a lot of struggles in Nigeria) I can't help but think that he's referencing something specific here.
posted by summerteeth to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
On the contrary, I'd bet that he's deliberately not being specific about what is going to be started so that it can apply to just about anything, and thus probably opens concerts with that number frequently, similar to how the live Velvet Underground album starts with "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together". But really, it's almost certainly referring to sex.
posted by LionIndex at 1:04 PM on March 16, 2022

Best answer: Yes, sex. See some of the Yoruba here ("don’t play the innocent…let’s start! Take off your clothes! Let’s start!’)
posted by pinochiette at 1:54 PM on March 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

The hidden deep meaning, as with 99.9% of music, is as follows: doin it.
posted by kapers at 3:36 PM on March 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 'Bora ooo, Bora!' (Shed your clothes!)

'Ma'se oju mi o seri si mi o' (Don't act towards me as though you've not done it before)

(translations courtesy of a Nigerian friend)
posted by coffeecat at 4:13 PM on March 16, 2022 [4 favorites]

I love how since it’s Fela Kuti, it would be reasonable to think that a given song would have an equal chance of being about sex or political revolt.

Or traffic in Lagos. He has a line about having a phd in navigating traffic in lagos.
posted by umbú at 5:45 AM on March 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

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