Every year is celebrated a Fela Day (few weeks ago in Paris), proving that Fela Kuti's spirit is still gliding around, despite a very varied comprehension. Good occasion anyway to search in muzzicaltrips archives, and look at how evolves perception of african music along the years. Here's an article about Fela Kuti which reveals part of the perception of a jazz magazine from 1981 (Jazz Hot, first jazz magazine in Europe created in 1935).
In 1981, Fela just released Authority Stealing, not his most innovative album musically, but politically a direct and strong accusation towards nigerian government (led by Alhaji Shehu Shargari). Additionally to a brief biography of the artist, the article discloses partially the point of view and knowledge degree of the author. Interesting analysis in terms of jazz technique: Fela 70 is fully considered as a jazz orchestra, as "the place of instrumental choruses remains as important as any afro-american big band". Fela had no imitators nor talented disciples, and his music identity has been shaped from various paradoxical influences: "Grand son of protestant minister become animist; son of a feminist activist but attached to polygamy and patriarchal system; musician with classic and jazz training, passionately returning to african sources."
But it seems harder to conceive for the author that african music is also fully inscribed in general music evolutions. "Pointless to collect all Fela's LPs: some of them will be sufficient"(it sounds like a tourist guide!), and above all: "Too deeply marked by jazz to be recognised as an authentically african artist" which seems to suggest that a direct family tie between jazz and african music is not obvious for the author... (Does he mean that african authenticity in music can only be represented by a bare chested drummer playing in front of a palm hut? and disconnected from jazz to be considered as 100% african?).
He hopefully concludes that "Afrobeat is an important enough phenomena to serve as entering passage to a musical reality more complex and richer than what can be imagined in Europe". Still valid for occidental ears thirty years later.
Jazz Hot, March 1981 (Eric Polene).
Concerning Fela's recordings, note the recent interesting job done by Goma Gringa in Brazil, with the release of "Sorrow Tears and Blood" complete original session (the original recording from 1977 having been shorten by 6 minutes for the initial LP release).