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Ginger Baker and Fela Kuti in 1971

Ginger Baker History Archive 1971

Ginger Baker

Ginger Baker & Africa 70

Ginger Baker & the Africa 70

Ginger Baker & Fela Kuti - Nigeria

Ginger Baker Fela Kuti & the Africa 70

In this archive: Ginger visits Guy Warren in Ghana & sets out for Nigeria; Ginger starts building a recording studio; Ginger records with Fela Kuti in live London; Fela sends Ginger an African drum and their promising tour never happens...

Fela Kuti & the Africa 70

In 1970, Ginger went to Ghana to visit his close friend, master drummer Guy Warren. Whilst there he became fascinated by the music that he heard on a Nigerian Radio Station & he determined to go there & check out the scene, undeterred by the fact that there was a war on at the time! Ginger sent a telegram to his old friend Fela Ransom-Kuti, whom he’d first encountered playing at The Flamingo Club in London quite a few years previously, when Fela played trumpet alongside fellow Nigerian, Remi Kebaka.

Ginger immediately warmed to the vibe in Lagos and when Remi suggested to him that it would be a great idea to build a recording studio there, Ginger took up the challenge with alacrity and Batakota Studios went into construction near the airport.

Whilst this project got underway, Ginger planned to do some recording in London with Fela and his Africa 70 band. This was an idea endorsed by Mike Wells, who was at that time EMI’s Managing Director in Nigeria. Ginger tells us in his book ‘Hellraiser’ that "an audience of 150 crammed into a large studio at Abbey Road with coloured spotlights dancing about the walls to give it the feel of a proper live gig."

The resulting album, Fela Ransome-Kuti and Africa 70 with Ginger Baker: Live was recorded in "just a few hours" & is the one that Ginger remains very proud of to this day. They went on to record material which found its way onto the 1972 Stratavarious album, which Ginger didn’t think was "quite as good", though he felt that "Ariwo Baye" "really stood out".

Things were looking so good commercially with the pairing of Ginger & Fela that Robert Masters began to organise a three-week tour, beginning with an appearance on BBC tv, followed by gigs at all the big universities, & culminating in another tv show for the Independent Channel. Sadly for all, things went disastrously wrong when due to some misunderstandings to do with flights & money, Fela sent over an acquaintance carrying a large amount of marijuana (not very well) hidden in a drum & carrying only Ginger Baker’s address when arrested at Heathrow Airport.

The resultant furore caused Ginger to be busted for a small amount of grass he had for personal use at home. The knock on effect being that the press got wind of it, Ginger’s eldest daughter Nettie was expelled from her private school and the planned tour was off.

In Ginger’s own words (from Hellraiser) "It was a shame....because if Africa 70 had done the tour I feel sure they would have found great success & they remain far & away the best band that Fela has ever been in."