Aderemi Kabaka
Photo: Camilla Gibson / BBE Africa

Remi Kabaka’s Jubilant ‘Roots Funkadelia’ Is Reissued

Roots Funkadelia is a joy of a record with Remi Kabaka and company celebrating West African popular sounds and everything they’ve generated in the diaspora.

Roots Funkadelia
Remi Kabaka
BBE Africa
7 June 2024

If the name Remi Kabaka doesn’t ring a bell immediately, it’s not for lack of output. A prolific drummer in the 1970s Afro-rock scene and a close friend of and influence on one-time flatmate Femi Kuti, Kabaka’s career has included collaborations with Hugh Masekela, Paul Simon, Ginger Baker, and Steve Winwood, among others; his son, Remi Kabaka Jr., is the drummer and producer of Gorillaz. With film scores and major label releases under his belt and connections to legends like Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney, his legacy is considerable. Not all his work, though, has lingered in global memory. BBE Africa is taking steps to fix that; following last year’s reissue of Kabaka’s Son of Africa, they’re releasing the first international edition of the 1980 album Roots Funkadelia.

Five substantial tracks long, Roots Funkadelia covers as much ground as its punchy title promises, with stylistic elements running the gamut from jùjú to disco. Recorded in Los Angeles with the Mean Machine–the Commodores’ long-running brass section–Roots Funkadelia boasts an instrumental fullness crucial in matching Kabaka’s vision of bringing together a wide range of genres. It’s a joy of a record, Kabaka and company celebrating West African popular sounds and everything they’ve generated in the diaspora. They do it all with finesse.

The opening track, “Afro Beat”, sets the mood with a jovial and meaningful interplay between talking drum and electric bass that quickly unfolds into an unstoppable party groove. Nimble horns solo and in brilliant chorus add to an atmosphere of warm jubilation. Soon enough, though, the record hits its coolest point with slinky, reggae-tinged “Togetherness”, a sensual blend of light guitar, low bass, and musings on liberation, tying together jazzy swirls of brass and Kabaka at his most precise and understated. Rounding out the A side is “Festival”, a relatively brief instrumental that begins as a dance between keys, horns, guitar, and bass. Halfway through, they all give way to Kabaka’s layers of acoustic rhythm, talking drum leading the way as the song ends in percussive bliss.

The B side is 13 vibrant minutes of movement. “Ikaope” feels like a classic Afrobeat hit, with keys especially central to the funk. With eight minutes of excellent hooks and complex instrumental interchanges balanced to perfection, it might be Roots Funkadelia‘s finest moment, a well-crafted track that rivals any recently rediscovered Lagos hit. The grand finale, “Funky Lagos”, is a fun, if lightweight ending, a straightforward hometown salute with a bit of piano sparkle in the mix.

It’s easy to imagine Roots Funkadelia as a mainstay in used record stores worldwide, loaded as it is with catchy melodies and cross-genre appeal. A present-day reissue gives it another chance to reach the broad audience it’s clearly capable of attracting. This is solid, polished party music from some of the best to do it. 

It’s said that Remi Kabaka helped Kuti name the genre Afrobeat. True or not, BBE’s series of international Kabaka releases make clear how inseparable he is from the scene’s heart.

RATING 8 / 10