Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

two three four ONE, two three four ONE

One of my favorite artists of all time is Fela Kuti from Nigeria.

At Berklee, I was in an Afropop ensemble that would play a lot of Fela Kuti arrangements.

The teacher/bandleader explained that what we know as the “1” - the downbeat, the start of a phrase - in West African music is considered the end of a phrase.

Instead of “How you get to main street?”, it's “You get to main street, how?”

Instead of “ONE two three four, ONE two three four”, it's “two three four ONE, two three four ONE”.

Later I found out that Fela Kuti never performed songs after he had already recorded them.

I couldn't help but notice the similarity. As if to him, the recording was the end of the life of a song, instead of the beginning. Makes just as much sense if you think about it that way.

Which of course makes me wonder about all the other beginnings and endings and things we just take for granted as fact, but make just as much sense in their opposite.

Fela Kuti