F – For E – Ever L – Legendary A – AbamiEda
The musical maverick, enigmatic entertainer, political thorn in flesh of corrupt governments, and human rights activist.
He was a lover, a fighter, a polygamist, a bestselling recording artist, the basis for a hit Broadway show, and a band leader.
He was everything; witty, weird, wonderful, wanton and waltzing.
He was all of these and more, but, most importantly, Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti was an African Aficionado.
Both newcomers to Fela’s story and longtime fans will walk away with a handful of insights and unearthed info about the icon.
In celebration of this year’s Felabration event, Viva Naija attempts to relive Fela’s eventful earthly existence through these pictures below;
It’s not unusual to think that the father of Afrobeat developed his sound and artistic sensibility solely from Africa’s rich musical heritage, took inspiration from gospel music and Western jazz.
His musical influence and idiosyncratic culture and spirituality
After returning from America, Fela proceeded to set up a number of bases of operations from which to compose his music and bring it to the people — including the Afrika Shrine, a club set up in a hotel that gave him a regular performance space and a pulpit.
Musicians such as Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, and James Brown’s band were huge fans. Sir Paul McCartney famously gave a testimony about the feel he had during one of the visitsnot the Shrine;
“We were the only white people there,” McCartney recalls on camera, “and it was very intense. When this music broke, I ended up just weeping. It was one of the most amazing musical moments”.
He was a free spirit with a firm, self-defined cultural belief
At a point in his metamorphosis, Fela changed his middle name from ‘Ransome’ to Anikulapo (meaning “He who carries death in his pouch”, with the interpretation: “I will be the master of my own destiny and will decide when it is time for death to take me”), He referenced that his original middle name, “Ransome”, was a slave name.
He was also famous for his strong political views
Anikulapo believed that the most important way for Africans to fight European cultural imperialism was to support traditional African religions and lifestyles. The American Black Power movement also influenced Fela’s political views; he was a supporter of Pan-Africanism and socialism, and called for a united, democratic African republic. He was a candid supporter of human rights, and many of his songs are direct attacks against dictatorships, specifically themilitaristic governments of Nigeria in the 1970s and 1980s.
His private life was fraught with some kinda ‘interesting weirdness’.
Fela loved his women. Apart from his first wife, Remilekun (Remi) Taylor, with whom he sired three children (Femi, Yeni, and Sola). Fela also famously got to married 27 women out of a sense of “tradition” in one day back in 1978.
“I wanted it to be meaningful…to have a meaningful life. Tradition expects me to marry 27 women.” It’s a notion that Veal thinks is a bit suspect: “Polygamy exists in the traditional context with a very strict set of controls…it’s not like what Fela was doing, like you sing this funky music, and the young girls on the street love it and they flock to you, and you incorporate
them into your household. That was a totally different thing.”
And oh! Fela always remained a baby in Mama’s eyes. Madam Oluwafunmilayo Ransome-Kuti loved her son to stupor, and she was a major influence and supporter oh his son.
Fela’s famed hardwork and pedantic attention to detail, and his two sons.
Yes, he successfully passed the baton to two of his sons, Femi Kuti and Seun Kuti. These two have continued to thrive greatly under the anointing of their Father. Fela’s hard work and attention to detail are traits evident in his two sons, a trait that has made Afrobeat unquenchable and Grammy-nominated.
Fela on Broadway
This production is the multiple award-winning broadway adaption of Fela Anikulapo Kuti life and music. The adaption has been seen many times across the world since its premiere in 2008. It follows a description of Fela’s life in the book “Fela!” by Bill T. Jones and Jim Lewis, and it is headlined by Sahr Ngaujah who acts as Fela and Abena Koomson as Funmilayo, Fela’s mother.
Be it in arrangement, lyrics, production, content, message and/or rendition, it won’t amount to exaggeration to state that all Fela’s songs were rich with class. A kind of class that resonated with the people, the peoples’ vantage, joy and welfare. From the popular hit “Zombie”, to funky “Shakara”, to the instructive “Beast of No Nation”, Fela made fundamental and relatable sense!
Here below is a list of his albums:
Fela’s London Scene (1971); Why Black Man Dey Suffer (1971)
Live! (1971); Shakara (1972); Afrodisiac (1973)
Gentleman (1973); Confusion (1975)
Expensive Shit (1975); He Miss Road (1975)
Zombie (1977); Stalemate (1977)
No Agreement (1977)
Sorrow Tears and Blood (1977); Shuffering and Shmiling (1978)
Black President (1981); Original Sufferhead (1981)
Unknown Soldier (1981); Army Arrangement (1985)
“Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense”(1987)
Beasts of No Nation (1989)
Confusion Break Bones (1990); The Best Best of Fela Kuti (1999)
The ’69 Los Angeles Sessions (1969/2010)
On 3 August 1997, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, already a prominent AIDS activist and former Minister of Health, stunned the nation by announcing his younger brother’s death a day earlier from Kaposi’s sarcoma which was brought on by AIDS. More than a million people attended Fela’s funeral at the site of the old Shrine compound.
In death, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the one and only Anikulapo, still lives on in the heart and souls of music lovers all across the world, and Felabration has remained a moment to commonly past respect to his untamed genius!
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