Felaversation...(A Tribute to Fela)

This is a tribute to the music, life and times of the Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti (Oct. 15, 1938 - Aug. 2, 1997)

Ironically, a talk is being held today at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos titled Felaversation which is designed to celebrate the fact that "Nigerian intellectuals have, at last, responded to the challenges posed by their counterparts from the West and Europe on the issue of articulating the epochal contribution of one of Africa's leading cultural icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti to world culture. "

More info on Felaversation at Lagos Live. Okay, so maybe it wasn't ironic, just convenient for me to tribute to Fela!

The event is in honour of Benson Idonije, who was the very first manager of Fela Kuti when he returned to Nigeria in the 50s .

"For Fela Anikulapo – Kuti, the only losers are the governments, security operatives and individuals who tortured, humiliated and tried to destroy him over the years, otherwise how can anyone explain the popularity of Fela, nine years after he reportedly died of HIV-AIDS?." "77 albums, 27 wives, over two hundred court appearances. Harassed, beaten, tortured, jailed. Twice-born father of Afro-beat. Spiritualist. Pan-Africanist. Commune king. Composer, saxophonist, keyboardist, vocalist, dancer. Would-be candidate for the Nigerian presidency. There will never be another like him."

Mos Def, in 2003 said -- "Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was James Brown, Huey Newton, Rick James, Bob Marley, Duke Ellington and ODB all rolled up in one black African fist. The protest artist as a real live, awake and hungry human being. Africa's original rock superstar."

I give you Fela's lifestory in bullets and some never before seen pictures -- enjoy!

  • He was born in 1938 in Abeokuta into a Christian family.
  • His Mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was a huge influence on his life. And was a political activist – she was the first voice to speak out for women's rights earning them the right to vote and earning herself the Lenin Peace prize in the early sixties.

  • Fela’s music legacy began in 1954 when he met his life-long friend Jimo Kombi Braimah (JK) who was a singer for a local band in Lagos called The Cool Cats.
  • He studied music at Trinity College, London as opposed to his initial intended course, medicine.

  • He and JK eventually formed a band in London called Koola Lobitos which performed at youth parties and jazz clubs.

  • Fela met and married his first wife in London during this period - Remi Taylor, the daughter of a Nigerian father and Black American mother.

  • With heightened purpose, a new energy and a new sound, Fela returned to Lagos where he changed the name of his band to Africa 70 with a new energy and new sound, and began to have hits.
  • He opened his new club - The Shrine, and started his own commune that would later become the Kalakuta Republic.

  • Fela had become a marijuana smoker of epic proportions. Besides smoking giant joints filled with igbo (Indian hemp), Fela had now developed his own marijuana recipe, which he called goro.

  • On April 30, 1974, the commune was raided and Fela was arrested for possession of marijuana. Released on bail, he returned to his compound and re-named it "Kalakuta Republic.
  • In February of 1977, about 1,000 members of the military went to Kalakuta Republic, blazed through the electric fence, set fires, brutally beat everyone in sight, raped any number of the many women who lived there, and threw Fela's 77 year old mother out of a window (which eventually resulted in her death). The whole of Kalakuta Republic was burned to the ground.

  • After a month in prison, Fela was taken to court and charged. A counter attack by Fela was thrown out of court a year later, leaving him no compensation and calling him a hooligan as well as maintaining that the Kalakuta Republic was burned by "unknown soldiers" (hence the title of 1979's album "Unknown Soldier").

  • Back in Lagos Fela did something that still to this day raises many eyebrows. In one ceremony, he married every one of his dancers and singers, calling them his "Queens," and giving them all the name of Anikulapo-Kuti. It was the first anniversary of the burning of the Kalakuta Republic.
  • He has said that this was the happiest day of his life, but as seemed to be so often in his life, it was to be very short lived.





  • Less than two months later his mother died as a direct result of the wounds incurred after being thrown from a window by the military a year earlier.
  • The devastated Fela announced to everyone that he intended to deposit his mother's coffin outside the Dodan Barracks - residence of the dictator Olusegun Obesanjo (who had ordered the 1,000 strong raid on Kalakuta Republic) and so he did.
  • In 1979 he put himself forward for President in Nigeria's first elections for more than a decade but his candidature was refused.

  • At this time, Fela created a new band called "Egypt 80" and continued to record albums and tour the country.
  • In 1983 he again ran for President but was again attacked by police, who threw him in prison on a dubious charge of currency smuggling.
  • After twenty months, the regime changed once again and Fela was released from prison. On Fela's release he divorced his twelve remaining wives.

  • Fela performed in Giants Stadium in New Jersey as part of the Amnesty International "Conspiracy of Hope" concert, sharing the bill with Bono, Carlos Santana, and The Neville Brothers.

  • It was announced that he died on August 2, 1997 in Lagos, Nigeria of an AIDS-related heart failure.
  • Most recently, the Late Fela was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the NMA's this month.

That is my tribute to Fela in a nutshell....more stuff to come in a few months, I think you've had about enough of him to last you!

p.s. For some classic Fela quotes, click here!

Source of wives' pictures - UrbanImage

39 comments:

Dipo Tepede said...

Wao Mona,

I really appreciate your effort. I have always been lazy about doing research on Fela but you have actually given me all I needed to know.

1. Marry all dancers and singers in one ceremony!

2. Divorce all his wives at a go

3. jailed, battered, sorrowed, singing, etc

What a life?

I love this qoute from him though;

"I just want to do my part and leave...Not for what they're going to remember you for, but for what you believe in as a man."

Fela's response on what he would like to be remembered for.


Despite his perceived short comings, he is a rare breed and deserves all the tribute he can

Mona, thank you very much for this, I really appreciate it! You have always been right in my books....

Mona said...

I'm glad this is appreciated and not seen as boring :o)

Dimples said...

Abami Eda was a legend and so his great name should live on...I loved Fela till the end possibly cos I grew up with Fela constantly playing in my hosuehold....I even went to his lying in state at Tafa Balewa Square..that was so much fun..seeing all his wives that managed to attend(though they all seemed to be constantly smoking themselves away…WEED..damn what it does to people!!!)
Music,colours, and people everywhere coming to pay tribute..Femi and Seun even gave a mind-blowing performance-yeah like that’s ever doing to happen again!!! :(

I have to say for someone as crazy as Fela he looked so peaceful in death….i rocked until I could rock no more also made sure I didn’t leave the place until I bought my “Abami lives Forever” t-shirt and cap.
LONG LIVE AFRO BEAT…LONG LIVE ELENIYAN FATHER, OMO IYA AJE….LONG LIVE BABA

Nice One Mona!!!!

Bizzle said...

long Live Abami Eda, This a really interesting blog, Thank You Mona for Remembering Fela. His Son Seun Is really repping as the Price of Afrobeat, You shld Try and do sumn about him 2,
http://www.myspace.com/seunkuti

Remi said...

Amazing post on Fela. Concise and full enough to allow the reader feel that they know more about Fela. Funny enough, that quote page is my sister's page dedicated to Fela.

Bizzle said...

long Live Abami Eda, This a really interesting blog, Thank You Mona for Remembering Fela. His Son Seun Is really repping as the Prince of Afrobeat, You shld Try and do sumn about him 2,
http://www.myspace.com/seunkuti

Mari said...

Mona, all I can say is WOW...the pictures, the information - where do u get these stuffs from? Very interesting. I love the pictures!!!!

Biodun said...

I love fela's music, didnt really like his lifestyle, but his music gets me dancing n singing anytime, great post girl, thanks for the detailed info!

Don Chi as Blog Marley a.k.a. El Senor Supremo said...

ARAMIDE ABE! That's all I have to say because you deserve more than words for this. I am serious about your Presidential campaign some day! It is an honor to blog in your airspace. Middle-finger myspace!

mola said...

WOW!!! Aramide very well done...

Fope said...

mehn Aramide, I've been a silent reader of your blog for a while and I must commend you on a job well done. Interesting and informative. Only God knows where you get some of your information from. Keep up the good work :)

Bella Naija said...

wow....really great post! very informative...it captured the essence of fela in a great way....fela is inspiring in tht he abandoned the comfort of his comfortable upbringing and background, rebelled against the system and embraced his passion....

zaiprincesa said...

KALAKUTA REPUBLIC!...always and forever...GREAT POST, MONA!...i knew most of the info already because im an afrobeat nut...but reading it from your perspective gave me wayy more insight. Great job! Very impressive..

NaijaBloke said...

Mona this is a lovely post.Thank u very much for this post.

the flying monkeys said...

Very deep post excellent

Playing now: track 2 (Les Ibeji) from ayetoro's new album Omo Obokun Chronicles Vol 2...

Efe said...

Aramide!
I like this, I really like this! I've always been intrigued by Fela and you've just fueled that curiosity. I guess I didn't know this much about him, thanks for the info and pictures.

I love reading your blog :-)

Onada said...

well done with the post. Fela has definately been an influential icon in nigeria and i doubt he will be forgotten anytime soon.

Calabar Gal said...

Fela was and always will be a great icon!! His music was and always will be unique and legendary.

deji77 said...

On the mark.
As part of my school work had to do some research into the work and life of Fela. He definitely was a force ahead of his time.

Too Me to blog said...

FELA LIVES!!! funny about mos def comparing him to ODB that cracked me up. Keep up the good work.

laspapi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
laspapi said...

I love this blog.

LondonBuki said...

Well written Girl. I've learned even more about Fela from this post. Looking forward to your next tribute.

Dammie said...

Awwwwwwwwwwwwww, I love Fela!

For you guys that seem really interested in fela, Get this CD it translates who you is and what he was put on this earth for, very lovely piece!!....Didn't understand what all the craze about fela was until this CD, you learn to truly appreciate him!

Music is the weapon ----> http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000079DF9/102-1226470-7901703?v=glance&n=130 {Be sure to watch, both versions - English and French. they r slightly different, but you'll see the diff}

Now those his dancer ladies r FIYAH!!, and their fashion sense back then was on point....they've been working the Mid-waist belts sincee!!...Y'all need to watch the DVD....hehehe

Beautiful tribute, Mona!!

XxKizzesxX

P.S; thoseee fela wives picss....Hmmmmmmm, the publisher of those pics is a bit stingy!! Don't let him catch u!!....charges like 200 pounds per pic *rolls eyes*

LoL, this is like my longest blog ever!!!!...LoL, Shows my passion for the king!!!...Okay I need to stop now ---->. Peace!

Mona said...

hahah i meant to refer the pics oops i always put sumn at the bottom to say where i got em..cheers for reminding me....i got it off an urban member website of which i am a member.

fola said...

This is an outstanding post Mona; worthy of an award!

ToyinE said...

Nicely written girl, ihave to say this is the most ive read anywhere about Fela! good job!

the flying monkeys said...

Aramide, please add to this post from any of the following videos

zero

one

two

three

four

LG said...

i love his music just that i dont like that his dancing nude watever

uzo said...

Not a huge Fela fan. Lifestyle upset me. But a few of his songs i can deal with. I will say that i have the utmost repsect for him. He lived his life exactly the way he wanted. No apologies. That is what i think we should aspire to.

alejo...the visitor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
alejo...the visitor said...

i have always been and still am a huge fela fan> its quite sad the way the naija government dealt with him> he was a national institution and i feel his las shrine should have been preserved a a national treasure which i am sure would have attracted tourist worldwide > i shall be doin my bit in honouring his body of work by presenting afrobeat music past present and future you will be amazed how far his music was heard all over the world and how many fela bands they are from canada to the us and beyond> bands like antibalas< mr something something< akoya afrobeat ensemble> chicago afrobeat project > ultra magnus etc so if you are interested in listening to the past present and future afrobeat pls join us soon somwher se london check realmusicwordld dor blogspot dot com for details

Ess said...

I have a lot of CD's but the ones I cherish the most are my two compilations of Fela Songs. I would have to love a person to bits to allow them borrow my Fela CD's. His social and politically conscious lyrics are as true today as they were 20 years ago.
Well done on paying tribute to this true Nigerian icon.

Anonymous said...

Nice One, well done! Here is inviting y'all 2

'KLUB KALAKUTA! -The Home of Afrobeat Culture'...
@ CR0BAR, 125 Croydon High Street | 6pm-12.30am | Last Sunday | of every Month |Gate: 10 Single/15 Double | VIP Lounge| Access to Trains & Buses | Car Parks |Top Security

Pre-Opening Gig-29 October 2006 for Industry Guest List, Media, Paying Guests et al. Featuring the Sound Systems & Crews of London's top African Disc Jockeys -DJ KC, DJ Abass, DJ Jimmy 'Da Bald Headed Man' etc. Also 'Afrobeat Demonstrators', 'YABIS' sessions etc...

Opening Night -26 November 2006 featuring Abdul Raheem, talented UK based Trombonist/Singer and highly sought after Afrobeat Act, 'Afrobeat Demonstrators',
'YABIS' sessions, African Food & Drinks and many other attractions etc...

Bring a friend along to our posh, plush venue, as we celebrate Black History Month; Nigeria's Independence & Fela's Birthday...U'll b glad u did! "Everybody Say Yeah! Yeah!"...
The UK Guardian in it's August 1997 front page headliner screamed..."Adieu! Fela Kuti...The World's Greatest Rock Star!"

For Table Bookings, Enquiries and forthcoming attractions @ 'Klub Kalakuta!' Please Contact-:

ZEDAKAH Entertainment
The Management, 'Klub Kalakuta!'
Fone: 0779 975 3706; 0787 902 1904
Fax: 07876 802 844
Klub_Kalakuta@zedakahafrika.com
www.zedakahafrika.com
www.cr0barcroydon.co.uk

Aba Boy said...

What an outstanding tribute. I hold my hands up when I say I am not a fan of Fela’s music. But I am a big fan of the man and most of the things he stood for. My failure to appreciate his music had nothing to do with the messages it contained, it was simply based on his style of music. Had the same message been delivered in a way that I could find enjoyable, then maybe I would have been a fan. But that is of no importance, it wasn’t aimed at dance floors. What is important is that this man fought and in many ways died fighting the corner of the poor and exploited in our society, and for that reason, Fela the man will always be an idol in my mind.
Once again, an excellent post.

mangwiro said...

the hotness. dope (and thorough) post. i found it doing a blog search on fela after a red hot + riot inspired post to my blog (http://blactivegan.wordpress.com/2006/12/06/what-would-fela-do-o/). when time permits do come through and comment. but its refreshing to such a informative write up (devoid of the same old information) by someone who love him. i will ping your post into mine so more folks can check it out. peace

mangwiro
a.k.a. blactivegan

Don Thieme said...

Great post and great blog, Aramide. I was just watching a video about Fela and looking for information on how he died and what became of his queens and entourage.

isha said...

Hey Aramide,
I just saw this post now, and I don't know if you know this already but some guy called Mike Love, did a mix of Fela's songs with Jayz's album American Gangster. He puts Fela's beats into the songs on the album. I'm not a Jay-z fan, but some of the songs are hot!
ABAMI lives on!

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