On This Day In 1997, Afrobeat ICON Fela Anikulapo Kuti Died In Lagos
Fela Anikulapo Kuti, born in 15 October 1938 was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre, human rights activist, and political maverick, as Wikipedia described him.
He has been called “superstar, singer, musician, Panafricanist, polygamist, mystic, legend. During the height of his popularity, he was often hailed as one of Africa’s most “challenging and charismatic music performers”.
Fela was simply a mad man. Not even political harassment could deter his personality.
In 1984, Muhammadu Buhari’s government, of which Kuti was a vocal opponent, jailed him on a charge of currency smuggling which Amnesty International and others denounced as politically motivated.
The musical style of Felá is called afrobeat, a style he largely created, which is a complex fusion of jazz, funk, Ghanaian/Nigerian highlife, psychedelic rock and traditional West African chants and rhythms.
A huge chunk of Fela’s song were about the several injustices done by the Nigerian Government on the Nigerian citizens, including the likes of Sorrow Tears And Blood, Army Arrangement and ITT (International Thief Thief).
It is of note that as Fela’s musical career developed, so too did his political influence, not only in his home country of Nigeria, not just throughout Africa, but throughout the world.
As his political influence grew, the religious aspect of his musical approach grew. Fela was a part of an Afro-Centric consciousness movement that was founded on and delivered through his music.
Fela, in an interview found in Hank Bordowitz’s said:
“Noise of the World”, states, “Music is supposed to have an effect.
If you’re playing music and people don’t feel something, you’re not doing shit.
That’s what African music is about. When you hear something, you must move. I want to move people to dance, but also to think. Music wants to dictate a better life, against a bad life.
When you’re listening to something that depicts having a better life, and you’re not having a better life, it must have an effect on you.”
On 3 August 1997, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, already a prominent AIDS activist and former Minister of Health, announced his younger brother’s (Fela) death a day earlier from complications related to AIDS.
More than a million people attended Fela’s funeral at the site of the old Shrine compound (Wikipedia)