“ Fela was virtually a
one-man countergovernment in the popular realm, rhetorically redressing with vitriolic scorn various government policies launched with fanfare and utmost seriousness and passing them on to the people – through the great power of his music – completely tattered and dripping with ridicule.” -Tejumola Olaniyan “ Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was James Brown, Huey Newton, Rick James, Bob Marley, Duke Ellington and ODB all rolled in one black African fist . The protest artist as a real live, awake and hungry human being. Africa’s original rock superstar. The importance, vitality and power of his work cannot be overestimated. A pure blend of ancestry and modern marvel.” - Mos Def Fela was a brilliant composer and performer, but foremost he was a leader . A political dissident, he was an outspoken critic of the corruption and repressive policies that left millions of Nigerians without basic human rights -Trevor Schoonmaker
" My name is Fela
Anikulapo-Kuti. Black president or Chief Priest of Shrine.“ -Fela 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 When he start to dey yab Dictator go dey shake Oppressor go dey fear When he put mouth for song Philosophy go dey flow When he put horn for mouth Melody go dey blow - Nigerian artist Lagbaja
“ To listen to Fela’s
music then is to listen to a kind of cultural, specifically musical “biography” of the postcolonial African state: an account of the state’s crisis-ridden life so far as seen by an oppositional music.” Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and the 9 th most populous country in the world. Its oil rich economy is one of the fastest growing, unfortunately few of its 135 million people receive any share of the nation’s wealth. A nation of great ethnic diversity, its postcolonial history has been dominated by violence and military rule. Lagos, the most populous city is one in which Nigeria’s richest and poorest coexist. Access to safe water is a major problem and in some areas sewage drains in open ditches. For the rich, Lagos is a commercial and financial hub, and they avoid its pitfalls by sinking boreholes for water, and riding air-conditioned Jeeps over its potholed highways.
Ikeja is the ghetto in
Lagos that Fela Kuti created his Kalakuta (Rascal’s) Republic. A liberal commune with over 70 people living there at the time including dancers, band members, girlfriends, and relatives. Unlike most middle/upper-class Nigerians Fela chose to live among the common people, who tolerated his libertine lifestyle. Notorious for open drug use, stoned and disorderly messengers and bodyguards, and skimpily dressed, heavily made up, smoking girls, it was here that Fela first caught the attention of Nigerian authorities.
In 1974, when a number
of complaints came into the Lagos Police station at Alagbon Close of daughters that had been “kidnapped” by Fela, over fifty armed policemen visited his residence. Most of the occupants were arrested. Fela was released on bail and many of the girls escaped from their homes and juvenile detention centers back to Fela. When the police returned to consolidate their case against him, they could not find evidence of marijuana usage anywhere. However, they had brought some of their own to plant as evidence. “ I looked at it. I was thinking fast, man. Then suddenly in split second - really fast! – I went for the paper, grabbed it and put it in my mouth and jumped on my bed, man. I’d swallowed it! I took the whisky bottle by my bed, put it to my mouth and washed the shit down.” After failed attempts to regain the evidence, Fela was again arrested, in a conspiracy with his fellow prisoners and his mother, Fela was able to keep his “shit…clean like a baby’s”. Following his release, Fela recorded two songs, “Alagbon Close” and “ Expensive Shit ” to immortalize his experience.
<ul><li>Thus began Fela’s career as
a thorn in the side of 6 Nigerian administrations; civilian and military. </li></ul>For Alagbon Dem no get respect for human being Dem no know say you get blood like them Dem go send dem go bite you Dem go put dem gun to your face The gun wey dem take your money buy Dem go torture you and take your statement from you Dem go lock you for months Dem dey call am “investigation” If you know dem for Alagbon Make you tell dem make dem hear Uniform na cloth, na tailor dey sew am Tailor dey sew am like your dress Tailor dey sew am like my dress Nothing special about uniform . “ Alagbon Close” In his music he attempted to incite the common person to stand up to an authority not legitimated by concepts such as democracy or a constitution, but by violence. He paid dearly for it. After its release police again came to Kalakuta and beat Fela within an inch of his life. He spent three days in hospital but only became more belligerent as a result.
Fela dedicated his career to
defending and promoting the rights of African people. No one was safe from his impassioned tongue. He would open his concerts at the Afrika Shrine with a yabis in which he would launch into scathing monologues on local and international headlines, and withering satires on political figures and institutions which he believed deserved only scorn The thing wey black no good na foreign things dem dey like. No be so? EE BE SO/ I BE SO Dem go turn air condition and close dem country away. Na be so? E be so Dem judge him go put white wig and jail him brothers away No be so? E be so Dem go proud of dem name and put dem slave name for head No be so? E be so Colomentality now make you hear me now Mr. Ransome you make you hear Mr. Williams you make you hear Mr. Ali -a you make you hear Mr. Mohammed you make you hear Mr. Anglican you make you hear Mr. Bishop you make you hear Mr. Catholic you make you hear Mr. Musulim you make you hear “ Colomentality” (Colonial Mentality)
Dem call the place, the
“United Nations” Hear-oh another animal talk Wetin united inside “United Nations”? Who & who unite, for “United Nations”? No be there Thatcher & Argentina dey No be there Reagan & Libya dey Is-i-rael versus Lebanon Iran-i-oh versus Iraq-i East West Block versus West Block East No be there dem dey oh- United Nations Dis “united” United Nations One veto vote is equal to 92 […OR MORE, OR MORE] What kind sense be dat, na animal sense Human rights na my property So therefore, you can’t dash me my property Human rights na my property Dey wan dash us human rights Some people say, “Why I dey talk like dis, No be talk like dis, dem take to carry me go prision ee-oh” No be me dey talk, na Prime Minister Botha dey talk, ee-oh Him say, “this uprising will bring out the beast in us” THIS UPRISING WILL BRING OUT THE BEAST IN US Botha na friend to Thatcher & Reagan Botha na friend to some other leaders too And together dem wan dash us human rights Animals wan dash us human rights Animal can’t dash me human rights
Many foreign companies dey Africa
carry all our money go SAY AM, SAY AM Many foreign companies dey Africa carry all our money go Dem go write big English for newspaper, Dabaru we Africans Dem go write big English for newspaper, Dabaru we Africans I read about one of them inside book like that- Them call him name na I.T.T […] Cause oppression OPPRESSION Cause confusion CONFUSION Cause inflation INFLATION Cause oppression OPPRESSION Oppression, Opression, Inflation, Corruption, Opression, Inflation---- I. T. T (International Thief Thief) [insert relevant quote from The Wretched of The Earth on the African bourgeoisie]
Dem throw my mama Unknown
Soldier 78 year-old mama Political mama Ideological mama Influential mama Dem throw my mama Out of from window Dem kill my mama […] I get some information for you That my mama wey you kill She fought for universal adult suffrage That my mama wey you kill Na the only mother of this country
We wey ele for Afrika
We dey leave like servants United Nations dem come Get name for us Dem go call us under developed nation We must be underdeveloped To dey stay ten-ten in one room O First and second dey Dem go call us Third World We must dey craze for head To dey sleep inside dustbin Dem go call us none-aligned nations We must dey craze for head To dey sleep under bridge O Ordinary house for man E yen dey Dem come turn-us to suffer-head to Original Suffer-head It' s time for Jefa-Head O (to enjoy good fortune) Original Jefa-Head O Dem turn us to Suffer-head O
What makes me sad today
is to see people pushed around in life by other human beings…And the work that has to be done in Africa for Africans to progress … I think of how many Africans are so unaware, how they suffer in oblivion. That makes me sad… Despite my sadness I create joyful rhythms…I want to change sadness. I want people to be happy. And I can do it by playing happy music. And through happy music I tell you about the sadness of others. So they will come to realize that, “Oh we can be happy!” With my music I create a change. I see it. So really I am using my music as a weapon . I play music as a weapon. The music is not coming from me as a subconscious thing. It’s conscious.