Fela Kuti – A Nigerian Icon

If like me you had never been to Nigeria then you could be forgiven for never having heard of Fela Kuti, however Lagos has a museum dedicated to him. So a few words about him to fill in the gaps.

Fela or Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti to give him his full name was born into an upper middle class family in Abeokuta on the 15th October, 1938. In 1958 Fela went to London to study medicine but decided instead to pursue a course in music, his preferred insturment being the trumpet.

In 1967 Fela found himself in Ghana and that was where he launched what would become his signature style of music; Afrobeat, a mixture of traditional Nigerian Yoruba music with a combination of Salsa, jazz and calypso. In 1969 while touring in the US Fela discovered the Black Panther Movement which played a huge influence on both his music and his political views. Fela returned to Nigeria and formed the Kalakuta Republic in a recording studio that he declared independent to the Nigerian state.

In 1977 Fela and his band released an album called Zombie which was basically a scathing attack on the Nigerian Military. This lead to dire consequences with Fela’s community attacked by one thousand soldiers and Fela himself was gravely injured. His mother who lived in a commune opposite was thrown from a window and suffered fatal injuries.  

In 1978 Fela married the members of his band which at the time was 27 women. This was in addition to the two wives he had already married.

In the 80’s Fela was by then a violent opponent to the government and was jailed on charges of currency smuggling which many, including Amnesty announced as politically motivated. He was released after 20 months.

By the 1990’s Fela stopped releasing albums and his stance against military corruption in Nigeria was beginning to taking a toll on his health.

On the 3rd of August Fela died from complications related to Aids although a fair amount of sceptism surrounds the claim. More than a million people attended his funeral.

Fela’s remains can be found at the musuem.

Tinyteddy’s feedback: “I was literally cheering with delight by the time we got to the end of our tour of this excellent museum ”