Fela A brief walk into the life of the Afro beat Maestro

As a matter of fact, Fela was at a time dubbed Africa's most "challenging and charismatic music performer."

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Baba Fela play

Baba Fela

(Institute for Pan African thought and conversation)
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Among the pioneers of African art, the name Fela occupies an uncontested spot in the hall of African music legends.

And this is as a result of his undiluted Pan Africanism and uncompromising antagonism for unjust political establishments.

Fela was a multi-instrumentalist, composer, musician, the father of the Afro-beat genre, an advocate of human rights, a political activist.

As a matter of fact, Fela was at a time dubbed Africa's most "challenging and charismatic music performer."

Early years

Fela was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, on October 15, 1938, in Abeokuta, Nigeria, to a Protestant minister, Reverend Ransome-Kuti and a political activist mother-- Funmilayo.

As a child, he leads his school choir owing to his piano and drums prowess.

The 1950s saw Felai agreeing with his parents that he was moving to London to meet up with their desire for him to study medicine against their disapproval of his career choice of music.

Fela's painting play

Fela's painting

(Kome elayae)


But he would make a detour by applying and consequently attending the Trinity College of Music instead.

And while at Trinity college, Fela studied classical music and developed an appreciation of American jazz.

Musical activism

Fela formed a band called Koola Lobitos, a famed mesmerizing group back then in London night clubs which he would later change to Afrika 70, and later to Egypt 80.

Upon his return to Nigeria in 1963, Fela recreated Koola Lobitos and invented a new style.

This new style is known till this day as Afro-beat.

In 1969, Fela went to Los Angeles for touring and recording. And while he was there, he got impressed by the uprisings of Africans in the United States.

It is believed that the experience played a major role, with regard to him changing his band name to Nigeria 70 and made his music more political.

This and more he did till a disagreement with his show promoter led to Fela and his group being reported to the immigration authorities for working without a permit.

Fela's painting play

Fela's painting

(Fanta selah)


With only a limited time left in the United States, he gathered as much money as he could and recorded as many songs as possible. This collection is known as the ’69 Los Angeles Sessions.

Thus, Fela pioneered and popularized his own unique style of music called "Afrobeat" as a response to his notion of the Westernization of African art by African artists.

"Afrobeat" is a mixture of funk, jazz, salsa, Calypso and traditional Nigerian Yoruba music.

In addition to their distinctive mixed-genre style, Fela’s songs were peculiar in comparison to more commercially popular songs due to their length—ranging anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.

The 1970s and '80s saw Fela’s rebelliousness unleashed. His uncensored song lyrics established him as politically recalcitrant. This helped establish Afrobeat as a medium for making political, social and cultural statements about greed and corruption.

"Zombie," one of Fela’s hit song, questions Nigerian soldiers' blind obedience to carrying out orders.

And his "V.I.P. (Vagabonds in Power)," seeks to empower the disenfranchised masses to rise up against the government.

In 1989, three years after touring the United States, Fela released an album called Beasts of No Nation. The album cover portrays world leaders Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan (among others) as cartoon vampires baring bloody fangs.

Fela play




Baba Fela as he is fondly called is most revered for his fearless and dynamic personality.

Although he was arrested by the then military regimes over four and even imprisoned for over nine months, coupled with numerous beatings that left him with lifelong scars, still he was not deterred from pursuing his cause.

He would rather use the experiences as inspiration to write more lyrics.

With over twenty albums credited to his name, Fela Anikulapo Kuti will forever remain an idol in the minds of clear thinking Nigerians.

ALSO READ: The Fela Anikulapo-Kuti biographical movie that never happened


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