Fela Anikulapo Kuti is known for pioneering the Afrobeat sound, a genre of music that combines American Soul, Funk and Jazz with elements of African Highlife.
Today Wednesday, August 2, 2017 marks 20 years since the legendary Fela Kuti passed on to glory on August 2, 1997.
Fela remains a national music icon for his Afrobeat sound which originated as far back as the 1960s and whose influences stemmed from American Jazz and Funk, complementing the local chanted vocals, African drums, horns, and percussion among other instruments.
The chants and rhythm of the melodies, going with a back and forth differentiates the Afrobeat sound from the Soul music popularized by American performing act James Brown from which it borrowed a leaf.
He is also revered for his songwriting, a gift which got him into many troubled waters with the people he spoke out against.
Fela chiefly used this rich sound as a voice of activism, speaking out boldly with his music against bad governance in his country Nigeria. He is widely regarded as a charismatic performer, as he travelled from one continent to the other with his Egypt 70s band captivating the audience with his music and fascinating dancers.
In 1963, Fela formed a band called Koola Lobitos, a name he later changed to Afrika 70, and again to Egypt 80.
A movie was attempted to be made about the life of the musician but the materials were burnt to the ground by the military force who he sang against with his music.
A New Afrika shrine built to celebrate the life of Fela is sitting in central Lagos . The old shrine was also brought down in the 1970s by Fela’s detractors. The new shrine has become a regular performing ground for Femi Kuti and Seun Kuti, both sons of the late legend.
It’s also being used to commemorate Fela around his birth month – A week long festival tagged Felabration sees variety of events organized including music performances by emerging and established artists all to celebrate and show love for Fela.
The Kalakuta republic, now a museum was once home for the Afrobeat legend. Located in Ikeja, memorabilia of the singer has become not only a performing rehearsal ground for Seun Kuti but also a site where tourists can come through to explore and purchase some Fela souvenir along the way.
Fela’s music till date lives on with Nigerian artists as well as international acts continuing to be influenced by that Afrobeat sound, sampling it in their music.