Donald Duke speaks on relationship with late Fela Anikulapo Kuti

Donald Duke tells the story of his friendship with the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

In an exclusive interview on Pulse Nigeria's Loose Talk Podcast on Friday, July 13, 2018, Duke, who spoke on a range of issues covering Politics, Boko Haram, SARS and Democracy in Nigeria, also shared insights into his friendship with Fela Kuti.

Shortly after the end of his tenure as the governor of Cross River State, a position he held between 1999 and 2007, Donald Duke brought to life his love for music, especially playing the saxophone, which led to his official performance debut on the Runway Jazz in 2016.

Answering questions on how he relaxes, his love for music and learning to play the saxophone, he said:

''Fela taught me how to play the Sax, yeah... I was pretty friendly with him and he liked me. I think he liked me more for my name.

He thought my name was so foreign, 'Donald Duke'.' Always trying to get me to change my name, he called me Kolo''.

On how they met, he said, ''Shrine. I was a social secretary in Zaria, at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), but before then I used to go to the shrine a lot. His paymaster [was a family friend, so I'll go to the shrine and of course, I won't pay.

I take my friends, and his paymaster and I got to meet Fela. We [Fela and Duke] just got on. I could go to his house at Moshalashi and we just gist and talk and talk.

Prior to that, I used to play the piano as a kid and the guitar in secondary school, so I was already musically inclined.But there was a certain cool to the sax, so I said to him, 'I don't know how I came about, but I wanted a sax.'

He said to me, 'if you want to play the sax then you have to own one, cause you don't share it.'  So I bought myself a saxophone and I started learning and all that. So he inspired it. I never practised with him but he inspired it.

On how he invited Fela over to his school in Zaria

''Then we got really close. Once I invited him, I told him the crowning of my being social secretary was if he came to play in Zaria [and] he said okay, he will do that for me, but ''where the money?''. He was quite a character. We didn't have the money, so he said he will give a lecture instead. Lecture or nothing, so we said, Ok.

It was such a brilliant idea. This was in 1980, he chartered a plane and flew into Kaduna. I received him at the airport, we hired a coaster bus, took him to Zaria [and] he arrived at about 1 pm. The lecture started at 4 pm, he spoke for five hours nonstop and held everybody spellbound.

You know he fancied himself as an intellectual, he talked about everything, there was nothing he didn't talk about. He talked about his wife, he talked about Festac, he talked about He knew his brief and it was better than having a show. Professors were there, the hall was full for five hours, everybody was glued and it was simply amazing.

On Fela's personality and ear for music

Donald Duke noted that Fela was a conflicted person, but his ears for music was quite brilliant.

''He is quite a remarkable person, quite conflicted too... He was very dictatorial, he managed his establishment like a boot camp, but he was brilliant.

Once I was watching him at the shrine and the music was playing - He had incredible ears - everything was OK, but he detected a tune off. So the guy is playing the guitar, he goes there and he starts to tune the guitar as he is playing, then when he gets it right, he gives the guy a bad slap.

You go to the shrine, he starts about 12.30/1am and he is playing and five hours gone, you think its maybe one or two hours, then you hear C.C.P, Custom Check Point, (humming a tune), you look up, its daybreak, and you think you have only spent an hour and a half. You are totally mesmerized, then they tell you ''short break'', which means its over.

Donald Duke says his best Fela composition is 'Palava'

Speaking on what in his opinion is Fela's best song, Donald Duke explained;

''But you know, and again this is subjective, I think after a while, I remember once telling him his best composition was ' and that double album where you had 'Palava' and 'He looked at me and said, ''You don't know anything'." He believed that each one was better than the other. And of course, there is '

When he now introduced what we called 'the second bass guitar' and you see that in and all that. For me, it was more intellectual music at that point because you had two bass guitars playing simultaneously.

It's deep, but in terms of commercial value, I think he was going down. The point is the man introduced an entirely new genre of music (Afrobeat), and it is being studied today in Universities across the world''.

In the interview, Donald Duke concluded by stating that Fela was magnetic on stage, a classical artist, and a true artist who inspires and whose music will continue to live on.

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