Skip to main content

Fela Kuti

make-up for the Gods, smoke for inspiration
make-up for the Gods, smoke for inspiration
Fela came from a well-off family of Abeokuta. Soon after Nigeria was made independent, he went to England to study music at Trinity College, classical music at first and soon turned to jazz. He played there with a band called the Koola Lobitos which was fairly successful in the clubs in London in the early sixties.
He went back to Nigeria and recreated his band, gathered influence from James Brown, highlife music and developed a musical style progressively known as Afrobeat. His band was renamed Nigeria 70 at the beginning of the 70's
He travelled to the US on tour and was introduced by Sandra Izsadore to the conditions of black americans and the black liberation movements with the politics of Malcolm X among others.

Upon his return to Nigeria, he became more active politically. He set-up a recording studio called Kalakuta republic and a night-club not too far called the Shrine. He was opposing to the rule of Generals who had power with the Army but also good ties with businesses. He did that through his songs that were like weapons he used to anger the political class in power which soon created him enemies.

Kalakuta was a republic, well certainly a place like no other in Lagos, Fela and his 27 concubines and singer/dancer. One day, he married all of them traditionally in an effort to give a status in the society. At one point, in 1977,  Kalakuta was attacked by the police, a few people died, his wife were beaten and some raped, his mother was thrown an upstairs window, he got a skull fracture... He went to jail for some time. But this did not discourage him from going ahead with his provocative style. He formed a political party called the Movement of the People (MOP).

Fela's pantheon
Fela's pantheon

In the 80's his band was called Egypt and the 80's, the band now plays with his son Seun.
After the death of of his beloved mother, who was a leading feminist and anti-colonialist figure, he turned to his Yoruba roots and started to honor their gods. He also became famous as a serious weed-smoker.

He died in 1997 of AIDS, got funerals organized at the National Stadium in Lagos were more than 10 thousand people turned up to pay their respect.

Three of his children are now famous, Femi the elder son who made a career as saxophonist, Seun who is really carrying the flame of Afrobeat from his father and a daughter who is heading the New Afrika Shrine, the heir of the Afrika Shrine. So the fight goes on...

For those who would like to find out more, there is a movie called "Finding Fela" which was done on the occasion of a musical hold in New York City a few years ago. The show tried to explain the life of Fela through the various parts of his life and the film told the story of Fela by complementing video archives with scenes of the musical for which no archive footage was suitable.
There is also a book called "Fela, this bitch of a life" by Carlos Moore which is the "unabridged & authorized biography of Africa's musical genius"

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Underground party on the rooftop of City Hall in Lagos Island

Friday night, 7.30PM, Lagos Island is buzzing with road-side lamp-lit by ambulant merchants, suya sellers and other food items. Pedestrians are dashing to their destination through cars, kekenapes, okadas, hawkers. For some it is time to get home, for others it is the beginning of party time. As we approach the City Hall building, which is now used for offices and to host functions, voices become louder, vehicles are queuing-up to climb-up the ramp leading up to the entrance hall of the building with its façade adorned with squared column and glass protected by stylised irons grids. Cars are parked along the ramp and security staff is pressing car drivers to move on immediately after having disembarked their passengers. The main hall is hosting a wedding reception, luxuriously decorated. The music blares and a strong smell of fish is filling-up the whole place.


I am going to another function on the rooftop, but to do this I must cross the wedding entrance all and  slip past a cloth c…

the fish market of Epe

Epe (pronounced Ekpe in yoruba) is a small city located on the narrow stretch of water that separates the lagoon of Lagos from the one, further in the east, known as Lekki lagoon. It is built on the small hills that border the water. It is connected by a bridge to the Lekki peninsula.
The town is famous for its fish market located on the water side. It is the place to buy fresh water fish, some of them still alive. They are kept in plastic buckets but also directly in the lagoon water in woven baskets.
Many more is for sale such as crayfish, crocodile, turtle, monitor lizard, big snails.  Game meat is also available coming from the nearby forest of the Omo reserve. We saw two wild cats with white spotted black fur and a strong scent; As we left we saw antilope legs arriving to the stall.
Some fishes are particular, one is sending electricity shocks when you touch it, another one was looking like a prehistoric fish with a sort of dinosaur like shell; there was also one with giant scal…

The Ogiamien family in Benin City: about wood and history

Wood
Roland Ogiamien is a renown wood carver. He is now retired in his home town of Benin City and is now in his 80s. We met him in his simple workshop, a barn opened on the surrounding greenery. A part of the studio is used to store wood pieces and make sure they are well dried. He is using a collection of german ustensils to carve and polish the wood. He spent most of his career working out of Lagos before relocating to Benin.
Roland was explaining that the wood he uses today is different from his early days. Ebony has become rare and wood carvers have had to switch to other types of wood. Traditional heritage is a large part of his inspiration which he translates on wood with his own particular style, exploring various techniques for the finish of his pieces.
History
Ogiamien is the name of an important royal family in Benin Kingdom. Towards the end of the Ogiso dynasty (12th century), Ogiso Owodo did not have a son to succeed him, his brother Evian therefore took over after Owodo&#…