A charismatic and controversial character, Fela Kuti was the pioneer of the Nigerian music genre Afrobeat and 20 years after his death at age 59 on the 2nd of August, 1997; he remains revered by his fans for his music, outspokenness against the government, philosophy and fierce and unwavering fight for human rights.
Born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti in Abeokuta, Ogun State; Fela was a member of the distinguished Ransome- Kuti family. His father, Reverend Israel Ransome Kuti, was the first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers and his mother- Funmilayo Ransome Kuti- is forever remembered as a feminist activist in the country’s colonial era. Through his aunt, Grace Eniola Ransome Kuti who married Samuel Ayodele Soyinka, he was a cousin of the first African Nobel Prize Winner, Professor Wole Soyinka.
Switching his medical studies for music; Fela studied at the Trinity College of Music in England. He formed the band, Koola Lobitos (later renamed Nigeria ’70 then The Afrika ’70) and years later formed a new band, Egypt ‘80. He later created what is now widely known as Afrobeat, a fusion of jazz, funk, highlife and rock; his signature instruments the saxophone, trumpet and the keyboard. Disdaining what he called ‘a slave name’, he change ‘Ransome’ to ‘Anikulapo’; which in Yoruba means He who carries death in his pouch.
His protest songs were and are still regarded as deeply insightful and pure art but during the height of his career was one of the main causes of his clashes with the government he constantly spoke against. But Fela continued to speak for the people and against the government, refusing to be silenced.
Today, his legacy lives on.
Fela Kuti’s quotes:
To be spiritual is not by praying and going to church. Spiritualism is the understanding of the universe so that it can be a better place to live in.
The secret of life is to have no fear.
Music is a weapon of the future, music is the weapon of the progressives, music is the weapon of the givers of life.
I don't tell lies about anybody. That's why i win all my wars.
It would be inadmissible if I would vent my opinion publicly. Not only could I harm the artist concerned seriously because people have so much respect for me and believe in me because of my musical accomplishments. And I could also antagonize people against me, because everyone has his own taste. We all make music, people can choose from that what they like. Every musician likes his own music the best, man. I don't want to attack that. I don't mind criticism, I can handle it, but most people can't".