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If you could see Fela in the seventies--the man turned Nigeria completely upside down! He had the whole country in his band; it was as if be owned Nigeria! To tell the truth, Fela at that time was a law unto himself and did whatever be pleased in Nigeria, until be met an equally lawless group--the army.
UNIDENTIFIED NIGERIAN FAN, Lagos, March 1992
It is being educated in the English way that maker you a big man (in Nigeria) That is what I disagree with. My messege was: "Think African. Make students read African history" The people listened, but the government did not. That was when my confrontation with the government started.
FELA ANIKULAPO KUTI (From Michael Veal's Fela: The Life and Time's of an African Icon)
Fela Anikulapo Kuti (1938-1997)--the Beethoven, Che Guevara, Allen Ginsberg and Malcolm X of African popular music died on August 2nd 1997, yet remains, for my generation, one of the most colorful, controversial and remarkable personalities in the history of Nigeria. His funeral in Lagos drew a multitude of grief-stricken mourners that far outstripped the burial ceremony of any of Nigeria's former Heads of State.
Fela's story is full of drama. A multi-talented musician who was born and grew up in one of the richest artistic cultures in the world--Yoruba culturel--and played as many as twenty modern and indigenous instruments, Fela returned from his formal European musical training in England to start a band in Nigeria in the 1960s. He fed on frustrations, disbanded his group, and left his country for the United States where he met Sandra Isidore, a Black Panther and political activist in Los Angeles who expanded Fela's consciousness about Black struggles and guided Fela to his political mission and responsibility to his country, continent, and the African Diaspora. On his return to Nigeria, Fela formed a new band, turned his home and a nearby nightclub into a commune and spiritual--as well as political--shrine, became its chief priest and irrepressible crusader against government corruption, and through his music developed a countrywide following among the oppressed Nigerian populace. Fela so accurately parodied the brutal mindlessness of the Nigerian military ruling class in a long-playing record called "Zombie" that the irate soldiers, in a surreal, if not macabre replay of the record, marched to his residence in the hundreds, burnt down his shrine, looted his tapes, destroyed his records, raped some of his wives, and beat him with truncheons and gun butts, leaving him for dead. The soldiers also forcefully threw Fela's 77 year-old mother out of a window of his home, and she died later from wounds sustained in that savage attack.
Ironically, Fela's mother, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, was a founding member of the Nigerian Women's Association that played a significant role in resisting colonial taxation in Abeokuta. The same indefatigable activist went to London in the 1950s to negotiate and fight for Nigeria's independence from British Colonial rule and took Fela to see Ghanaian Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah. Fela took his mother's coffin to the Head of State's offices at Dodan Barracks, and on the way he drove through a …