Friday, July 31, 2009

The Life and Times of Fela Kuti

BIOGRAPHY


Fela was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria,] to a middle-class family. His mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the first Nigerian woman to drive a car, was a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement and his father, Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, a Protestant minister and school principal, was the first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers. His brothers, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti and Olikoye Ransome-Kuti both medical doctors, are well known in Nigeria.
Fela was sent to London in 1958 to study medicine but decided to study music instead at the Trinity College of Music. While there he formed the band Koola Lobitos, playing a style of music that he would later call afrobeat. The style was a fusion of African jazz and funk with West African highlife. In 1961, Fela married his first wife, Remilekun (Remi) Taylor, with whom he would have three children (Femi, Yeni, and Sola). In 1963, Fela moved back to Nigeria, re-formed Koola Lobitos and trained as a radio producer for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1969, Fela took the band to the United States. While there, Fela discovered the Black Power movement through Sandra Smith (now Izsadore)—a partisan of the Black Panther Party—which would heavily influence his music and political views and renamed the band Nigeria ’70. Soon, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was tipped off by a promoter that Fela and his band were in the US without work permits. The band then performed a quick recording session in Los Angeles that would later be released as The ’69 Los Angeles Sessions.

Fela and his band, renamed Africa '70', returned to Nigeria. He then formed the Kalakuta Republic, a commune, a recording studio, and a home for many connected to the band that he later declared independent from the Nigerian state. Fela set up a nightclub in the Empire Hotel, named the Afro-Spot and then the Afrika Shrine, where he performed regularly. Fela also changed his middle name to Anikulapo (meaning "he who carries death in his pouch"),[4] stating that his original middle name of Ransome was a slave name. The recordings continued, and the music became more politically motivated. Fela's music became very popular among the Nigerian public and Africans in general. In fact, he made the decision to sing in Pidgin English so that his music could be enjoyed by individuals all over Africa, where the local languages spoken are very diverse and numerous. As popular as Fela's music had become in Nigeria and elsewhere, it was also very unpopular with the ruling government, and raids on the Kalakuta Republic were frequent. During 1972 Ginger Baker recorded Stratavarious with Fela appearing alongside Bobby Gass.


On his release Expensive Shit, Fela recounted that in 1974, the police arrived with a search warrant and a cannabis joint, which they had intended to plant on Fela. He became wise to this and swallowed the joint. In response, the police took him into custody and waited to examine his feces. Fela enlisted the help of his prison mates and gave the police someone else's feces, and Fela was freed.

In 1977 Fela and the Afrika ’70 released the hit album Zombie, a scathing attack on Nigerian soldiers using the zombie metaphor to describe the methods of the Nigerian military. The album was a smash hit with the people and infuriated the government, setting off a vicious attack against the Kalakuta Republic, during which one thousand soldiers attacked the commune. Fela was severely beaten, and his elderly mother was thrown from a window, causing fatal injuries. The Kalakuta Republic was burned, and Fela's studio, instruments, and master tapes were destroyed. Fela claimed that he would have been killed if it were not for the intervention of a commanding officer as he was being beaten. Fela's response to the attack was to deliver his mother's coffin to the main army barrack in Lagos and write two songs, "Coffin for Head of State" and "Unknown Soldier," referencing the official inquiry that claimed the commune had been destroyed by an unknown soldier.
Fela and his band then took residence in Crossroads Hotel as the Shrine had been destroyed along with his commune. In 1978 Fela married 27 women, many of whom were his dancers, composers, and singers to mark the anniversary of the attack on the Kalakuta Republic. Later, he was to adopt a rotation system of keeping only twelve simultaneous wives. The year was also marked by two notorious concerts, the first in Accra in which riots broke out during the song Zombie," which led to Fela being banned from entering Ghana. The second was at the Berlin Jazz Festival after which most of Fela's musicians deserted him, due to rumors that Fela was planning to use the entirety of the proceeds to fund his presidential campaign.Despite the massive setbacks, Fela was determined to come back. He formed his own political arty, which he called Movement of the People. In 1979 he put himself forward for President in Nigeria's first elections for more than a decade but his candidature was refused. At this time, Fela created a new band called Egypt 80 and continued to record albums and tour the country. He further infuriated the political establishment by dropping the names of ITT vice-president Moshood Abiola and then General Olusegun Obasanjo at the end of a hot-selling 25-minute political screed titled "I.T.T. (International Thief-Thief)." In 1984, he was again attacked by the Military government, who jailed him on a dubious charge of currency smuggling. His case was taken up by several human-rights groups, and after 20 months, he was released from prison by General Ibrahim Babangida. On his release he divorced his 12 remaining wives, saying that "marriage brings jealousy and selfishness."
Once again, Fela continued to release albums with Egypt 80, made a number of successful tours of the United States and Europe and also continued to be politically active. In 1986, Fela performed in Giants Stadium in New Jersey as part of the Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope concert, sharing the bill with Bono, Carlos Santana, and the Neville Brothers. In 1989, Fela & Egypt 80 released the anti-apartheid "Beasts of No Nation" album that depicts on its cover U.S. President Ronald Reagan, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and South African Prime Minister P.W. Botha with fangs dripping blood. is album output slowed in the 1990s, and eventually he stopped releasing albums altogether. The battle against military corruption in Nigeria was taking its toll, especially during the rise of ictator Sani Abacha. Rumors were also spreading that he was suffering from an illness for which he was refusing treatment. On 3 August 1997, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, already a prominent AIDS activist and former Minister of Health, stunned the nation by announcing his younger brother's death a day earlier from Kaposi's sarcoma brought on by AIDS. (Their younger brother Beko was in jail at this time at the hand of Abacha for political activity). More than a million people attended Fela's funeral at the site of the old Shrine compound. A new Africa Shrine has opened since Fela's death in a different section of Lagos under the supervision of his son Femi Kuti.


Music


The musical style performed by Fela Kuti is called Afrobeat, which is essentially a fusion of jazz, funk, psychedelic rock, and traditional West African chants and rhythms. As Iwedi Ojinmah points out in his Article "Baba is Dead - Long Live Baba," Afrobeat also borrows heavily from the native "tinker pan" African-style percussion that Kuti acquired while studying in Ghana with Hugh Masakela, under the uncanny Hedzoleh Soundz. Afrobeat is also characterized by having vocals, and musical structure, along with jazzy, funky horn sections. The endless groove is also used, in which a base rhythm of drums, shekere, muted guitar, and bass guitar are repeated throughout the song.
His band was notable for featuring two baritone saxophones, whereas most groups using this instrument only use one. This is a common technique in African and African-influenced musical styles, and can be seen in funk and hip-hop. Some elements often present in Fela's music are the call-and-response within the chorus and figurative but simple lyrics. Fela's songs were almost always over 10 minutes in length, some reaching the 20- or even 30-minute marks, while some unreleased tracks would last up to 45 minutes when performed live.
This was one of many reasons that his music never reached a substantial degree of popularity outside of Africa. His songs were mostly sung in Nigerian pidgin, although he also performed a few songs in the Yoruba language. Fela's main instruments were the saxophone and the keyboards, but he also played the trumpet, guitar, and took the occasional drum solo. Fela refused to perform songs again after he had already recorded them, which also hindered his popularity outside Africa. Fela was known for his showmanship, and his concerts were often quite outlandish and wild. He referred to his stage act as the Underground Spiritual Game. Fela attempted making a movie but lost all the materials to the fire that was set to his house by the military government in power.

Fela Kuti

Birth name:
Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti
Also known as Fela Anikulapo KutiFela Ransome-Kuti

Born:
15 October 1938(1938-10-15)

Origin:
Abeokuta, Nigeria
Died:
2 August 1997 (aged 58)

Genre(s):
Afrobeat
Occupation(s):
Singer-songwrite Instrumentalist, Activist

Insrutment(s):
Saxophone, Vocal, Keyboards, Trumphet, Guitar, Drums.

Years active:
1958 - 1997

Label(s):
Barclay/PolyGram Records, Barclay/Universal Records, Barclay/MCA/Universal Records, Shanachie Records, Celluloid records, EMI Records Nigeria, JVC Records, Wrasse records

Associated acts:
Africa '70, Egypt 80, Koola Lobitos, Nigeria ’70, Ginger Baker, Tony Allen, Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti, Roy Ayers


SASSY

11 comments:

Natasha said...

Waoh, I'm so short of words!
This is a good "In Memory" for the king of Afro beat.
May he continue to shine in the world beyond.
How are you my dear daughter I never had.lol
Take good care and enjoy your wekend sweetie.

Yinkuslolo said...

great memories, to be frank, i remember to be one of the greatest afro mothermofos

Ms. Dufa said...

Fela, would have been so proud of you!

Sassy Trends said...

lmao @Yinkusloslo and Ms.Dufa...

Sassy Trends said...

@Natasha luv...lol *sob*sob*, IM kinda luvn that..luv you...lol
I am doing fine thnak you...
xx

Nice Anon said...

Felaaaaaaaa! I love his music and that dude stood up for Nigerians and spoke out against rubbish! May he continue to rest in peace.

Tracey Ellle said...

I LOVE HIM!!

leggy said...

im not a fan of fela kuti at all...the stupid things he did really overshadowed his music for mr..he was too crude on stage for my parent's liking.

Naijagirl said...

Ah fela. I got into fela and his music after his death. I love his music, but above all, I loved his boldness in criticizing the government, without "sending anybody". I listen to his music, and i say "its only Fela that can do it and get away with it"


Sassy mi, how now? If i say i never miss you and your posts. Have a wonderful weekend

Sassy Trends said...

@NiceAnon, i feel you dere mii dear...xx

@Tracey, we all do...lol
xx

@Leggy, dont think that is fair really but hey..shebi we all have our opinions nah..lol
But well, Fela was well appreciated by many and for me o, his bluntness and frankness is one of a kind.
You know when they sey persin no send at all?...That describes him wella...lol
xx

@Naijagirl mi oooo...where da heck have you been gurl? was always looking forward to that TGIF series..na wa for you ooo, you get plenty queries to answer shogbo?lol
One luv gurl
xx

Lhinkoln said...

Keep resting in peace "ABAMI EDA"

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