The 15th of October is significant for the remembrance the great Fela Anikolapo Kuti. Nigerians celebrate the posthumous birthday of an icon in the entertainment industry. But the question is why do Nigerian entertainers stand tall at the sound of his name? What did he do?

Fela was born on the 15th of October 1938 in Abeokuta, Nigeria. He is the son of the late and famous labor activist and Feminist Mrs Fumilayo Ransome Kuti. Fela studied classical music in Trinity College London where he learnt various musical styles while playing in Jazz and rock bands. He was later inspired to bring his college band back to Nigeria in the mid-1960s. The band was called Koola Lobitos and through their many experimentations with different sounds, they created Afro-beat.

Fela used his music as an instrument to protest against corruption in Nigeria. He was inspired by Malcom X , the Blank Panthers Party and other militants in developing his voice through his music. His song “Zombie” is a perfect example of his many projects against corruption. His music was an avenue for Nigerians in the lower ends of the social strata to speak against the oppressive corrupt powers. The government frequently responded to his actions by framing him for various crimes and raiding his clubs, to keep him quiet but once he got out from jail, he would continue where he left off.

Zombie by Fela

In 1979, Fela tried to take matters into his own hands by building a political party called “the Movement of the people”, which he used to contest for presidency in Nigeria. However his was unsuccessful.

He built a compound he called the “Independent Kalakuta Republic”. As the head of the commune he promoted an atmosphere of freedom through his provocative lifestyle. He married 27 wives, smoked marijuana and other drugs. His lifestyle drew more attention to his music and what he stood for.

He died of AIDS-related complications in 1997 and passed the torch to his son Femi. The Icon would have been 81 today and he would have witnessed the courage of the Nigerian youths taking their lives back during the #EndSARS protest.



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