Writings of the general word's body

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Abami Eda, 10 Years On

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti died in the same year as Diana, Princess of Wales. A million people people turned out for the Afrobeat legend's funeral in Lagos in 1997. 10 years on, and the irreplaceable Fela is much missed, by ordinary Nigerians and an ever growing legion of Afrobeat fans all over the world.
To mark the 2nd August anniversary of Fela's death, the UK Guardian published this piece. Each of Fela's 3 famous offspring gets a mention (usually with pieces written by European journalists, Femi Kuti hogs the whole space; but here, Alex Hannaford had clearly done her research). Seun Anikulapo is interviewed at the original site of Fela's Shrine, then it's off to Femi's base at the New Afrika Shrine.
And as for Yeni, here's what she has to say about her late dad
"My father was a very charismatic person," she says. "For someone like me, it was easy to follow his ideology because, as a black person, he made me proud. Fela's father - my grandfather - was a pastor, but he was still a radical; he was very outspoken. And my great-grandfather was responsible for taking Christianity to Abeokuta [a city north of Lagos]. He used music to get people to believe, so in his way he was a radical as well. And my grandmother was an activist. So we come from a long line of revolutionaries.
"I would love my father to be remembered for his words and his music. He was a brilliant man. If only the government at that time had listened, I doubt that Nigeria would be where it is today. We would be ahead of all the other African countries. The things he used to sing about are 100 times worse now, and religion in Nigeria is an epidemic - it is 7km from here to my house and I have counted 58 churches. Who are the congregation? Poor people. But the vicar's suits cost $5,000 to $10,000.
"Fela would have been disillusioned with Nigeria today," she adds, "but not surprised."
Yeni's eyes stray towards the tiny TV on her dressing-room table. It shows Obasanjo handing over the presidency to Umaru Yar'Adua, and various senators and governors being sworn into office. Obasanjo's daughter, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, is being sworn in as a senator in Ogun State. "How did she become a senator?" Yeni asks rhetorically, incredulous. "It's like Chelsea Clinton taking office because of her father. We Nigerians are gluttons for punishment."
Nice to know Fela's offspring are still telling it straight. But we always knew that...
  • Fela Anikulapo-Kuti may still be relatively unknown in the West as the Guardian article says, but the Fela-thon held at the Barbican, London in 2004 certainly did its best to change that. Reproduced here are some of the programmes that accompanied the 2004 Felafest in London.
  • And the BBC has been remembering the Fela years too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny when I listened to Coffin for Head of State recently, I was impressed by the relevance of the song then as now. Remember: Look Obasanjo... he go dey shout Oh lord... Look Yar'adua... haba allah...etc. And although the Yar'adua is not the same one in power now, the currency is uncanny. Afterall, Fela has also said that Obasanjo has replaced people in government with the same old people "wey spoil Nigeria before...etc"