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Fela Lives On: 20 quick facts about Fela Anikulapo Kuti

By Temitope Ojo

The music scene has, today, has been remembering the late Afrobeat icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who died on August 2, 1997.
Here are quick facts he is remembered for, 21 years after his demise.

Fela was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti on October 15, 1938, in Abeokuta, Ogun State

His mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement, and his father was Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, an Anglican minister, and school principal

He was arrested 200 times and endured numerous beatings, but continued to write political lyrics, producing albums before he died on August 2, 1997, in Lagos.

He attended the Abeokuta Grammar School in Abeokuta and later he was sent to London in 1958 to study medicine but decided to study music instead at the Trinity College of Music.

The trumpet was his preferred instrument

Fela married his first wife, Remilekun Taylor, with whom he had three children (Femi, Yeni, and Sola, now late).

In 1963, Fela moved back to Nigeria and trained as a radio producer for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1967, he went to Ghana to think up a new musical direction

He first called his music Afrobeat In 1969.

He then formed the Kalakuta Republic, a commune, a recording studio, and a home for the many people connected to the band that he later declared independent from the Nigerian state.

Fela set up a nightclub in the Empire Hotel, first named the Afro-Spot and then the Afrika Shrine, where he both performed regularly and officiated at personalised Yoruba traditional ceremonies in honour of his nation’s ancestral faith.

Fela sang in Pidgin English so that his music could be enjoyed by individuals all over Africa, where the local languages were spoken are very diverse and numerous.

In 1977, Fela and the Afrika ’70 released the album Zombie, a sarcastic attack on Nigerian soldiers using the zombie metaphor to describe the methods of the Nigerian military. The album was a hit 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 (whose house was located opposite the commune) was thrown from a window, causing fatal injuries.

Fela’s response to the attack was to deliver his mother’s coffin to the Dodan Barracks in Lagos, General Olusegun Obasanjo’s residence, and to write two songs, “Coffin for Head of State” and “Unknown Soldier”,

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.

In 1979, he put himself forward for President in Nigeria’s first elections for more than a decade, but his candidature was refused.

In 1984, Muhammadu Buhari’s government, of which Kuti was a vocal opponent, jailed him on a charge of currency smuggling which Amnesty International and others denounced as politically motivated

He was released from prison by General Ibrahim Babangida after 20 months

In 1989, Fela and Egypt ’80 released the anti-apartheid Beasts of No Nation that depicts on its cover U.S. President Ronald Reagan, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and South African State President Pieter Willem Botha

Fela died on August 2, 1997

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