“Music is supposed to have an effect. If you’re playing music and people don’t feel something, you’re not doing s**t. That’s what African music is about. When you hear something, you must move. I want to move people to dance, but also to think. Music wants to dictate a better life, against a bad life. When you’re listening to something that depicts having a better life, and you’re not having a better life, it must have an effect on you.”
This is the embodiment of the life lived by Nigerian music legend and pioneer of the Afrobeat genre, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who was born on October 15, 1938. He has since never died even after his transition from the world on August 2, 1997, at the age of 58.
Fela was a creative genius and a thorn in the flesh of politicians and oppressors who took advantage of their positions and power to dictate the way people should live and die. He lived and breathed for freedom and justice for the common people.
He left a legacy that has lived on and survived for decades with his songs maintaining their relevance today and his children pushing his signature activism through music as perfected by their father.
Fela Kuti has lived up to his adopted middle name “Anikulapo” which means “He who carries death in his pouch”, with the interpretation: “I will be the master of my own destiny and will decide when it is time for death to take me”. Like a prophecy, he has never been forgotten and his name is still mentioned each year with events to commemorate his life and legacy.
His music is on replay even in the 21st century with renditions, masters, Broadway shows, bands and many other entities inspired by Fela Kuti that signify his musical immortality.
Fela Kuti went off the radar in the mid-1990s as rumours spread that he was suffering from AIDS. He died on August 2, 1997, at the age of 58. His older brother, Dr Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, announced at a press conference that the immediate cause was heart failure, but he had suffered from AIDS.
Fela Kuti was survived by seven children who have taken after his musical talent. They include Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti, Yeni Kuti, Sola Kuti, Omosalewa Anikulapo Kuti, Kunle Anikulapo Kuti, Motunrayo Anikulapo Kuti.
Face2Face Africa remembers the death of Fela Kuti and how over a million people bade him farewell. Have a look at these photos and videos from his funeral.