[Tweet ""To be honest and truthful in all endeavours is an experience, not a regret" - Happy Birthday Fela!"]
Happy birthday to musical legend and political activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti! Born on this day in 1938 into a well-known Nigerian family, Fela would shake up the world music scene and his native country with his unique Afrobeat sound and his outspoken stance on societal and cultural issues, and his impact resonates till this day. His life and its many ups and downs - best-selling albums, run-ins with Nigeria's military regimes, the tragic death of his mother Funmilayo - was the subject of a celebrated Broadway musical which toured the world (including a stop in Lagos) and featured famous faces such as Patti LaBelle and Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child. Fela's life is also scheduled to be the subject of a feature film helmed by Nigerian director Andrew Dosunmu, with the lead role played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (who recently starred in the movie adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun).
Although Fela's relationship with the Nigerian authorities was less than cordial during his lifetime, the Nigerian state has gone some way in making amends for its treatment of the musical legend. The Lagos State government, with the support of Fela's family, sponsored the conversion of The Kalakuta Republic (his Ikeja home) to a museum dedicated to his life and work. Lagos State's Ministry of Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations is also a sponsor of the annual Felabration, a music and arts festival at which acts such as Fela's sons Femi and Seun Kuti, Hugh Masakela, King Sunny Ade, Asa and TuFace have performed. This year's Felabration will feature a carnival, debates for the public and secondary school students, and performances by WizKid, Tiwa Savage and many more. Considered a polarising but irresistible figure until his death in 1997, Fela's son Femi said of him in a recent interview:
"He was grossly misunderstood for a purpose because he saw corruption and he knew what corruption was going to do to the country; those involved in corruption wanted to get away with dictatorship and corruption which was what he was against. And because he used his own unconventional way of protesting, it didn’t go down well with the authorities...We have to understand where Fela was coming from in the 60s. Where did the problem start? What was the cause of his problem? And maybe, because he was already a stubborn character, he was going to make matters worse and that was his character and that is the character that people now love. What kind of man was he, that many people ran away from him, or even compromised him. But he didn’t have to go through all those beatings? So, I think, he was purposely misunderstood but yes, he has been vindicated.The people will always honour my father and he will always be celebrated worldwide."
The love ordinary Nigerians held for him was reflected in the massive turnout for his funeral, with over a million people lined the streets of Lagos to say goodbye to the Black President. Although his body is gone, Fela's spirit and message live on in the hearts and minds of all who listen to the melodies of his horns.
Check out some of our favourite Fela tracks below:
Yellow Fever: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIRXNA3Eofs Water No Get Enemy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdV1V4vPPLI Shakara: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55YJAk8RzNM Share your favourite Fela track with us in the comments!