Fela Kuti

What You Didn’t Know About Fela Anikulapo Kuti

“Guy, you play archaic music. What is ‘Fela’ doing on your music list?”

When I get such questions regarding the kind of music I listen to, I simply grin.

You know why?

Those who ask me such questions which definitely receive no answer do not know what they are missing.

You’re missing something if you don’t listen to Fela’s songs.

Yes! I am serious.

Quite alright, he appeared half naked in his concerts or shows. Some level of immorality are also labeled on him.

I utterly despise those: his arrogance and moral misconducts. But I appreciate his fearless spirit.

Constructive criticism is an important aspect of politics. Human right is inalienable and our African qualities should not be eroded by Western influences.

Anikulapo (which literally means “he who carries death in his pouch” but translated to mean in this context, “I will be the master of my own destiny and will decide when it is time for death to takeme”) took it upon himself to bring sanity to the people who were in the vain chase for civilization, wealth and fame.

In contrast, many other people perished in misery and silence; suffering and smiling.

This he did not push with sword or gun but through his unique Afrobeat music genre.


This man, Fela, was born in Abeokuta, (Ogun State, Nigeria) on the 15th of October 1938 into the family of Rev. Israel Oludotun-Ransome Kuti, an Anglican minister and school principal, and Chief Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, a feminist activist.

Fela Kuti

His birth name was Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome Kuti.

He was also a first cousin to the first African Noble Laureate, Wole Soyinka. His brothers, Beko Ransome-Kuti and Olikoye Ransome-Kuti were both medical doctors.

He was sent to London in 1958 to go study Medicine, but his passion for music drove him to Trinity college of Music, where he studied music. He was a multi-instrumental musician, for he played saxophone, trumpet, drums, keyboard and guitar.

When he returned in 1960, he got married to Remilekun Taylor who bore him three children: Femi, Yeni and Sola. He engaged himself afterwards in musical endeavors that raised thick political dust.


In 1976 Fela Kuti, who had already forsaken his father’s name ‘Ransom’ on the premise that it is a slave name released a music album he called Zombie.

In that album he described the Nigerian soldiers as metaphorical Zombie who followed instructions without giving them a thought.

This infuriated the Nigerian army that they raided this commune, the Kalakuta Republic in 1977.

The Kalakuta Republic was a communal compound which the government claimed it provoked controversy and attracted attention by promoting sex indulgence, polygamy and drugs especially Marijuana.

In that bloody attack, up to a thousand soldiers beat Fela and his aides and destroyed his musical equipment and records.

They also threw Funmilayo Kuti, Fela’s mother over the window where she sustained fatal injuries that she didn’t survive from.

Injured Fela Kuti

To commemorate the attack on Kalakuta Republic, Fela married 27 wives in 1978.

These wives, who were all divorced in before 1987 on the premise that marriage brought jealousy and selfishness, were made up of his singers and composers.


It will interest you to know that Fela’s open vocalization of the dictatorial leadership of the Nigerian government took him to prison not less than 200 times.

He was imprisoned in 1984 for 20 months after he dastardly called the then Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari an animal in madman’s body in his music album “Beast of no Nation.” Do you know these lyrics?

“No be outside Buhari dey ee. Na krase man be dat, animal in krase man skin ii… Make you here this one! War against indiscipline ee. Nah Nigeria government ee. Nah dem talk be sat. Ma people are useless, ma people are senseless, ma people are indiscipline. Which kain talk be that e oo? Nah krase talk be dat oo. Nah animal talk be dat e oo…”

Anikulapo also thought that the most important way for Africans to fight European cultural imperialism was to support traditional African religion and lifestyle.

This was vicious in his attire and music. In the album, Confusion released in 1975 he utterly described Christianity and Islam as a foreign confusion brought upon Africans.

“Them dey cry cry cry. Ameni Ameni Ameni…”

“…and them go dey shout, abbah Allah abbah Allah, abbah Allah… And them dey do bad bad bad bad bad bad bad…things”

“…and them yo dey shout oh Lord, oh lord oh lord almighty lord. Oh looooord, and dem dey do bad bad bad bad bad bad…things”

Yes, Fela Kuti is a pioneer of Afrobeat music genre. Afrobeat is a musical style such as fuji and highlife, with American funk and jazz influences, with a focus on chanted vocal, complex intersecting rhythms and percussion. This style of music is unique to Fela Anikulapo Kuti. He said anything he wanted to say without fear or favour.

“…nah who kill Dele? Nah Baba. If you put angida, nah you sabi.”


But you see death fears no man. On 2nd of August 1997 the cold hand of death clamped Fela Kuti and drowned him into the underworld. At the time of his death he was worth $5 million.

Fela’s Remains


I believe you understand now why I play Open and Close, Zombie, Confusion and other of his musical albums. Fela was fearless; he spoke some truth which ordinarily no one could say; Fela was a human right activist; he believed in African.

He was against apartheid in South Africa; he fought against oppression. Fela Kuti pushed Africanism and Nkrumahism through the political party he formed called Movement of the People (MOP).

But now Africa is perishing with ungodly xenophobia. This is why I will always play his Sorrows Tears and Blood. I wish I met Fela Anikulapo Ransome-Kuti.

“Thanks for stopping bye”

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