FELA - a Commommeration
Fela Kuti - Basic Facts: Fela Kuti was born on October 15, 1938 in Abeokuta, Nigeria, to parents who were political activists. His mother was a feminist and anti-colonialist, and his father was active in the Nigerian teachers´ union. Fela Kuti died in 1997 of AIDS.
Fela Kuti´s Early Musical Career: In 1958, Fela Kuti moved to London, where he began studying music. He soon formed a group called Koola Lobitos, which was later renamed Nigeria 70. They played a kind of music which Fela named "Afrobeat", which was American jazz, pop and funk blended with West African highlife music.
Fela Kuti´s Sound: Fela Kuti was a gifted multi-instrumentalist, playing, among other things, saxophone, keyboards, trumpet, drums and guitar. He was also a talented singer and a highly energetic live performer. His lengthy songs (most were over 10 minutes long) were backed up by a consistent groove of drums and bass, a style which heavily influenced the genre of hip-hop.
Fela Kuti´s Personal Life: In 1961, Fela Kuti married Remilekun Taylor. They had three children, Femi, Yeni and Sola. Femi Kuti went on to become a well-known Afrobeat musician in his own right. Later in his life, Fela would become a strong believer in polygamy, and married dozens of women.
Fela Kuti´s Political Activism: Fela Kuti was a major activist for Pan-Africanism and anti-colonialism, and because of his socialist beliefs, had many run-ins with the authorities of several African countries. His struggles made him a veritable icon of the Black Power movement. Fela Kuti attempted to run for Nigerian President several times, but was never allowed to.
Fela Kuti´s Death: Fela Kuti died of complications from AIDS in 1997 in Lagos, Nigeria. His illness was, and is, kept very private by his family members, so no further verifiable information is known about his experience with that disease.
COMMEMORATING FELA´S LIFE
He truly was a legend for the poor people, who died for the poor people. May his spirit live on!
Enjoy this article
Originally published in Mean magazine, around Oct/Nov ´99.
Reprinted here for Nigeriaworld
FELA: King of the Invisible Art
by Jay Babcock
Fela Anikulapo Kuti: 77 albums, 27 wives, over 200 court appearances. Harassed, beaten, tortured, jailed. Twice-born father of Afrobeat. Spiritualist. Pan-Africanist. Commune King. Composer, saxophonist, keyboardist, dancer. Would-be candidate for the Nigerian presidency. There will never be another like him.
MEAN brings you the sensational story of Fela, the greatest pop musician of the 20th century, featuring the words of Fela´s friends, fans and the Ebami Eda himself. "What can I say? I wasn´t Hildegart!"
Fela always knew the power of a name. If you are African-and especially if you work with music, which shares a link of common invisibility with the spirit world-you must have a spiritually meaningful, beneficial name. Without the correct name, Fela explained, "a child can´t really enter the world of the living."
He didn´t like the name he was given when he was first born, in
1935: his Nigerian parents had followed a local German missionary´s suggestion. So Fela died and was born a second time, on October 15, 1938; this time his parents called him Fela.
"Bear the name of conquerors?" he asked Carlos Moore, author of
Fela, Fela: This Bitch of a Life, in 1981. "Or reject this first arrival in
the world? The orishas [spirits] they heard me. And they spared me. What can I say? I wasn´t Hildegart! It wasn´t for white man to give me name. So it´s because of a name that I´ve already known death."
In 1975, at the height of his popularity and power, Fela changed
his middle name. "I got rid of ´Ransome.´ Why was my name ´Ransome´ in the first place? Me, do I look like Englishman?" Fela´s full name was now Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, which meant in whole, ´He who emanates greatness, who has control over death and who cannot be killed by man.´
That same year Fela also started to cheekily call himself Black
President, eventually releasing an album bearing the same title in the midst of a thwarted campaign. And sometime in 1986, following his release from Nigerian prison after serving 20 months on trumped-up charges, Fela began to call himself the Ebami Eda, which translates roughly as "the weird one," or more delicately, as "the one touched by divine hand."
Fela was touched, alright. But he was not only a visionary musician
who created a whole new style of music-Afrobeat-and left behind an incomparable body of recorded music. No. Fela also simultaneously spoke truth to power, and then recorded it as a 12-minute dance-funk song, with a title like "Government Chicken Boy" or "Coffin for Head of State." He endured brutal physical punishment and constant imprisonment.
In the end, he died from complications associated with the AIDS virus. His heart was broken: he had sung so much, fought so hard, amassed such popularity, and still, hardly anything changed for the better in his beloved, heart-shaped continent of Africa. So: following is the story of that big generous, humorous, creative, divine heart that Fela had: from its early heartbeats, to Afrobeat, to the beatings it took, to its final, slow heartbreak. "Disobedience was our ´law.´"
Fela was born into a family of discipline and disobedience-two qualities he would absorb and exploit later in his life. His father was the strict Rev.Canon Israel Oludoton Ransome-Kuti, an ordained minister, grammar school principal and first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers. Fela´s mother Funmilayo, beside being the first known female car driver in Nigeria, was a leader in the country´s nascent socialist-nationalist and suffragette campaigns: she even traveled to Russia and China, where she met
"My mother was quite heavy politically," remembered Fela. "And
ohhhhhhh, I liked the way she took on those old politicians, all those dishonest rogues."
As a teen, Fela was already playing the role of witty rebel against
authority that he would later refine and perfect. "In school I formed a club when I was sixteen, the Planless Society," he said. "The rule of the club was simple: we had no plans. You could be called upon to disobey orders at any time. Disobedience was our ´law.´"
Like many children of the Nigerian middle class, Fela was sent to
London to study at university. But Fela, now a trumpet player, wasn´t interested in the professional careers in medicine and law that such students (like Fela´s brothers) usually pursue; instead, in 1958, three years after his father´s death, he enrolled at the London Trinity College of Music.
Fela was joined in London by his childhood friend J.K. Braimah, who
jokingly told Moore, "Fela was a nice guy, a really beautiful guy. But as square as they come! Whenever we would go to parties he would fill up on cider first. Then he would start challenging the others to dance. He didn´t smoke cigarettes, let alone grass. He was afraid to fu*k! We had to take his prick by hand, hold it and put it in the cunt for him. I swear!"
Fela eventually met (and married, in 1961) his first wife Remi
there in London. With some West Indian and Nigerian friends, he started a jazz band called Koola Lobitos, but had trouble finding gigs. Fela sat in at jazz gigs around town; one of the musicians in the scene at the time that he hooked up with was Ginger Baker, who would be one of Fela´s life-long friends. Meanwhile, Fela and Remi had their first two children-daughter Yeni in ´61 and son Femi in ´62-and Fela graduated from Trinity with certificates in practice and theory.
Fela and his family returned to Nigeria in 1963, where Fela took an
unfulfilling job as a music producer with the Nigerian Broadcasting
Corporation, which he eventually quit. He had already formed a new Koola Lobitos band, but was finding it difficult to gain momentum in Nigeria´s economically depressed nightclub scene. A 1967 tour of neighboring Ghana, where the "highlife" style of music was booming, greatly impressed Fela. "The whole country was swinging so much that I said to myself that this is the right place to come and play," he told Mabinuori Kayode Idowu in his
1986 book, Fela: Why Blackman Carry Sh**t.
But before long, Ghana´s Pan-Africanist president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was deposed in a military coup. The Nigerian government was engaged in a bloody, ridiculous civil war with Biafran secessionists. And mid-´60s James Brown-style Soul music, especially the version played by Ghanaian Geraldo Pino, was gaining favor in both countries. Fela was getting pushed out.
"Everybody was playing soul, man, trying to copy Pino," he told Moore. "That´s why I said to myself, ´I have to be very original and clear myself from sh***.´"
So in 1969, when Fela was given an offer to tour America with his
band, he took it. "No gigs! No bread! No visa, no work permit! No sh**t! Nothing!" The band was wowed by New York City.
"I said to myself: ´Look those motherfuKKKking tall buildings!
Africans ain´t sh*t! Just savages, man! Oh I was so impressed by America! So blind, man!" Fela recalled. "Today I´d say ´Skyscrapers go up that high? To scrape what? Jo, make ´em scrape dirty streets of Harlem!"
In a weird coincidence, Fela had met famous South African singer
Miriam Makeba on the plane en route to the U.S.; she gave him the name and address of her agent in New York. But the agent refused to represent an unknown like Fela. Previous logistical arrangements began to fall through. Fela: "Nigeria was now three months behind us. And we weren´t IN the America we´d dreamt of. No, man. We were IN trouble! No gigs! No bread! No sh*t! Nothing! And our visas finish-o! I said, ´Now we´re illegal immigrant motherf**kers! No visa, no work permit... Stalemate!´ Terrible times, man."
The band ended up driving all the way across the country in search
of gigs, finally bottoming out in Los Angeles in August, 1969 without a permanent residence. "It was kind of difficult at first but ended up okay," Fela´s drummer Tony Allen told Mean about life in L.A. "We got some friends that offered us places. There was one guy, he gave us a whole house, without heater! No hot water! One day the Gas Company man, just passing by, saw us.
We say, ´Our problem is we don´t have hot water or heater.´ He came in, and he saw that in the chamber outside, the control was broken. Dead long time ago! So he just went into his car and took a brand new one, bring it up, took off the old one there, fixed it up and opened the gas for us." Some band members took factory jobs while Fela tried to hustle up live gigs and a recording contract. A local musician and drum maker named Juno Lewis saw Fela´s group perform and heard that they were to play at an NAACP function at the Ambassador Hotel.
It was at this gig that Fela´s life changed. "She blew my mind, really." Sandra Smith was a young Los Angeles anthropology student radical who had recently joined the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and was interested in all things African: history, contemporary politics, dance and music. On her friend (and troupemate) Juno´s tip, she went to see Fela´s band play at
the Ambassador in August, 1969.
"I walked into the Hotel´s Ballroom, wearing this blue bellbottomed
jumpsuit and I just happened to look up onstage," Sandra told Mean. "And Fela was looking down. It was like a simultaneous connection, a BEAM that connected just the two of us. And I felt some energy like I had never felt before. At the intermission, Juno said somebody wanted to see me at the bar. And there was Fela."
The two quickly became lovers, with Fela moving in with Sandra at
her parents´ house. Sandra: "As we spent time together, I got to know the musicians, I got all involved in their business. They needed help, and I just got involved.
The band got a regular gig playing at Citadel de Haiti, a struggling nightclub run by Bernie Hamilton (who would later feature in the Starsky & Hutch TV series) in a red brick building at 6666 Sunset Blvd. "We played there for about five months, six nights in a week," remembers Tony Allen. "Bernie gave us a house and we played in his club. It was grooving, you know." "Anyone that was anybody-John Brown, Melvin Van Peebles, H.B. Barnham, Esther Phillips-came to see Fela," says Sandra. "It was all word
Sandra was singing onstage with the band, who were playing a
mixture of Fela´s jazz compositions and his unique arrangements of
contemporary soul favorites like "By the Time I get to Phoenix." On his nights off from the Citadel, Fela would sit in around town at jazz gigs, or play private parties-including one where a drunk Frank Sinatra got in a heated exchange with Fela.
Meanwhile,. Fela was busy writing and arranging music on a piano in the living room at Sandra´s house. The band would rehearse using acoustic equipment in Sandra´s backyard. Despite hardships-like Sandra having to take an extra job to buy a new trumpet for Fela when his was stolen-the arrangement was a good one, and allowed Fela to begin developing a new kind of music.
"He´d play at the club, we´d party, and then he´d come home.,"
remembers Sandra. "Until 3 o´clock in the morning, we were up, we´re talking. I remember him telling me how Africans are so stupid. Huh! I had never gone to Africa, but then I was coming into the knowledge of Self, and I believed that Africa had queens and kings and everything. I was intense. Then I started introducing him to things. I guess he was quiet and listening to me, but I thought I was learning from him."
Fela started reading the books that Sandra was enthused about:
history books, Eldridge Cleaver, and what would become his favorite, The Autobiography of Malcolm X. "Sandra gave me the education I wanted to know," Fela told Moore. "She talked to me about politics, history, about Africa. She taught me what she knew and what she knew was enough for me to start on. She´s beautiful. Nothing about my life is complete without her."
Sandra: "At that time, James Brown had ´Say It Loud, I´m Black and I´m Proud.´ Fela was singing in Yoruba, you couldn´t understand anything he was saying, but the music was getting better and better. He was getting deeper into his African roots. African music is about the chanting. Fela had all these rhythms and all these arrangements, and it was getting so dynamic! But when I asked him what he was saying, he said he was talking about what he likes in his soup! And I was saying, ´No. You need to sing some conscious lyrics. You can pass a message in the music.´"
Fela took Sandra´s words to heart and began composing his first conscious music: songs like "My Lady´s Frustration" and "Black Man´s Pride." Afrobeat had been born-in America.
"We Got Real Funky Then"
Fela and his band were ratted out by somebody in L.A. Their visas had expired, and they headed back to Nigeria. "We got real funky then," remembers Tony Allen. Fela changed the band´s name to the Nigeria 70. He wrote his first hit record, the humorous "J´eun Koku" ["glutton"]. He bookended his performances and public appearances with the Black Power clenched fist salute he had learned in America. He started holding "Sunday Afternoon Jump" dance concerts at a venue modeled after similar shows he had seen years ago in Ghana. The club itself-two stories, no roof, packed with dancers, trays of very cheap "Nigerian Natural Grass" (marijuana) everywhere-was now called the Afro-Spot. It quickly became the place to see the happening band.
In 1970, even James Brown´s band came to the Afro-Spot, visiting each night after they finished one of their series of gigs downtown [see Bootsy Collins sidebar]. Singer Vickie Anderson wanted to know who had written the brilliant arrangement of "Phoenix" that she heard at the club (it was Fela); Tony Allen claimed that Brown´s people sat by his kit each night, attempting to chart his drum patterns.
With Remi and the children now settled in their own house, Fela went about creating what was essentially a hippie commune-with an African twist. Fela: "I´d think to myself, ´Ah-Ah! What is this city sh*t-o? One man, one wife, one house isolated from everybody else in the neighborhood? Is an African not even to know his neighbors? So why all this individualism sh***? This "mine." This "yours." That "theirs." What´s that sh***? Is it African? That´s how the idea of setting up a communal compound-one like Africans had been living in for thousands of years-came about."
So Fela moved into a large house at 14-A Agege Motor Road in the
Surulere district of Lagos, bringing with him his band´s female singers, roadies and anyone else involved with his organization. "It was only two floors and there were 100 people, but we were happy," Fela said. "It was beautiful, no problems."
The singers-who also danced onstage-were Fela´s lovers. He now carried himself as a traditional African village king, or tribal chief, and his women were his "queens"...but they were more than that. He also called them his witches.
Sandra visited Fela in Nigeria during that year. "I had a great
time, being with Fela. But at the same time, there was a lot of jealousy and animosity towards me by his wives." Sandra was poisoned by one of the girls, becoming so ill that she had to take refuge at Fela´s eldest brother´s house; Koye was a doctor and he and his wife looked after her. But even far from Fela´s jealous wives, she was attacked. "I had a dream that this ghastly-looking thing was hovering over my bed, clawing me with lots of hatred and anger," she remembers. "And I thought it was just a dream, until I saw my body the next morning, covered with claw marks. Koye´s wife was a witness to it. That´s when I knew African witchcraft was REAL." Sandra returned to the U.S. soon after.
"He Just Wanted to Get Higher!"
In the next three years, Fela´s music exploded in vision, quantity (an incredible six to eight albums a year) and popularity. He changed his club´s name to the Shrine, saying that he wanted it to be "some place meaningful, of progressive, mindful background with roots. I didn´t believe playing any more in nightclubs." He told England´s The Independent, "We smoke in the Shrine, all the time. The shrine is not a club, man. It´s a place where we dance, we get high, we play drums to evoke the spirit. The power of the Shrine is very strong-the spiritual power...this is why we can smoke dope with impunity."
Fela had become a marijuana smoker of epic proportions. Besides smoking giant joints filled with igbo (Indian hemp), Fela had now developed his own marijuana recipe, which he called goro.
"He cooked a bag of grass about [two feet long], which cost just two pennies for like two weeks, soaking it with spices, honey and oils. cooked it right, right, right down til it was THICK," says Fela´s son Femi. "Very thick! All that came out was about [an amount that would fit in a small coffee cup]. You´re only allowed to take about a spoon, and then, in maybe two or three hours, you are just so high, it´s unbelievable. It lasts the whole day, two days, three days. Fela trained a couple of people to cook it, and for six years, man, I was the only one who had authorization (except for him), to serve it round the house, to give it to anybody who wants it. "He just wanted to get higher!" laughs Femi. "He even did cocaine for a while, a month or so, but he said it stopped his sexual desires so he didn´t like that. So he made goro. When they were traveling, he always made sure the embassy gave him a note, saying the goro was medicine. Which it was. He said that was the main reason he took it: it helped his sexual desire and his creativity."
Fela´s commune was beginning to attract all sorts of folk, from street hooligans and runaways to the nation´s political underground. According to writer Bayo Martins, "A radical left wing organization known as the Nigerian Association of Patriotic Writers and Artistes formed a think tank around Fela for the ideological development of Pan-Africanism with his Afrobeat Music, organize mass rallies and publicity strategy which made sure Fela was constantly in the news. It worked. In no time Fela had become a national household word in Nigeria. Contracts for international
concerts were starting to flow in."
Fela´s confidence knew no bounds. He would ride a donkey across the street from his compound to the Shrine before each night´s performance, stopping traffic up for miles. He purchased his own printing press and started publishing fearlessly inflammatory broadsides against the dictatorship in the name of his new youth organization, the Young African Pioneers. Fela´s neighborhood became a hotbed of anti-government activity. Finally, the military could take no more.
How to Make Hit Records, Fela-Style On April 30, 1974, the commune was raided and Fela was arrested for possession of marijuana. Released on bail, he returned to his compound and re-named it "Kalakuta Republic" ("Kalakuta" being the name of the prison cell he had occupied for two weeks), erected a ten-foot barbed wire fence, declared that the Republic was its own nation wholly independent of Nigeria, and recorded a hit album (Alagbon Close) that chronicled the arrest.
The police raided the house once again, this time attempting to
plant weed on Fela. He asked to look at the evidence-and ate it, right in front of the surprised officers. Once again, Fela was hauled off to jail, where the prosecutors demanded that he produce feces containing the marijuana. Fela wouldn´t. He was set three days in Timbuktu, a floating cell anchored in the Lagos Lagoon behind the prison. Eventually he defecated the weed in secret, and provided "clean" sh*** to the authorities, who rushed it to the lab for analysis. The results were negative. Fela was released, and immediately wrote another hit album-entitled Expensive
Sh***-detailing his experiences.
At this point the Nigerian Establishment was so upset with Fela´s
continuing attacks on their corruption-and his lampoons of their efforts to stop him-that he was safe nowhere, not even in other countries. Out on bail, Fela embarked on an international tour, only to be cut short in Cameroon when Nigerian police came across the border and arrested three of his Queens for not reporting to their parole officers in Lagos.
Then, on November 23, 1974, Kalakuta was raided for a third time in one year. This time the police weren´t interested in arresting people so much as physically punishing them. Everyone in the compound was beaten; Fela himself ended up spending nine days in the hospital, being treated for a broken arm and receiving eleven stitches. Of course he wrote a song about the whole affair; and of course "Kalakuta Show" was another hit.
"Fela went through the entire gamut of our criminal system, from unlawful assembly to sedition to incitement to the highest of offenses," one of Fela´s attorneys recalled in the 1999 TV documentary, Femi Kuti: The New King of Afrobeat. "So virtually all the time Fela´s cases were politically motivated and therefore there was no cause to consider withdrawing from defending him. We always believed that Fela would come out of jail stronger, and that was what happened."
The Sacking of Kalakuta By 1977, Fela´s every move was an embarrassment and affront to Nigeria´s corrupt ruling class and military government. His hit records named names in both the songs´ ridiculing lyrics and triple-vibrant, meticulously detailed sleeve artwork. He gave sensational press interviews. He declared Kalakuta an independent state. .He claimed that he would be voted President of Nigeria if fair elections were held. It was all too much, and another government attack was inevitable.
So Fela installed a 65-kilowatt generator to electrify Kalakuta´s
fence. "You see the type of sh*** I was forced to do then?" he said. "Just to protect myself and my people, not from robbers, but from the authorities!"
The government invited Fela to participate in an image-conscious music and arts festival called FESTAC 77-but he refused. "One big hustle! A rip-off!" he retorted. Instead, Fela played concerts each night in his shrine; in attendance each night were many international artists and journalists (including most famously, Stevie Wonder) who came to see the most popular African musician of all strut his stuff. Fela took full advantage of the situation, condemning the government generally and in particular its "Operation Ease the Traffic" program, which involved soldiers whipping drivers during the "go-slow" (rush hour traffic jams). The authorities were infuriated by Fela´s actions, and after FESTAC concluded, the military took direct action.
On February 18, 1977 about 1000 soldiers surrounded Kalakuta and began a 15-hour siege. There was mortar fire. The generator exploded and the house caught fire, at which point Fela and his people surrendered. Fela´s 78-year-old mother was thrown from the second-story. The Queens and other Kalakuta residents were beaten; some were raped and tortured. The compound itself was burned to the ground, as was the free clinic run by Fela´s younger brother Beko. Beko was seriously injured. Fela himself went to the hospital and was then imprisoned on typically ludicrous charges.
Although the incident received plenty of attention from the international press (including a lengthy account in The New York Times), the Nigerian government´s probe of the event concluded only that a residence at 14-A Agege Motor Road had been burned by "unknown solders."
Out of jail, with one arm and one leg in a cast, Fela reacted to this latest injustice as he always had: by making hit records. This time it was two albums, entitled Sorrow, Tears and Blood and Unknown Soldier. "When I Do Things, I Do Things Honestly."
Homeless and penniless, Fela and his 80-person entourage lived in a hotel (see Lester Bowie sidebar), and then for a short while in his brother Koye´s garage. Fela was now encountering difficulties with his record company, the Nigerian branch of Decca, which had changed management hands and was now hostile to releasing Fela´s inflammatory records, no matter how popular he was. It was a plain breach of contract, and Fela wanted the money he was contractually owed if such a breach occurred. The label refused, so Fela and his people went to the Decca offices. And stayed. For
"The Decca offices has very big sitting room and thick carpets everywhere, so we laid our mattresses down and stayed there in comfort," he explained.
Fela finally left for Ghana, where, by 1978, his anti-police "Zombie" had become a big hit, especially with the students. He returned to Nigeria briefly on the one-year anniversary of the assault on kalakuta, playing a show at Ogbe Stadium in Benin City. During the festivities around the event, he married all 27 of his singers simultaneously in a traditional ceremony.
"A man goes for many women in the first place," Fela said later, defending his polygamy. "Like in Europe, when a man is married, when the wife is sleeping, he goes out and f**ks around. He should bring the women in the house, man, to live with him, and stop running around the streets!"
Later he told the Washington Post, "When I do things, I do things honestly. I didn´t sleep with any women outside my marriage." And he revealed to the Lagos Weekend, "Me, I NACK as often and as long as I can-o!"
Fela returned to Ghana with his band, but the popularity of "Zombie"-and Fela´s habit of preaching the Pan-Africanist philosophy of Ghana´s former leader, Kwame Nkrumah-made the Ghanian authorities nervous; before long Fela was deported from Ghana for being "liable to bring about a
breach of the peace."
On April 13, 1978, Fela´s mother died, having never fully recovered
from the injuries she sustained in her fall during the Army´s rampage at Kalakuta. Outraged that Olusegon Obasanjo-the ruthless military dictator who had never apologized for the sacking of Kalakuta (and who in 1999 is Nigeria´s democratically elected leader)-was leaving office with full honors as the country transferred to supposedly democratic rule, Fela plotted his revenge. "I just couldn´t let him get away like that," Fela said.
"Obasanjo´s soldiers had killed my mother. That man will have to answer to that one-o!"
Fela had a life-size replica of his mother´s coffin built, which he
delivered to Obasanjo´s home in the Dodan Barracks on the morning of October 1, 1979. Accompanied by his Queens, his son Femi and others, Fela drove the bus through roadblocks towards the barracks. Fela: "Oh, my wives, those women are courageous-o! The sentries lifted their machine guns and rifles. I told them, ´My brothers, will you also shoot my women?´ They lowered their weapons. We arrived at gate. We lowered coffin to ground. We turned round. And we left. At that same moment it began to rain. Heavily! Oh, that rain-o!"
"If You Can´t Be Creative, Then Split! Disappear!"
The seeming end of military rule in Nigeria in 1980 gave Fela new hope of finally being elected president. He formed a political party called M.O.P. (Movement of the People) and attempted to get listed as a candidate on the ballot. "If I can take [Nigeria], then Africa is settled," Fela argued. "All of Africa will be liberated. If there is only one good government-a straight and progressive, clean government that knows what it is doing. No compromises, no Marxism-Leninists, no capitalism. Africanism."
During Nigeria´s ´80-´81 academic session, he gave more than 60
lectures at universities; one such lecture is printed in its entirety in
Fela: Why Blackman Carry Sh***. In his lectures, Fela related an ancient history of Africa grounded in pioneering Afrocentric Egyptologist Yosef Ben-Jochannan´s Black Man of the Nile. His critical history of colonialism was principally based on the influential thinking of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the father of Pan-Africanism. Fela´s acerbic criticisms were relentless.
"What America has done to Africa is bad," he said. "Bringing in
arms, bringing Christianity, turning the people´s minds upside down, bringing in fertilizers, doing sh***, wanting to bring western civilization here. America and England are trying to brainwash Africans." Fela criticized "reactionary African puppets who] go about condemning apartheid South Africa while they go about killing innocent citizens in their countries to sustain them in power."
He preached in favor of traditional African home remedies and against the medicine of the multinationals: cow urine, for example, was a cure for convulsion, and Africans need "synthetic tablets" to cure themselves of malaria. He argued that UFOs existed; that Nigerian government leaders should consult spiritual oracles, that there were "people in this country with enough knowledge of Africa´s perfect system of government to guide us."
Finally Fela argued against industrialization, saying "the future
of this world is based on nature, not the machine. Science means
complications. When science brings out a new gadget it costs more than the others. People have to earn more to buy it. So science makes people run more. What we need is to rest more, talk more, walk more, f***k more and enjoy things in life more."
Fela told Moore, "When people say America, Russia, China are great powers, I say: ´No!´ Oppressors, destroyers, massacrists can never be great people. Creativity, not destruction, should be the yardstick of greatness. If you cannot create anything that will make your own life, or that of your fellow human, happier, then get out of the way. Split! Disappear! And give others a chance." Life and Death in Paris .
"After Fela´s mother died, it was a very difficult time for Fela,"
remembers Sandra. It just went all downhill from there." Besides his mother´s recent death, Tony Allen, who had helped Fela develop the Afrobeat sound, had left the group in 1979; Fela´s wives were slowly leaving him; and it didn´t look like the M.O.P. would succeed in getting Fela on the ballot. But what seemed most important to Fela was establishing some sort of contact with his mother. "He knew that in the African religion that the ancestors play a very important role," says Sandra. "They believe that once a person transcends to the other side that they´re there to help you."
Fela had begun to solicit traditional African spiritual mediums, witch doctors and witches. "There were certain people in the house that claimed to be in communication with his mother," says Sandra. "And he was listening to them."
"I knew about the spiritual aspect of the African traditions, and I
was getting very involved as a teenager," remembers Femi. "And I told him, ´Fela this aspect of life does exist.´ But he kept going out to look for traditional powers, and I was like, he has the greatest power, spiritually speaking, from an African man´s point of view: to be able to create sound and make people think, make people cry, and to gather over 10,000 people because of his music. I was trying to make him see his spiritual power he had in his possession and he did not have to look anywhere else, but just look inward.
"One group of [witch doctors] came with a jacket, saying if Fela wore it and they shot him with a bullet he will not die. They tried it on a goat and the goat did not die. Lucky they got his brother to bring a shotgun and someone says try the jacket on the goat before you put it on. They pulled the shotgun out, put bullets in it and POW! The goat´s head just falls off. That would have been Fela´s head, man."
In the spring of 1981, Sandra received a call from a hotel in
Paris. It was a very shaken Fela, asking her to come see him immediately. "He felt that they were trying to kill him," she recalls. "He wasn´t specific. I just jumped on a plane. I went to Paris for three days. The scene at that hotel was unreal. He had some heavy, wicked people around him at that point. I don´t know how he could have remained sane in such an insane environment.
"I believe that was the weekend when Fela contracted the AIDS virus [that would eventually kill him]. I felt it. This is something that I can´t explain, but it´s real."
"I Will be President of This Country One Day. Don´t Worry!" On his return to Nigeria from Europe, Fela had a spiritual revelation, in which he was possessed. "I saw this whole [world] was going to change into what people call the Age of Aquarius," he told writer Roger Steffens. "Musicians were going to be very important in the development of human society and that musicians would be presidents of different countries and artists would be the dictators of society. The mind would be freer, less complicated institutions, less complicated technologies. It was in that trance that I saw the whole human race were in Egypt under the spiritual guidance of the Gods."
Fela immediately changed the name of his group to Egypt 80, and
began to perform Yoruba rites in the middle of his performances at the Shrine at an altar decorated with images of luminaries like Malcolm X, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Fela´s mother. The uncle of his old friend J.K. Braimah made spiritual incisions in the center of Fela´s head. And finally, a witch doctor named Professor Hindu arrived from Ghana, claiming he had the power to "kill and wake"-to kill a man and bring him back to life.
Fela said, "That night he performed at Shrine. I wouldn´t have
believed it if I hadn´t seen that sh** with my own eyes. ´Kill and wake!´ He´s the man who started showing me the way to truth, to myself, to my mission and to...my mother! He revealed to me that one has to put this white spiritual powder on the face to communicate with spirits. He tells me what to do, what not to do, who my friends are and who are my enemies."
Femi was more skeptical. "Yes, Hindu performed a lot of magic," he says. "And I have no answers for some of the things he did. But when he said he killed somebody, and he did not let my father´s brother [Beko] investigate properly, [almost] everybody became suspicious."
In December 1981, Kalakuta was once again assaulted-this attack was captured on still camera by the French TV crew that happened to be there filming the documentary later released as Music Is the Weapon. Police raided the compound, plundering the buildings and teargassing and beating everyone, including pregnant women and children. Once again Fela returned from jail, beaten but defiant-and as charismatic as ever.
"I´m getting stronger," he boasted to the film crew. "In fact I´m
surprised at how quickly I´ve recovered, considering the beating I got. "Something tells me that I am right, that I WILL be president of this country one day," he said, cheekily. "Don´t worry!" But once again, Fela was prevented from even running for election; instead, he became embroiled in a new host of absurd charges-this time for
sabotage, murder and armed robbery-that would eventually be dismissed.
Prisoner of Conscience
Over the next few years, for various reasons, Fela´s domestic popularity began to dwindle. In 1984, he agreed to co-produce (or mix) his next album with the American producer Bill Laswell. But on September 4, as Fela was leaving for the U.S. to mix the album with Laswell and do a short tour, he was arrested once again. This time Fela was accused by Nigerian Customs officials of trying to smuggle Nigerian currency out of the country. Fela was sentenced to five years in jail after a trial that was such an obvious procedural sham that Amnesty International declared Fela a Prisoner of Conscience.
A "Free Fela" movement was born, with popular musicians like Stevie Wonder and David Byrne signing on. On Sept. 24, 1985, the case´s judge visited Fela in jail and apologized; he said the ruling government had forced his decision and made him jail Fela. But it wasn´t until April 23, 1986-after 20 months in jail-that Fela was released, when news of the judge´s secret prison visit finally began to circulate in the popular press, embarrassing the current government.
Fela was not the same when he came out of prison. "I can still see all the marks on his body from the bayonets of the guns and all that," remembers Femi. "He got beaten so. His whole body was kind of broken. Head injuries, his hands. He was in real pain for a long time. When people were around, he would try to hide it. I think what saved him was the grass, at the end of the day. It helped him handle the pain. He wouldn´t have done it, normally. No human being could do that.
"There will never be another man like him. He started calling
himself Ebami Eda, which means ´the weird one,´ after he came from jail. He believed he was protected by something, by spirits, by the supernatural. Because he did not know where the music came from. It comes from somewhere else, something else that you cannot see. And music is related to that, because music is the one artform that you cannot touch, that you cannot see. You can see the instruments and you can plan in your head the music
you will make, but you cannot say how it will sound."
"Music is a spiritual thing," Fela said in 1982. "You don´t play with music. If you play with music, you will die young. Because when the
higher forces give you the gift of musicianship, it must be well-used for the good of humanity. If you use it for your own self by deceiving people or doing this, you will die young. And I have told people this many times. So, I´m gonna prove them wrong and prove myself right. I´m getting younger! I can play music for ten hours. I´m never tired...because the spiritual life of music that I´ve lead RIGHTLY is helping me now. "You tap into something-or, it taps into you," says Femi. "You have some say, your creativity, in arranging it, in making it your own. But you are still a medium for something, for whatever...message...they want to put out He was a medium for it."
"Fela´s career continued to go, but another type of realization had
come in," says Sandra. "Fela told me there was nothing else to sing about, nothing else to talk about, because he´d said it all [and nothing had changed]. He was very sad. "This was a man who had been very jovial-type person. He became a recluse. Fela was caught in his own world of Kalakuta. He was the king
there, and he surrounded himself with a bunch of ´yes men.´"
"He knew what he wanted in the ´70s," says Femi. "He knew what he was up against. He knew he could die. He was ready. In the ´80s, I think he was now getting frustrated. Fela´s problems started when he went spiritual. Cuz now he wanted an answer, from traditional medicine, he was looking for African technology. For all these years he has been fighting for the African people. Why are Africans not doing anything about what he has been
Nevertheless, Fela continued to compose and perform (if not record) some brilliant music, as well as give sensational interviews to the Lagos press. "I Will Never Die." Fela told the press that recent his skin rashes were spiritual in origin-he was "changing skin," with a new skin scheduled to appear on January 1,
1992. He claimed he was still making love three hours a day-as well as brushing his teeth for an hour and taking 45 minutes in the bath, during which he would do "a series of body-building exercises." He dismissed as "junk" the 11 members of his band who left him during his 1991 US tour, instead emphasizing that he had a great time: "I had sex with all my girls in my band, and I got two extra American girls. Also I had a regulation that any Nigerian who wanted to see me [backstage] must give me present, and the only present I like is igbo [Indian hemp]."
By 1993, Fela was telling the press that "Kalakuta is not an
ordinary place, it is the center of the world"-that his witches (who were no longer his wives, as he had divorced all of them following his release from prison) were directing what was happening in the country.
" If they want this country to be in total confusion in the next one
year, they can do it," Fela told the Lagos Weekend. He claimed that the recent misfortunes of his longtime nemesis, ITT and Decca businessman Chief Abiola, was caused by his witches. "Abiola paralyzed because he wants to sell Nigeria to America. It can never be. Abiola himself is just beginning to get what is coming for him. This country is witch country. World is witch world. I have said it before." Smoking one of his 15-inch-long igbo joints, the 56-year-old Fela even claimed he was immortal: "I will never die; my ancestors have told me so."
Fela´s Choice But Fela´s health had begun to deteriorate. It was obvious to those close to him that something was seriously wrong. The sexually promiscuous Fela-who had refused to use condoms his entire life, on the grounds that they were synthetic, non-African and a conspiracy against black men experiencing full pleasure-had AIDS. He refused anything but traditional African folk remedies.
"I think he thought he could not catch the disease," says Femi. "I
don´t know why. But back then, nobody has really taken the disease very seriously. So many people have died from the disease in Nigeria and we don´t hear because nobody comes out to say ´Yes, he died from AIDS.´ Everybody believes that it´s a shameful disease."
"Fela did not have to die from AIDS," says Sandra. "People don´t
have to die from AIDS in the ´90s. That was the choice Fela made.
"When you start to mature, you start to question the way things
are. You know, Fela talked about everything. And some people heard it, and a lot of them didn´t. It was very, very disappointing. You wonder if death is better than life. I think Fela reached the point where he probably didn´t want to live. Fela stayed and died in Nigeria, when he could have came out of Nigeria and lived a better life."
There were, of course, final indignities. Fela was arrested again
for drug possession and paraded before the TV cameras in handcuffs. Femi had to beg the authorities to release Fela on bail, arguing that although Fela had been arrested more times than any Nigerian in history, he had never jumped bail. Fela was typically defiant, saying, "It is not drugs. It is grass."
Fela, who had stopped eating and locked himself in his room, finally acceded to his family´s wishes to visit a hospital. But it was too
late. On August 2, 1997, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti died.
Fela´s heart had stopped, but you could still hear its beat. The announcement in his final weeks that Fela had AIDS had done
little to dampen the public affection for the man. On an early Monday morning as Fela´s body was taken by his family to an arena to lie in state, a million people-silent, crying with their fists in the air- lined the Lagos streets in an unorganized show of respect .
"For two days, people didn´t do any work in Lagos!" Femi remembers, laughing. "This is the first time in the history of Lagos that they have not had a complaint of robbery, rape or anything. Because all the robbers, all the bad boys, they loved him, you know? Everybody was busy at the funeral!"
Today, Kalakuta still stands. The old Shrine has been demolished;
Femi has plans to dedicate a new Shrine as early as February, 2000. Seun Kuti, Femi´s younger brother, continues to performs Fela´s songs with the remaining members of Egypt 80; Femi himself has his own career. Fela´s brother Beko was finally released from jail after serving 40 months on typically bogus charges. And 2000 sees the launch by MCA of an ambitious program to issue Fela´s albums (many for the first time) in the U.S.
"He saw all these things going wrong, and he felt he had to talk
about it," said Fela´s first wife Remi in a 1999 TV interview. "Fela had a mission, and people should have listened to what he was saying. Instead, they just said he was crazy."
The Peace N Love of Alkebulan be Upon INI for I-va and I-va-more
MCA Records Fela’s bio
Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, previously Ransome-Kuti, was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, in 1938. His family belonged to the Egba branch of the Yoruba tribe. His father, like his grandfather, was a minister of the Protestant church, and director of the local grammar school. His mother was a teacher, but later became a politician of considerable influence.
As a teenager, Fela would run for miles to attend traditional celebrations in the area, already feeling that the authentic African culture of his ancestors ought to be preserved. His parents sent him to London in 1958, but rather than study medicine like his two brothers and his sister, Fela chose to register in the Trinity School of Music, where he was to spend the next five years. While still a student, he married a Nigerian girl called Remi and had three children. In his spare time, Fela played in a highlife band called Koola Lobitos with other Nigerian musicians living in London. Among these was J.K. Bremah, who had previously influenced Fela by introducing him to African music circles in Lagos at a time when Western music predominated there.
Fela returned to the Nigerian capital in 1963, three years after independence. Soon after, he was playing highlife and jazz, fronting the band with those of the musicians who had come back from England. Over the next few years, they performed regularly in Lagos and then in 1969, in the midst of the Biafra war, Fela decided to take Koola Lobitos to the United States.
In Los Angeles, he changed the name of the group to Fela Ransome-Kuti and Nigeria 70. At the club where they were playing, he met an African-American girl, Sandra Isodore, who was a close friend to the Black Panthers. She introduced Fela to the philosophy and writings of Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver and other Black activists and thinkers, through which he was to become aware of the link existing between Black peoples all over the world. Through this insight, Fela also gained a clearer understanding of his mother’s fight for the rights of Africans under colonial rule in Nigeria, together with her support of the Pan Africanist doctrine expounded by Kwame Nkrumah, the Ghanaian Head of State, who had negotiated independence for his country with the British.
While in Los Angeles, Fela also found the inspiration he was seeking to create his own unique style of music, which he named Afro-Beat. Before leaving America, the band recorded some of these new songs.
Back home, Fela once again changed the name of the group, this time to Fela Ransome-Kuti &Africa 70. The L.A. recordings were released as a series of singles. This new African music was a great success in Lagos, and Fela was to open a club in the Empire Hotel, called the Afro-Shrine. At that time, he was still playing the trumpet, having not yet changed to the saxophone and piano. He started singing mostly in Pidgin English rather than Yoruban, so as to be understood all over Nigeria and in neighboring countries. In his songs, he depicted everyday social situations with which a large part of the African population was able to identify.
Young people from all over Nigeria flocked to hear his songs, which developed themes relating to Blackism and Africanism, encouraging a return to traditional African religions. Later he was to become satirical and sarcastic toward those in power, condemning both military and civilian regimes for their crimes of mismanagement, incompetence, theft, corruption and marginalization of the underprivileged.
In 1974, pursuing his dream of an alternative society, he built a fence around his house and declared it to be an independent state: The Kalakuta Republic. To the chagrin of the bourgeois section of Nigerian society, this act of defiance was soon to spread throughout the entire neighborhood as more and more people were inspired by Fela’s stance. The authorities remained vigilant, fearing their potential power of his ‘state within a state.’
On countless occasions, Fela was to suffer the consequences of his scathing denunciations with arrests, imprisonment and beatings at the hands of authorities. With each incarceration and violent confrontation with the powers that be, Fela became more outspoken, changing his family name from ‘Ransome’ to ‘Anikulapo’ (‘he who carries death in his pouch’). His notoriety spread and his records began to sell in the millions. The population of the Kalakuta Republic grew amidst mounting criticism, particularly of the young people, many of whom were still in their teens, who left their families to live there.
During the ‘Festival for Black Arts and Culture’ (FESTAC) held in Lagos in 1977, Fela sang Zombie, a satire against the military, which was to become enormously popular throughout Africa, bringing down the fury of the Nigerian army upon him and his followers. As Fela relates in Unknown Soldier, a thousand soldiers attacked the “Kalakuta Republic,” burning down his house and beating all of its occupants. The song tells that, during the course of this attack, his mother was thrown from a first floor window and later died from her injuries. Homeless and without his Shrine, which had also been destroyed along with the entire neighborhood, Fela and his group moved to the Crossroads Hotel.
A year later, Fela went to Accra to arrange a tour. Upon his return, to mark the first anniversary of the destruction of the Kalakuta Republic, Fela married twenty seven women in a collective ceremony, many of whom were his dancers and singers, giving them all the name Anikulapo-Kuti. After the wedding, the whole group set off for Accra (Ghana) where concerts had been planned. In a packed Accra stadium, as Fela played Zombie, riots broke out. The entire group was arrested and held for two days before being put on a plane bound for Lagos, banned from returning to Ghana.
Upon his return to Lagos, still with nowhere to live, Fela and his entire entourage squatted at the offices of Decca, where they remained for almost two months. Soon after, Fela was invited with the seventy member-strong Africa 70 to play at the Berlin Festival. After the show, almost all of the musicians ran away. Despite this catalogue of set-backs, Fela returned to Lagos determined to continue.
The King of Afro-beat and his Queens went to live in Ikeja, in J. K. Bremah’s housea new Kalakuta. There, Fela, more political than ever, went on to form his own part, “Movement of the People” (M.O.P.). He presented himself as a Presidential candidate in the 1979 elections that would return the country to civilian rule. His candidature was refused. Four years later, at the next elections, Fela once more stood for President, but was prevented from campaigning by the police, who again rampaged through his house, imprisoning and beating Fela and many of his followers.
Any further Presidential aspirations were crushed, however, when a coup brought Nigeria back to military rule. In 1984, with General Buhari in power, Fela served twenty months of a five year prison sentence on trumped-up currency charges. He was only released when, under General Babangida, the judge confessed to having sentenced him with such severity because of pressure from the previous regime. The judge was dismissed from office and Fela was given his liberty.
Over the next decade, with an entourage of up to eighty people, now called Egypt 80, Fela made several visits to Europe and the United States. These tours were to receive tremendous public and critical acclaim, and made an important contribution to the worldwide popular acceptance of African rhythms and culture. Considering himself to be the spiritual son of Kwame Nkrumah, the renowned Pan Africanist, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was a virulent critic of colonialism and neo-colonialism.
Over the past twenty years, he became famous as a spokesman for the great mass of people, in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa and the African diaspora, disenchanted with the period of post-independence.
Fela’s sad death in August 1997 was mourned by the nation. Even those who did not agree with him were among the million people or more who attended his funeral. Even the many governmental letters of condolence sent to his family were eloquent testimonials to a great man. His death was attributed to an AIDS-related heart failure, though a more popular diagnosis was that, as a result of the countless beatings at the hands of the authorities, his system was sufficiently weakened to allow disease to enter.
Throughout his life, Fela was sustained by the unconditional love and respect offered to him by the millions of people whose lives he touched. In death, he retains the legendary status to which he was elevated by the throngs of people who came to pay their last respects at his laying in state in Tafa Balewa Square: ‘Adami Eda’ – (Chief Priest). “He will live forever!” By Jacqueline Grandchamp-Thiam (Paris) &-Rikki Stein (London) 1999. Courtesy of
Fela Anikulapo-Kuti Obituary
"Fela was sweetperhaps not an adjective that would normally be used to describe this tornado of a man, but Fela was sweet to me. This sweetness that I perceived in him emanated from his love for humanityparticularly for those who had drawn life’s short straw.
Hundreds of people depended upon Fela for a living. Many more than he needed to run his Lagos club, The Shrine, or to play in his band. I saw him as a social engineer, concerned with issues of injustice, corruption, the abuses of power. He was ready to lay his life on the line in defense of such causes, which he did on countless occasions.
For his trouble he was beaten with rifle butts, endlessly harassed, imprisoned, vilified by the authorities, despised by bourgeois society (whose sons and daughters were captivated by him). His house was once burned to the ground by a thousand soldiers after they had raped and beaten his followers, thrown his mother and brother from a window, both of whom suffered fractures (his mother was ultimately to die from her injuries).
Each time they were to beat him, though, he always bounced back with a vengeance, stronger than ever. It is my view that the only thing that kept him alive, and the ultimate source of his strength, was the love the people had for him.
And his music – the rumble of thunder and the crack of lightning – layer upon layer of sublimely interwoven rhythm and melody, tangled in a delicious knot of divine inspiration. Deliberate conspiracies of hot brass woven around the intricately hypnotic consistency of bass and guitar lines, all driven by the dual forces of lavish percussion and Fela’s own passion for the precision of his musical vision. Heaven help any musician who might stray from his given task. Fury would descend upon him until, in mortal terror, he would struggle his way back into the groove. The icing on the cake of a Fela performance was his singers and dancersfabulous glittering unreal creatures from another world who would exude waves of sensuality and downright sexiness that you could cut with a knife.
All in all, thirty-something people on stage, each playing their part in what Fela called “the underground spiritual game.” In the center of the audio-visual feast for the senses, Fela reigned supreme. He was everywhere at onceplaying keyboards, soprano or alto sax, the occasional drum solo, a sinuous dance from one side of the stage to the other and then it was time to sing, the ever-present spliff held in his elegant fingers. No moon and toon and joon for this articulate firebrand. Only eloquent, biting poetic social observation, expressed with a breathtaking clarity and natural authority which placed him firmly in an unsurpassed realm in which he had no equal.
Perhaps Pavarotti can break a wine glass at sixty paces, maybe Bono can make girls wet their pants with a flick of his sweat laden hair, but for sheer master, panache, style and guts nobody could or can beat this guy. To get a bead on who he was, once he had recorded a song, he would never perform it again on stage, no matter how record company execs may plead.
Recently, however, he had ceased his endless harangue of politicians, big business, organized religion, the military, police, etc. (Once, when running for President of Nigeria, he proclaimed that his first act upon being elected would be to enroll the entire population in the police force. Then, he said, “Before a policeman could slap you, he would have to think twice because you’re a policeman, too.” The authorities ultimately refused to allow him to enter the race. Too bad.) He now saw politics as “a distraction,” saying that our only task was to enter into contact with our own spirit, without which “we would not survive.”
His last years were spent in spiritual contemplation. He never left the house, except twice a week to go to the Shrine to play. He wouldn’t arrive until two in the morning. There would be fifteen hundred people waiting for him and he would finish at dawn. And now he has gone. AIDS they said. As far as I’m concerned it was one beating too many which had weakened his body sufficiently to allow disease to enter. He was a giant of a man, but a man nevertheless. The system can only take so much. I went to his funeral.
A hundred and fifty thousand people or so gathered in Tafawa Balewa Square to pay their last respects. Bands played, people queued endlessly to file past his glass coffin. We then ran with the coffin to a hearse (there were still thirty thousand people queuing up) to make the 20 mile journey to the Shrine, where Fela’s children were to carry out a private ceremony for family and friends. In a cavalcade of vehicles we rode through Lagos City behind a band in the back of a pick-up truck playing Fela tunes. The road was thronged with tens of thousands of people, until we came to the brow of a hill. I looked down across the valley to the distant horizon. The road was filled with people from one side to the other and as far as the eye could see. A million people or more, and even more came as we passed through each neighborhood.
Seven hours to cover 20 miles and the band never dropped a note. As we came nearer to Ikeja, we began to worry. What would happen when we reached Pepple Street, a small side street in which The Shrine was situated. How, in fact would we reach The Shrine with a million people in front of us? Night fell as we drew near. We turned in to Pepple Street. There was hardly anyone there. One million or more people had decided that it was not appropriate for them to be there.
Fela was my friend for the past fifteen years. Our f