Today marks the 80th posthumous birthday celebration of Nigeria’s foremost Afrobeat legend – Olufela Oludotun Olusegun Anikulapo Kuti.
Here are some facts about the ‘Abami Eda’.
* Fela was born in Abeokuta, Ogun State on October 15,, 1938, to Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti. His father was an Anglican minister and a school principal. Rev. Kuti was also the first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers while his mother was an activist and first woman to drive a car in Nigeria.
* Fela attended Abeokuta grammar school and was sent to London in 1958 to study medicine. He decided to study music instead at the Trinity College of Music.
* in 1969, he named his music ‘Afrobeat’ and his preferred musical instrument was the trumpet.
* 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 traditional ceremonies in honour of Nigeria’s ancestral faith.
* He changed his middle name to ‘Anikulapo’, meaning “He who carries death in his pouch” because he believed the name ‘Ransome’ was a slave name.
* He made the decision to sing in Pidgin so that his music could be enjoyed by people all over Africa,
* In 1977, Fela and his band, the Afrika ’70 released the album ‘Zombie’, which was an attack on Nigerian soldiers. The term ‘Zombie’ was used to describe the style of governance by the Nigerian military. This set off an attack against the Kalakuta Republic. One thousand soldiers reportedly attacked Fela’s place, beat him up, allegedly raped women, destroyed his properties and threw his mother down through a window on the first floor of her house opposite the Kalakuta Republic, causing serious injuries eventually leading to her death.
* In response to this, Fela and his crew marched naked to the Dodan Barracks in Ikoyi and dropped his mother’s corpse right in front. The military later ruled that the attack was carried out by unknown soldiers. This led to the release of the songs – ‘Coffin For Head of State’ and ‘Unknown Soldier’.
* In 1978, Fela married 27 wives in a single ceremony, most of whom were his singers and dancers. He took this step because according to him, the ladies had been supporting his struggle and he wanted to protect them from the society. Ironically, only two bore him children though he had children from other women he was not married to later on.
* In 1979, he formed his own political party – MOP (Movement of the People) and ran to become President of Nigeria twice.
* In 1984, the then General Muhammadu Buhari’s government sentenced Fela to a 5 years jail term on a charge of money laundering which the international community including Amnesty International denounced as politically motivated. He was later released after 20 months by General Ibrahim Babangida. After his release, Fela divorced his remaining wives.
* Fela musical output slowed down in the early 90’s due to his failing health and he passed away on August 2, 1997.