Barack Obama finished, in many ways, what Martin Luther King, Jr. and others started. You disrespect both-their individual legacies and what it means for their times and circumstances-if you suggest one is greater than the other.
It’s a relay race. They’re not in competition against one another.
Would there ever have been Obama without King? Would King’s dreams have ever materialized without the likes of Obama.
I reported music for almost two decades. Fela is incomparable. Way ahead of his time, Fela was a genius, a god. But for obvious reasons, his global image and reputation were more for his message and politics than for traditional music accomplishment.
Fela became great in spite of his many rebellious decisions. Turned down deals many would kill for. Refused to change his style [and had several jail stints for his stubbornness].
He could have made far more money and friends and sold many more records had he confirmed. But he had a mission, and he fought well.
Plenty great musicians in his era, but none came close. And largely because of his message, his arrangement, the band, his image and his PR.
KSA, Obey, Segun Adewale, Majek Fashek, all had good opportunities to go global, even signing major deals with Virgin, Island and the likes.
But you know the story. Just never happened. Worldbeats, great festivals and concerts, a Grammy nod here and another there- and we’re back home.
I was actively reporting when Femi Kuti started getting world attention; when 2face Idibia became a big deal.
I traveled to many places with 2face and saw for myself how big he was everywhere. I was so sure he and/or Femi would provide the sound that’ll do for us what reggae did for Jamaicans. In 2006, I arrived in Barbados with 2face and Joice Ize-Iyamu and it was his music all over.
The achievements of both men – 2face and Femi Kuti have been widely reported & available online. But I am certain they both never really got ‘there’. Of course they’re still both active and pushing. But there’s someone who happens to have been called and favoured to break the jinx.
His name is Wizkid. He’s broken boundaries, pushed envelopes, shattered ceilings, and done the impossible and he’s just even starting. Of course he’s gotten loads of support from fans, media and clients here and abroad.
But he still faces a Herculean task. Same faced by Fela and KSA and Obey and Majek and 2face. Same faced by Lagbaja and co.
Will he be seen and taken for the quality of his work and talent and given equal space and opportunities? Or will he be marked as that Africa/Caribbean boy? Will he be signed and promoted and rewarded based on the style of his music and brand?
Or will he be forced into the West’s definition, the misnomer, Afrobeats? Will he stand a chance to be mainstream and as big as he can get?
Since we don’t call white bands playing Fela’s Afrobeat ‘Eurobeats’, will the US media accept Wiz as the pop artiste he truly is?
Drake is Canadian, Rih is Bajan; but they are not categorized based on where they’re from, right? Why’s Africa different?
And this is just one of many behind the scenes battles Wizkid and his handlers (I hope) will be to fight. There’s more: the young man and many like him stand a strong chance of finishing the journey Fela started. Africa to the world.
They can’t be greater than Fela. They don’t have to. I’m not even aware they are trying to. They will be great on their own terms.
What we need to do is to support them in every way we can, seeing we have the privilege of seeing all this happen in our lifetime.
It should never be either/or. Let’s stop disrespecting both men by creating a competition where there’s none. Nigeria, and indeed Africa, has such great potential to lead the world in so many ways. Let’s make it happen. Thank you.
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