Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Iconoclast: Fela Kuti


This is, hands down, one of the greatest musicians of all time. Yes, of all time.

Human Rights Activist. Composer. Multi-instrumentalist. Controversial polygamist. Political maverick. Kalakuta Republic and Movement of the People leader. Intellectual. Legend.


It's unfortunate how ethnocentric most Americans are. It is especially telling that the only people who I've ever met who know who Fela Kuti is are: musicians, music students, music nerds and students of African culture, people in black pride/black power organizations. I wish people who like James Brown knew that something more powerful came from his influence. That a whole group of Nigerian musicans collectively came together, with Fela, to demand justice, rights, independence and African unification from a militaristic dictatorship.

At Lennon's death, aprox. 100,000 people showed up the following Sunday to express their loss. Kuti's funeral at the old Shrine compound had over 1,000,000.


This is my favorite image of him. It is cunning and magical. Playful, yet powerful. I also think that he had amazing style too. Tight, second-skin trousers and button-downs. A beautifully painted face. Loafers without socks. Bright blue speedo!


This is 6 parts from the French documentary "Music is the Weapon." His story is a truly moving one. Especially part 4.

In one clip, he controversially singles out Bob Marley, but I sort of understand. I think Marley felt at a time that he was a sellout. Marley himself claimed he was put off by how most people going to his shows were white (little to no Jamaicans or black folks). His music is now a commodity enjoyed by bros and people who don't know what it is like to be a person of color. Does that mean he isn't moving black people to unite against oppression? Or, perhaps, it is Fela's own ignorance, his own arrogance. What are your thoughts?

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