Deemed as one of Africa’s musical geniuses, Fela Kuti not only transformed the music scene in the early 1970’s, he reinvented it; by fusing funk, traditional Yoruba music, jazz, calypso, salsa, Highlife and African classical music to form Afrobeat.
His energy, presence, rhythm, and undeniable talent composed one of the most diverse genres in music and cast light on the rich talent of artists in Africa, with hits such as “Yellow fever,” “Teacher, Don’t Teach Me No Nonsense,” “Water No Get Enemy,” “Shakara,” and “Sorrow Tears and Blood” which spoke of the potential for prosperity throughout Africa and the human struggle.
Politically, Fela was an avid supporter of the Pan-African and Black power movement. In the 1980’s Fela created and rallied for his political party –the Movement of the People (MOP) and urged Africans to take pride in their culture and value their rich history and potential. He denounced European exploiters and spoke of the inequalities and prejudice that presided in Nigeria amongst the classes.
Fela’s magnetic energy not only embarked on a new wave of music in Africa, but also raised awareness in the people to become self-reliant and embody self-pride in themselves and take ownership of their land, interests and their vitality.
Beyond politics, Fela’s presence was dynamic. His energetic on stage demeanor along with his distinct collection of tailored to the tee, fine embroidered suits, signature beads and jewelry, set him apart. Fela offered the world a fresh take on music, culture and art and pioneered with many other African artists to set the bar for African influence.
Decades after Fela hit the music scene in Nigeria, his influence continues to reign in theatre –such as the Broadway Hit FELA!, in music –with his everlasting imprint in world music and popular culture, and in contemporary fashion like the Fela Kuti inspired collection by Nigerian knitwear designer Buki Akib.