Nothing about Fela is regular or conventional. He wasn’t supposed to be a musician. He was meant to just be contented with being the son of an Anglican priest and an activist mother who ended as a fine doctor
Despite studying Classical Music at London’s Trinity College, Fela refused to walk that path, deciding not to produce soothing, peaceful music.Rather, he chose to create his own identity and walk the road less travelled.
Fela’s music was more than melody and instrumentations, his sound was defined by the message therein.
In the 1970’s, Nigeria’s military government was as autocratic as it was corrupt. While some musicians shrank in fear and made songs to celebrate these leaders, Fela was the opposite. He condemned them severely and mocked them ruthlessly. He called them thieves and zombies and rapists and killers. The military government fought back by arresting him several times. They would later burn down his house and ‘kill’ his mother.
Twenty one years after his death,the burning issues he sang about are still the present realities Nigerians and Africans at large are still grappling with.
Water, food, light, shelter are still an exclusive preserve of just a fortunate privileged few.
In a chat with TheNewsGuru, Ycee a popular Nigerian artiste said:” Fela was not just a musician but a public figure. He left a legacy and was a freedom fighter. When he was alive he tackled the government in a way that not too many musicians of his time and of his generation have not been able to do. The spirit of Fela is inspirational as a result of the legacy he has created with his life and his music. That is why Felabration is a week-long event. It shows that after his death, Fela is a major pioneer in Africa”.
Fela died on the 2nd of August 1997, but his impact still lives with us. This is the tale of a man who created his own culture and danced to a different drumbeat.