Fela Kuti is hailed as a god of Afrobeats and hero of original Nigerian music. Two decades after his death, Fela Kuti’s home has been turned into a museum.
But his music career, though undoubtedly pure Nigerian has its roots firmly Ghanaian.
In 1967, he came to Ghana to think up a new musical direction. That was when Kuti first called his music Afrobeat.
In 1977, Fela and the Afrika ’70 released the album Zombie, a scathing attack on Nigerian soldiers using the zombie metaphor to describe the methods of the Nigerian military. The album was a smash hit and infuriated the government, setting off a vicious attack against the Kalakuta Republic, during which one thousand soldiers attacked the commune.
In 1979, Fela performed this song himself in Accra, Ghana when Gen. I. K. Acheampong, a coup leader, was the Head of State of Ghana. He was banned from ever performing in Ghana because of the upheaval that ensued. This song was said to have sparked streets protest in Ghana, which was against the then military regime.
Despite the massive setbacks, Fela was determined to come back. He formed his own political party, which he called Movement of the People (MOP), in order to “clean up society like a mop”. Apart from being a mass political party, MOP preached “Nkrumahism” and “Africanism.
The musical style of Felá is called Afrobeat, a style he largely created, which is a complex fusion of jazz, funk, Ghanaian/Nigerian highlife, psychedelic rock and traditional West African chants and rhythms. Afrobeat also borrows heavily from the native “tinker pan” African-style percussion that Kuti acquired while studying in Ghana with Hugh Masekela, under the uncanny Hedzoleh Soundz.
The late Nigerian music legend, Fela Kuti invented the famous music genre name Afrobeat in Accra in 1968, a music lecturer at the University of Ghana has said.
According to Prof John Collins, the Nigerian legend was the pioneer of the genre.
Afrobeat, which is currently seen as the most popular form of music in Ghana, and Nigeria, was born out of Fela’s dislike for late American music star James Brown.
“The word Afrobeat was invented in Accra by Fela, it wasn’t in Nigeria. He actually coined the name because he wanted to distinguish his name from the soul song,” he said.
The Music Lecturer at the University of Ghana explained that Fela “had a love-hate relationship with James Brown, so he decided to distance his music from James Brown because it’s not James Brown’s music” even though they had some similarities.
Explaining how the name was coined, the music Prof said Fela happened to be listening to James Brown in a Ghanaian club but got annoyed and said: “no I’m going to call my music something different’.”
After his marriage to his 27 wives, he brought his wives to Ghana for their honeymoon.
Fela Kuti’s relationship with Ghanaians is constantly talked about. One Ghanaian who enjoyed Fela’s patronage is the under-discussed sycophant Kwaku Addaie, also known as Professor Hindu, a Ghanaian magician who offered Fela spiritual guidance.
But that relationship suffered trust issues. According to John Collins, an author, it was at Professor Hindu’s instigation that Fela embarked on a course that would lead to his being charged with currency smuggling. Hindu’s magical powers failed to make the 2,600 pounds worth of bank notes invisible at the critical moment.
Another instance of Fela’s gullibility with Prof Hindu was the testing of a juju bulletproof vest. Fortunately, his brothers urged him to try the vest on a goat first. The goat died instantly from gunshot injuries.
Whichever way, he did love Ghanaian music and our people. His second wife, Sewaa is an example of this love.
Main Ref: Wikipedia (Fela Kuti)