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Felabration 2017: Celebrating 20 years of Fela’s passing


Fela Kuti

The saying that a prophet is not honour in his hometown could be true of the legendary musician Afrobeat progenitor, social maverick, activist and pan-Africanist, Fela Anikulapo Kuti also known as Abami Eda, who, through his songs and open activism, foretold so many truths that stare Nigerians in the face 20 years after he passed on.

Rather than being appreciative of his genius at the time, Fela was, more often than not, chastised, harassed and imprisoned. Ironically, the eternal truths of his prophecies still live on to haunt the living.

His ardent followers, who believe in his rare gospel and the prophecies foretold in them and his many struggles for the good of ordinary Nigerians and humanity in general, still have a special place for him in their hearts.

Twenty years down the line, even those who felt he was a nuisance have come round to believing in Fela’s special gospel, as everything he prophesied and fought for have come to pass, and his vision of a better society having become faultless.

As Fela continues to live in the hearts of many through his music, his ‘Felasophy’, activism and charm, and they will continue to hold fondly to his abiding memory and message specially encapsulated in the yearly Felabration commemoration that honours the man and his inimitable music.

Prior to his death in 1997, Fela’s music had spread and spreading across the world. The afrobeat genre has become engrained into world music traditions, birthing movements and inspiring thousands of records. Hence, when Wizkid’s Ojuelegba, which many believed was a remix of one of Fela’s popular hits with same title, found its way to American pop star, Drake, a remix of the record was made on the spot. It opened a new generation to the sound of Afrobeat genre, which the Daddy Yo singer drew from to make the record. 

As celebration for the revered Abami Eda gets bigger and better every year, series of events have been schedule to take place from October 9 through 15. These were outlined last week at a briefing at Kalakuta Museum on Gbemisola Street, Ikeja, Lagos. Over 250,000 people will be engaged in this year’s Felabration in about 30 events in 20 countries.

The theme for this year’s celebration is The Prophecy as it was Foretold by Our Chief Priest, Black President, Original Suffer-head, Fela Long Ago: Suffering and smiling, No Bread… No Light… No water, while the official theme song is Pansa Pansa.

A tour packaged to capitalise on the power of post-humous Fela’s celebrity to benefit the local economy is being put in place. According to the organising committee, made up of Fela’s daughter, Yeni Kuti, Kunle Kuti, Femi’s wife, Funke Kuti, Theo Lawson, Jahman Anikulapo, the package will help Fela’s fans across the world travel to Lagos for Felabration 2017.

As Felabration continues to evolve and modernise, the organisers have latched onto technology to offer Fela’s fans across the world the chance to get involved by contributing. Therefore, other events will include the special Felabration art competition in which entries from as far as Japan and France have been received, and the winning entries will be displayed through Felabration.

Listed among the first 300 most popular festivals in the world, there will be Felabration symposium, with the theme: ‘40 Years after Festac, 20 Years after Fela, Wither the Pan-African Dream?’ With the celebrated speaker on African issues, Prof. Patrice L.O Lumumba (Kenya), as the keynote speaker, other events that will take place are school debates and street carnival.

There will also be secondary schools’ competition themed, ‘African History: Curriculum Necessity or Not?’ Participating schools are Dowen College, (last year’s winner), Carley College, Kings College, Vivian Fowler, Apata Memorial College, Vettland College, Oke Odo Senior Secondary School, Wesley Girls Senior Secondary School, Ogudu Senior School, and Epe Girls Senior Secondary School.

Other activities scheduled to take place include Felabration Afrobics Dance competition. Although entry date for the competition closed on July 31, while qualifying rounds will take place in September, with the winner billed to perform at Felabration proper.

A ‘Dress Like Fela Day’ will also hold during the event. Details to be announced on a later date. Authorised merchantsdising dealers will make their products available during the event, as there are plans for live streaming of F17.

While acknowledging the contributions of Fela to Africa and the world in general, Managing Director of Trace TV, Sam Onyemelukwe, said, “Fela is the single most important foundation for Nigeria and African and social movement. His life, music and message have paved way for creatives over the last five decades and it is our honour to partner to celebrate and remember the legacy and ‘the Prophecy’.

Lagos State Government has indicated interest to sponsor the Nottin Hill Carnival in London, 7up, Cool FM, Wazobia TV and Nutrimilk are among others supporters of the festival.

For the first time ever, crowning versions of Felabration will hold on the island and Abuja. This year, Felabration will feature in Nottin Hill Carnival, London, and in other cities around the world.

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Fela Anikulapo Kuti
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