Fela recognised the strength, loyalty of African women, says Heavywind
He is not your regular actor. But he is a jazz musician after the mold of his inimitable mentor, Fela Anikulapo. It fell on him to represent Fela live on stage and he performed excellently. This Easter, ‘LAITAN ADENIJI, or simply ADENIJI HEAVYWIND, will reenact Fela, again as Bolanle Austin-Peters Productions’ Fela and the Kalakuta Queens hits the stage at Terra Kulture Theatre Arena, Lagos. The Fela persona relives his first performance last Christmas and New Year and looks ahead for the next show in this post mortem with ANOTE AJELUOROU
What does Fela and the Kalakuta Queens’ performance mean or represent for you?
For me, it has been a turning point, as an individual because it’s always been there within me. You know, the Fela music, the expression are things I normally would use in my music anyway.
So, it was an opportunity for me to actually live that life for a moment, experience it for a moment that this was what it was all about. So, that was what it is for me.
Frankly, you represent Fela well, more than your critics would admit. How did the accolades come to you? Surprised?
Surprised? Hmm, absolutely not! I won’t say that. Well, I don’t know how to answer that. I am not too surprised because growing up, I’ve always been grounded in his music, learning his skills and moves since I was five, and doing all those moves.
Fela was just a case study for me. In my university days, I mean, my boys in school knew then. I had a band in school where I played. Then my apartment was actually called a ‘shrine’ (laughs). I’m telling you, my boys still remember. Na dem de remind me sef.
Throughout university, we had a Fela cassette we listened to from morning till night, as if say dem take am curse person (laughs). It was just so funny; we loved listening to what we want and going for competition. So, yes, it wasn’t something I got in two, three months. Fela was my biggest challenge.
Given the two hours or thereabout that the show lasted on stage, do you think you did justice to the Fela enigma?
I think the package was well put together because there’s a lot of humour and all kinds of emotions in it. So, what I think about this question is, which other emotion was missing? I don’t see any; the anger, the sadness, the pride, the happiness, you know, everything was all in there. And it wasn’t so much about Fela. It was really about his women.
So, it was just a story about his women. And you can understand that this was why these women were so great. Look around you, women are trying. They are really accomplishing great things.
Fela was a man who formed a particular genre of music that is played across the world, studied abroad in all kinds of institutions.
The man alone is a victory in itself; just like we need to celebrate Herbert Ogunde. These are great men. I hope I can do it at some time. I hope I have the time to do it. These people are trying but these are our own mentors.
Growing up, we wanted to sound like Herbert Ogunde; you know things like that. Ogunde was a man who would single-handedly direct, produce and act. I grew up watching some of them. We watched Ogunde, Olaiya and Baba Sala. Ogunde had a lot of fantastic plays that was shown across Ibadan at the time. These were legends.
So, it didn’t start today; it’s been there. But thank God for the revival of the art.
Of course, like I said, it wasn’t really about Fela. It was about his women and how Fela was the rallying point, which is something unique. The women suffered a lot being with Fela and, of course, they also enjoyed.
What does that say about the African woman in your view?
To me, the African woman is more powerful than the man. The man will not want to admit it, but the African woman holds this continent. She holds the continent like that but she’s just quiet about it.
She doesn’t have to make noise. It’s men that do gragra. African women have always held Africa. Without them, where would the men be? Let’s think about it. They do basically everything; they handle our emotions.
Look at Fela now; how could he cope with all those soldiers and all those people if the women were not there? They were the ones who would comfort him. He knew what he gained from his women. When all was not going well, the women were there. He trusted the women more than the men. How about that? He knew the women were stronger.
That’s the way Fela looked at it. Why him no carry man put for band there? And see how the women represented. Women dey loyal; men de fall person hand. You know how guys can be! Just take a look at our mothers and sisters.
They’re strong women. You can’t compare them to any woman abroad, anywhere outside of Africa; they’re strong. Fela understood that. He could see that a lot in his mother, Funmilayo. He knew the power of a woman through his mother, the power of a woman in his mum.
So, how are you looking forward to your next performance in Easter?
I’m looking forward to that; I’m looking forward to a couple of other Jazz festivals coming up. There’s one coming up on July 18. I’m looking forward to it because it is the bomb. I look forward to people coming to work again so we can continue telling stories. Yea, a lot of people couldn’t see it.
I could see some reviews, orishirishi online, Twitter and everything, and a lot of folks are complaining. Many people have even said, ‘bring it (show) to Abuja!’ There was an uncle who called me and said, ‘What is your problem? They said they’re doing Fela in Lagos. You know, I’m omo Ibadan. You better bring down Fela to Ibadan! You know, Fela started from Ibadan.’
I’m happy to play Fela; I’m happy to represent him. It’s fun doing it, too, something you never thought you would do.
In a sense, the performance represents a reincarnation of the Fela enigma, the Fela phenomenon. Do you think it will galvanise a new Fela type of spirit in the people?
I think it will. It has, in a way, created a relationship between creativity and consistency, but that is not what we are talking about. But trust me, Fela is being celebrated pretty much everyday across the world. So, that is one thing that, whether naija has time for him or not, Fela is moving like wild fire.
And I’m not talking about old school Fela musicians; we’re very few that play what baba made. Now we have a lot of young boys playing the jazz, the R&B, the active jazz, the hip-hop boys, the rap boys, everything is still under Fela.
We are still playing the way baba would play live. A lot of guys, they’re all coming from Afrobeat and they are way too many, award-winning Afrobeat that this man created.
It is beyond anything we can talk about, bigger than any nation. It’s beyond Nigeria, way beyond. Nigeria is just privileged to be the owner of this product.
You could relate immediately. It doesn’t matter if you’re 10 or 12 years old; you’ll see what’s going on. You’ll see the poverty. Na eye we de take see am. We read; we hear what’s happening, and everybody knows. When we were six, seven, we could read the news; we could read papers.
So, children in this generation are even faster than us; so they understand that there is still a lot to be done.
Everybody has his own faults. Fela married 27 wives. So what? You wey marry one, wey you de beat am everyday nko or you wey marry just one wey you no make am happy nko?
When we came to this world, we all came to live a certain life. I knew from day one I could not fit into corporate; you know what I’m saying. Just like a lot of people.
So that one, I tried it for a minute and it didn’t work. So, I ran back to my music (laughs). This man was speaking something real, unlike ‘baby baby, I want to make love’ and all these ones wey we dey hear now. He made authentic music. That’s why we will stand for Fela’s music any day.
It’s not some yeye music, I am sorry to say. It’s music that has a purpose, powerful music. The man is not here physically, but his music is still fighting everyday.
Many ‘leaders’ of Fela’s days, we don’t talk about them today; we’ve forgotten them totally, as if they didn’t exist. Meanwhile, when they were here, they just de cause commotion all over the place. Where are they today? Na Fela everybody still de talk about. People appreciate what he has done.
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