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The Legend Of Fela

On this day in 1997, Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti died, and we take a look into his life and achievements.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti to an Anglican reverend and a feminist. His mother, Chief Olufumilayo, was the first woman to drive a car in Nigeria.

After his secondary education, he was sent to study Medicine but, instead, went to Trinity College of Music. During this time, he formed a band named Koola Lobitos.

In 1960, he got married to the first of his 27 wives, Remilekun Taylor. He left London for Nigeria three years later and trained to be a radio producer for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1967, he headed to Ghana where he named his style of music, Afrobeat. Two years later, he went to the US with his band where he got influenced by the Black Power movement and rechristened his band, Nigeria ’70.

Upon his return to Nigeria, he renamed the band The Afrika ’70 and began to address social issues with pidgin English. He would go on to form the Kalakuta Republic, a recording studio, kick off a nightclub, Afrika Shrine, and change his name to Anikulapo.

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti At Orchestra Hall, Detroit 1986

As Fela became popular, so did the government’s distaste increase. With over 200 arrests, government raids became common in Kalakuta. After the release of Zombie, a song describing Nigerian soldiers, the government struck, beating him, throwing his mother from the window and burning down the Kalakuta Republic.

He was known to drop names of corrupt leaders in his songs, including Moshood Abiola, General Olusegun Obasanjo and General Muhammadu Buhari.

He extended his activism to political columns he ran in national newspapers under the title “Chief Priest Say”. In 1979, he contested for president under his party, Movement of the People (MOP).

In 1993, he was arrested for murder under Sani Abacha’s regime. During this time, his was plagued by a sickness he refused to treat. On the 2nd of August, 1997, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti died of AIDS.

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