The Guardian
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20 years later, Fela’s vacuum remains


Wednesday, August 3 was the 20th anniversary of musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s death.

The abami eda (mysterious being) who was thought to have death in his pouch (literal translation of Anikulapo), succumbed to complications from HIV and AIDS after decades of music activism where he unabashedly criticised military governments and corrupt politicians for keeping the Nigerian people oppressed and suppressed. His fearless outspokenness earned him multiple arrests and even a jail term.

Fela’s music was distinct in a genre he called, Afrobeat. He was philosopher, preacher, loverman, prophet, a gifted songwriter, arranger, saxophonist and composer extraordinaire. His live performances were always unpredictable and always showed off excellent craftmanship at home and abroad.

In the last two decades, Nigerian music has evolved. Lots of ‘half-baked’ genres have been announced by new artists just before they release the next album under another name. In the same breath, Nigeria has witnessed (and still has) talented and true musicians, even if they are few. Like culture, sounds have been modified, many at the expense of a message. So, The Guardian asked this week: 20 years after music activist Fela Kuti’s death, is there a vacuum in Nigerian music?

Sixty-eight per cent of respondents on the website and on @guardiannigeria Twitter page agree that the Afrobeat legend’s vacuum still remains, while 16% further think that Nigerian music has deteriorated. Only 16% agree that today’s Nigerian artists are great.

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