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Legendary Fela in early lead for 2021 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

By Daniel Anazia
13 February 2021   |   4:23 am
Twenty-four years after his demise, the works of late Afrobeat founder, Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, better known as Fela Anikulapo Kuti, still resonates deep emotions and meaning in the global space...

UNITED KINGDOM – JANUARY 01: BRIXTON ACADEMY Photo of Fela KUTI, Fela Kuti live at The Academy, Brixton, London 1983 (Photo by David Corio/Redferns)

Induction Holds May

Twenty-four years after his demise, the works of late Afrobeat founder, Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, better known as Fela Anikulapo Kuti, still resonates deep emotions and meaning in the global space, as his rebellious song lyrics established him as political dissident. As a result, Afrobeat, which he created, has come to be associated with making political, social and cultural statements about greed and corruption.

Against this backdrop, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (RRHOF), on Wednesday, announced the late Afrobeat legend as a nominee of Class of RRHOF 2021. Greg Harris, the RRHOF president and CEO, made the announcement via the official Twitter account: @rockhall.

The RRHOF is an America awards based organisation that awards and celebrates outstanding rock and rock personals. The 2020 virtual ceremony saw the late Notorious B.I.G and Whitney Houston post-humously honoured.

The late Afrobeat legend was nominated alongside 15 other accomplished artistes, including Jay-Z, Carole King, Tina Turner, Mary J Blige, Kate Bush, Devo, Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s, Iron Maiden, Chaka Khan, LL Cool J, New York Dolls, Rage Against the Machine, Todd Rundgren and Dionne Warwick.

A check on the RRHOF official page showed that the late Abami Eda (Weird One) is currently topping the voting chart with over 56 thousand votes, while he followed closely by Tina Turner with 52 thousand votes.

Commenting on the nomination, RRHOF Foundation chairperson, John Sykes, in a statement, said: “This remarkable ballot reflects the diversity and depth of the artists and music the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame celebrates.

“These nominees have left an indelible impact on the sonic landscape of the world and influenced countless artists that have followed them,” he added.

To be eligible for 2021 RRHOF nomination, an artiste or band must have published their first commercial recording in 1995 or earlier. The inductees will be officially announced in May, followed by an induction ceremony at the RRHOF museum in Cleveland, Ohio later in the year.

This year’s voting community will comprise more than 1000 artistes, historians and journalists, among other industry stakeholders. Fans will have an opportunity to participate in the selection process by voting or at an interactive kiosk at the RRHOF museum.

Meanwhile, some top Nigerian music heavyweights and celebrities like Burna Boy, Don Jazzy have come out to call for people to vote for Fela via the official website and link: https://vote.rockhall.com.

Burnaboy via his official twitter handle @burnaboy wrote: “Let’s get the legend FELA KUTI inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame!”

Also taking to his official twitter handle @DONJAZZY, Mavin Record chief, Don Jazzy said: “Come on Nigerians! We can do this. This is our Baba Fela we are talking about. Vote for Fela Anikulapo Kuti for a well-deserved place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

Voting ends on April 30; the top five artistes selected by the public (the fan’s ballot) will be tallied with the other ballots to select the class of 2021.

Fela, who died in 1997, is arguably Africa’s most renowned musical export. He released numerous era-defining albums and was a fearless iconoclast and pan-Africanist.

His musical style was an enmeshment of jazz, funk, psychedelic rock and traditional West African chants and rhythms, and his legacy has been perpetuated globally in literature, theatre and the annual Felabration festival.

The Abami Eda, was highly engaged in political activism from the 1970s until his death. He criticised the corruption of government officials and the mistreatment of Nigerian citizens. He also spoke of colonialism as the root of the socio-economic and political problems that plagued the African people.

His rise in popularity throughout the 1970s signaled a change in the relation between music as an art form and Nigerian socio-political discourse. His open vocalisation of the violent and oppressive regime controlling Nigeria did not come without consequence, as he was arrested on over 200 different occasions and spent time in jail, including his longest stint of 20 months after his arrest in 1984.

As a pan-Africanist, Fela strongly believed in Africa and always preached peace among its people. The lyrics of his songs expressed his inner thoughts.

One of his most popular songs, Beast Of No Nation, which he released in 1984, critiqued and insulted the authoritarian military government of Nigeria at the time. He referred to the leadership as “animal in a madman’s body”.