Fela Anikulapo Kuti, born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, 15th October 1938, was known professionally as Fela Kuti or Fela. He was known primarily as a Nigerian musician, singer, song writer and human rights activist.
- His mother, Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was feminist and activist in the anti-colonial movement and his Father, Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti was an Anglican Minister and school Principal, the first President of the Nigerian Union Of Teachers. Both of Fela’s brothers are well known Medical Doctors: Beko Ransome-Kuti, Dr Olukoye Ransome-Kuti. He is the first cousins to Wole Soyinka, the writer and African Nobel laureate.
- Fela married twenty seven (27) wives in one ceremony.
Education & Music
- He went to London in 1958 to study medicine but decided to study classical Music at Trinity College instead, his primary instrument being the trumpet. He played a fusion of highlife and jazz with his band at the time called Koola Lobitos.
- On his return to Nigeria in 1963, he trained as a radio producer in the Nigerian Broadcast Corporation and played for sometime with Victor Olaiya.
- It was in 1967 after a trip to Ghana that he birthed Afrobeats. Thereafter he spent ten (10) months in Los Angeles with his band, his music and politics was influenced primarily through Sandra Smith of the Black Power Movement, a partisan of the Black Panther.
- His band was named Afrika ’70, then Egypt ’80. The band concentrated more on social issues.
- In the 70’s, Fela started a Political party called ‘Movement Of The People’ in his ambition to become President of Nigeria-which he was denied candidature, he also started the Kalakuta Republic which was a studio for his musical works but more of a commune of people connected to the band, he later declared that Kalakuta Republic was independent from Nigeria.
- He later changed his name to Anikulapo with the interpretation ‘I will be the master of my own destiny and will decide when it’s time for death to take me’.
- He sang in pidgin because in his opinion, it was an easy way to connect with the people of Africa.
- His Zombie Album in 1977 (that described the methods of the Nigerian military as he parodied the military types) was kicked against and one thousand soldiers viciously attacked the the Kalakuta republic and almost beat Fela to death and his mother thrown from a window. She sustained fatal injuries. The Republic was burned, his studio, instruments, master tapes destroyed and later burned. In his normal controversial tone, he delivered his mother’s coffin to the Dodan Barracks in Lagos, General Obasanjo’s residence and went ahead to write two songs about the issues.
- In March 1980, Fela accepted a police invitation to serve as a member of the Police Public Relations Committee.
- In June 1984, a documentary film entitled “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense” based on Fela’s political life was broadcast to a British audience by the BBC.
He was later jailed by the Muhammadu Buhari administration on a charge of currency smuggling. He was supported by Amnesty International who referred to him as a ‘Prisoner of conscience’. He was also defended by many human rights groups. He stayed in jail for one year and eight months and was released by Ibrahim Babaginda after which he divorced his twelve wives – with his notion at the time that marriage was full of jealousy and selfishness.
On August 3, 1997, his brother, Dr. Olukoye Ransome Kuti announced that Fela had died of complications from AIDS.