Fela Kuti lived an explosive life. His surreal journey took him from Nigeria to study music in Britain. In Los Angeles he met his first wife and realized his destiny as a African musical revolutionary in America. His visa would run out and he would return to Lagos to create the groundbreaking sound of AFRO-BEAT. His popularity would rival the president’s and Fela no-nonsense politics would result in devastating personal consequences. This drama would unfold to a soundtrack of pure fire punctuated by choruses, horns, drums that evolved from Jazz, got it’s punch from funk and it’s heart and soul from Africa. Tonight on the Sound-Clash the music and life of Fela Kuti.
Fela’s music would tell the story of life in Lagos in vivid detail. From the political strife to the hectic traffic, religious tensions and racial relations. His night club the Shrine would be his platform to preach and sing directly to the citizens of Lagos and travelers from around the world that came to watch Fela perform. He recorded albums with America vibraphonist Roy Ayers and Cream drummer Ginger Baker who built a studio in Lagos. His drummer Tony Allen continues to record and in the heir apparent to Afro-Beat.
Eventually his life was claimed by AIDS and even in death his life reflected the continent he loved; as it too was being ravaged by the disease. The Government would raid and eventually burn down his compound, kill his mother and brutalize himself and his wives. Fela rarely saw peace in his life. His escape would be music where he would unleash all his politics, religion, philosophy, love, restlessness and beauty.
Fela Kuti’s life and music continues to gain an audience with a hit Broadway Play Fela! and an almost endless re-release schedule. The shear amount of work by Fela and it’s overwhelming quality make’s Fela’s genius undeniable. Despite late in life bouts with madness Fela always saw himself as a man of the people and their voice amplified.