Fela KutiMay 13, 2021 02:00PM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
Born on October 15, 1938, in Abeokuta, Nigeria, as Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, Fela Aníkúlápó Kuti was a Nigerian musician and activist who launched a modern style of music called Afro-beat, which fused American blues, jazz, and funk with traditional Yoruba music. Kuti was the son of feminist and labor activist Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. As a youth, he took lessons in piano and percussion before studying classical music at Trinity College London.
Returning to Nigeria in the mid-1960s, Kuti pioneered his own unique style of music called when he reconstituted Koola Lobitos, a band which he had played with in London. Following his 1969 tour of the United States, where he was influenced by the politics of Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and other militants, Kuti’s music became increasingly politicized. He exhorted social change in songs such as “Zombie,” “Monkey Banana,” “Beasts of No Nation,” and “Upside Down.”
Rebelling against oppressive regimes through his music came at a heavy cost, as Kuti was arrested 200 times and endured numerous beatings, but continued to write political lyrics and produced 50 albums. Afrobeat’s combination of blaring horn sections, antiphonal vocals, Kuti's quasi-rapping pidgin English, and percolating guitars, -- all wrapped up in a smoldering groove, was an intoxicating sound. The singer, who gyrated over the keyboard as he sang in English and Yoruba, struck a chord among the unemployed, disadvantaged, and oppressed.
In 1979, Kuti formed a political party, the Movement of the People, and ran unsuccessfully for the presidency of Nigeria. Kuti died of AIDS-related complications on August 2, 1997, at the age of 58, in Lagos, Nigeria. Roughly one million people attended his funeral procession, which began at Tafawa Balewa Square and ended at Kuti's home, Kalakuta, in Ikeja, Nigeria.
Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies.
She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.
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