|Birth Day:||October 15, 1938|
|Death Date:||Aug 2, 1997 (age 58)|
|Birth Place:||Abeokuta, Nigeria|
As per our current Database, Fela Kuti died on Aug 2, 1997 (age 58).
|Height||Weight||Hair Colour||Eye Colour||Blood Type||Tattoo(s)|
He lived in London and attended Trinity College of Music, where he founded his first band called Koola Lobitos.
Fela was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti on 15 October 1938 in Abeokuta, the modern-day capital of Ogun State in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, then a city in the British Colony of Nigeria, into an upper-middle-class family. His mother, Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement; his father, Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, an Anglican minister and school principal, was the first president of the Nigeria Union of Teachers. His brothers Beko Ransome-Kuti and Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, both medical doctors, were well known in Nigeria. Fela is a first cousin to the Nigerian writer and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, the first black African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Fela attended Abeokuta Grammar School. Later he was sent to London in 1958 to study medicine, but decided to study music instead at the Trinity College of Music, the trumpet being his preferred instrument. While there, he formed the band Koola Lobitos, playing a fusion of jazz and highlife. In 1960, Fela married his first wife, Remilekun (Remi) Taylor, with whom he would have three children (Femi, Yeni, and Sola). In 1963, Fela moved back to the newly independent Federation of Nigeria, re-formed Koola Lobitos and trained as a radio producer for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. He played for some time with Victor Olaiya and his All Stars.
In 1967, Fela went to Ghana looking for a new musical direction. It was then that Kuti first called his music Afrobeat, a combination of highlife, funk, jazz, salsa, calypso and traditional Nigerian Yoruba music. In 1969, Fela took the band to the United States where they spent 10 months in Los Angeles. While there, Fela discovered the Black Power movement through Sandra Smith (now Sandra Izsadore), a partisan of the Black Panther Party. The experience would heavily influence his music and political views. He renamed the band Nigeria '70. Soon afterwards, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was tipped off by a promoter that Fela and his band were in the US without work permits. The band performed a quick recording session in Los Angeles that would later be released as The '69 Los Angeles Sessions.
In 1977, Fela and the Afrika '70 released the album Zombie, a scathing attack on Nigerian soldiers using the zombie metaphor to describe the methods of the Nigerian military. The album was a smash hit and infuriated the government, setting off a vicious attack against the Kalakuta Republic, during which one thousand soldiers attacked the commune. Fela was severely beaten, and his elderly mother (whose house was located opposite the commune) was thrown from a window, causing fatal injuries. The Kalakuta Republic was burned, and Fela's studio, instruments, and master tapes were destroyed. Fela claimed that he would have been killed had it not been for the intervention of a commanding officer as he was being beaten. Fela's response to the attack was to deliver his mother's coffin to the Dodan Barracks in Lagos, General Olusegun Obasanjo's residence, and to write two songs, "Coffin for Head of State" and "Unknown Soldier", referencing the official inquiry that claimed the commune had been destroyed by an unknown soldier.
Fela and his band took up residence in Crossroads Hotel, as the Shrine had been destroyed along with his commune. In 1978, he married 27 women, namely: Kikelomo Oseyni, Folake Oladejo, Tejumade Adebiyi, Naa Lamiley, Sewaa Kuti, Omotola Osaeti, Omowunmi Oyedele, Alake Anikulapo Kuti, Shade Shodeinde, Adeola Williams, Najite Kuti, Emaruagheru Osawe, Kevwe Oghomienor, Ihase Anikulapo, Adejonwo Iyabode Ogunitro, Bose Anikulapo Kuti, Lara Anikulapo Kuti, Suru Eriomola, Tokunbo Akran, Funmi Kuti, Omowunmi Afesumo, Laide Anikulapo Kuti, Ronke Edason, Damiregba Anikulapo Kuti, Aduni Idowu, Omolara Shosanya Remilekun Taylor, many of whom were his dancers, composers, and singers. The marriage served not only to mark the anniversary of the attack on the Kalakuta Republic but also to protect Fela and his wives from false claims from authorities that Fela was kidnapping the women. Later he adopted a rotation system of keeping 12 simultaneous wives. The year was also marked by two notorious concerts, the first in Accra in which riots broke out during the song "Zombie", which led to Fela being banned from entering Ghana. The second was at the Berlin Jazz Festival after which most of Fela's musicians deserted him, due to rumours that Fela was planning to use the entire proceeds to fund his presidential campaign.
The African culture he believed in also included men having many wives (polygamy). The Kalakuta Republic was formed in part as a polygamist colony. In defense of polygyny he said: "A man goes for many women in the first place. Like in Europe, when a man is married, when the wife is sleeping, he goes out and sleep around. He should bring the women in the house, man, to live with him, and stop running around the streets!" Some characterize his views towards women as misogynist, and typically cite as evidence songs like "Mattress". In a more complex example, he mocks the aspiration of African women to European standards of ladyhood while extolling the values of the market woman in his song "Lady". In accordance with his beliefs, Fela Kuti married multiple women at the same time in 1978.
Despite the massive setbacks, Fela was determined to come back. He formed his own political party, which he called Movement of the People (MOP), in order to "clean up society like a mop". Apart from being a mass political party, MOP preached "Nkrumahism" and "Africanism". In 1979, he put himself forward for president in Nigeria's first elections for more than a decade, but his candidature was refused. At this time, Fela created a new band called Egypt '80 reflecting the idea that Egyptian civilization, knowledge, philosophy, mathematics, and religious systems are African and must be claimed as such. As Fela stated in an interview, "Stressing the point that I have to make Africans aware of the fact that Egyptian civilization belongs to the African. So that was the reason why I changed the name of my band to Egypt 80." Fela continued to record albums and tour the country. He further infuriated the political establishment by dropping the names of ITT Corporation vice-president Moshood Abiola and then General Olusegun Obasanjo at the end of a hot-selling 25-minute political screed entitled "I.T.T. (International Thief-Thief)".
In 1984, Muhammadu Buhari's government, of which Kuti was a vocal opponent, jailed him on a charge of currency smuggling which Amnesty International and others denounced as politically motivated. Amnesty designated him a prisoner of conscience, and his case was also taken up by other human rights groups. After 20 months, he was released from prison by General Ibrahim Babangida. On his release he divorced his 12 remaining wives, saying that "marriage brings jealousy and selfishness".
Kuti's open vocalization of the violent and oppressive regime controlling Nigeria did not come without consequence. 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. On top of the jail time, the corrupt government would send soldiers to beat Kuti, his family and friends, and destroy wherever he lived and whatever instruments or recordings he had.
Kuti was outspoken; his songs spoke his inner thoughts. His rise in popularity throughout the 1970s signaled a change in the relation between music as an art form and Nigerian socio-political discourse. In 1984, he harshly criticized and insulted the then authoritarian president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. One of his popular songs, "Beast Of No Nation", refers to Buhari as an animal in a madman's body; in Nigerian Pidgin: "No be outside Buhari dey ee, na krase man be dat, animal in krase man skin ii". Kuti strongly believed in Africa and always preached peace among Africans. He thought the most important way for Africans to fight European cultural imperialism was to support traditional African religions and lifestyles. The American Black Power movement also influenced Fela's political views; he supported Pan-Africanism and socialism, and called for a united, democratic African republic. Examples of the famous African leaders he supported during his lifetime include Kwame Nkrumah and Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso. Kuti was a candid supporter of human rights, and many of his songs are direct attacks against dictatorships, specifically the militaristic governments of Nigeria in the 1970s and 1980s. He was also a social commentator, and he criticized his fellow Africans (especially the upper class) for betraying traditional African culture.
Once again, Fela continued to release albums with Egypt '80, made a number of successful tours of the United States and Europe and also continued to be politically active. In 1986, Fela performed in Giants Stadium in New Jersey as part of the Amnesty International A Conspiracy of Hope concert, sharing the bill with Bono, Carlos Santana, and the Neville Brothers. In 1989, Fela and Egypt '80 released the anti-apartheid Beasts of No Nation that depicts on its cover U.S. President Ronald Reagan, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and South African State President Pieter Willem Botha; the title of the composition, as Barrett noted, evolved out of a statement by Botha: "This uprising [against the apartheid system] will bring out the beast in us."
Fela's album output slowed in the 1990s, and eventually he stopped releasing albums altogether. In 1993, he and four members of the Afrika '70 organization were arrested for murder. The battle against military corruption in Nigeria was taking its toll, especially during the rise of Sani Abacha. Rumours were also spreading that he was suffering from an illness for which he was refusing treatment.
On 3 August 1997, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, already a prominent AIDS activist and former Minister of Health, announced his younger brother's death a day earlier from complications related to AIDS. However, there has been no definitive proof that Kuti died from complications related to HIV/AIDS, and much skepticism surrounds this alleged cause of death and the sources that have popularized this claim. More than one million people attended Fela's funeral at the site of the old Shrine compound. supervision of his son Femi. His youngest son Seun took the role of leading Fela's former band Egypt 80. As of 2020, the band is still active releasing music under the moniker Seun Kuti & Egypt 80.
Since his death in 1997, there has been a revival of his influence in music and popular culture, culminating in another re-release of his catalog controlled by Universal Music, Broadway and off-Broadway biographically based shows, and new bands, such as Antibalas, who carry the Afrobeat banner to a new generation of listeners.
In 1999, Universal Music France, under the aegis of Francis Kertekian, remastered the 45 albums that it controlled, and released them on 26 compact discs. These titles were licensed to all countries of the world, except Nigeria and Japan, where Fela's music was controlled by other companies. In 2005, Universal Music USA licensed all of its world-music titles to the UK-based label Wrasse Records, which repackaged the same 26 discs for distribution in the USA (where they replaced the titles issues by MCA) and the UK. In 2009, Universal created a new deal for the US with Knitting Factory Records and for Europe, with PIAS, which included the release of the Broadway cast recording of the musical Fela!. In 2013, FKO Ltd., the entity that owned the rights of all of Fela's compositions, was acquired by BMG Rights Management.
In 2003, an exhibition in the New Museum for Contemporary Art, New York, titled The Black President Exhibition, debuted and featured concerts, symposia, films, and the works of 39 international artists.
The 2007 film The Visitor, directed by Thomas McCarthy, depicted a disconnected professor (Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins) who wanted to play the djembe; he learns from a young Syrian (Haaz Sleiman) who tells the professor he will never truly understand African music unless he listens to Fela. The film features clips of Fela's "Open and Close" and "Je'nwi Temi (Don't Gag Me)".
In 2008, an off-Broadway production of Kuti's life, entitled Fela! and inspired by the 1982 book Fela, Fela! This Bitch of a Life by Carlos Moore, began with a collaborative workshop between the Afrobeat band Antibalas and Tony award-winner Bill T. Jones. The production was a massive success, selling out performances during its run, and garnering much critical acclaim. On 22 November 2009, Fela! began a run on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Jim Lewis helped co-write the script (along with Jones), and obtained producer backing from Jay-Z and Will Smith, among others. On 4 May 2010, Fela! was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical for Bill T. Jones, Best Leading Actor in a Musical for Sahr Ngaujah, and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Lillias White. In 2011, the London production of Fela! (staged at the Royal National Theatre) was made into a film. On 11 June 2012, it was announced that Fela! would return to Broadway for 32 performances.
On 18 August 2009, and via his website, award-winning DJ J.Period released a free mixtape to the general public, entitled The Messengers, which was a collaboration with Somali-born hip-hop artist K'naan paying tribute to Fela, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan.
Two months later, Knitting Factory Records began the process of re-releasing the 45 titles that Universal Music controls, starting with yet another re-release in the USA of the compilation The Best of the Black President. The rest were expected to be released in 2010.
Fela Son of Kuti: The Fall of Kalakuta is a stage play written by Onyekaba Cornel Best in 2010. It has had successful acclaim as part of that year's Felabration celebration, and returned in 2014 at the National Theatre and Freedom Park in Lagos. The play deals with events in a hideout, a day after the fall of Kalakuta.
In addition, a biographical movie by Focus Features, directed by Steve McQueen and written by Biyi Bandele, was rumoured to be in production 2010, with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead role, but this has not eventuated.
Currently, Fela Kuti is 82 years, 11 months and 7 days old. Fela Kuti will celebrate 83rd birthday on a Friday 15th of October 2021.
Find out about Fela Kuti birthday activities in timeline view here.