FELA THE LEGEND LIVES ON SOJI AKINKUGBE

FELA KUTII was recently on a quick trip to Johannesburg to finalize the purchase of some machines for our growing company Colours in Africa. Manufacturing in Nigeria is a topic I would rather not talk about  but  It is no mean feat to put it mildly! . Today’s topic is about another  matter very much after my heart  but I will be writing about my
experience regarding the former soon.

On the said evening I decided to go to the Montecasino to see a performance by the internationally acclaimed dance company ALVIN AILEY.

The founder of this foremost dance company in the contemporary world was an African American activist who died 26 years ago.

It has been seen by over 25 million people in over 70 Countries.

I drove all the way to the venue, on my arrival I found  out I forgot my wallet in the hotel so I couldn’t even buy a parking ticket!!

Alas I was in two minds about driving  back to the hotel but after some thought I decided to make the 40 minute round trip.

I got back to the venue 15 minutes after the show had started.

That evening they decided not to allow latecomers in as the show was being recorded. Naturally I was devastated but decided not to give up ( The Nigerian spirit in me kicked in!)
I pleaded  with the manager and was fortunately let in.

A classical dance was being performed when I got in but I was quite distracted after the drama of driving and managing to get in.

We soon had our first intermission so I decided to get a drink to help settle me into the evening .

As the next performance started I thought for a second I was in the wrong place as “SHAKARA OLOJE”  by the one and only Abami Eda Fela Anikulapo KUTI came on.

I had to comport and remind myself  I wasn’t at the shrine 27 years ago as a budding medical student .

The performance was definitely not  with Fela’s  famous queens but Abami would have given it his unequivocal approval –  I say no more.

The dance was given the full body the Egypt 80 would have given it but in a fine contemporary interpretation.

12 dancers male and female dressed in immaculate white gowns all looked like they had just met with the gods as Fela used to at his comprehensive show on a Saturday night at the shrine.

I was born to an academic father and a  professional mother . Our parents  gave us a very broad education and allowed us to think independently  within the confines of a community.

I was educated wholly in Nigeria and I am very proud of how I have turned out professionally.

We spent lots of our evenings in school at the shrine .

Tuesday ladies night
Friday
Saturday comprehensive show
Sunday Sunday jump

On most Friday nights we started at the the. Jazz 38 in Ikoyi where Fela played jazz pieces at this niece’s place  (the late Fran Kuboye)

As soon as Fela left for the shrine we all got into our cars and drove to the shrine to continue the evening.

Dare I say we were a group of about 20 young men and women who came from similar backgrounds.

Then it was all about the music and everything else that came with it .

25 years on we still enjoy the music but the meaning and songs are more relevant today than they were at the time.

Fela remains the foremost African who I know came from a privileged background.

He ditched the potential comfort that could have come from his  background to identify with the ordinary Nigerian .

I guess in many ways he could not rest if the average man was so disenfranchised. I wonder if our leaders in the last 30 years have felt genuinely emphatic about the plight of the average man in Nigeria .

His international stature has grown since death . It is impossible to hide a candle under a bushel .

Most leaders have been afraid to identify with this man as I feel he haunts them in their very actions.

PMB Fela is Nigeria most singular relevant brand

He was relevant , is relevant and will remain relevant  – His music is timeless!!!!

He has been celebrated in the negro diaspora as he speaks to the issues that have held our development in chains.

We in Nigeria just enjoy his music but his teachings  and thought process is what I would like explored. Not just from a cultural perspective but also from a research perspective.

America continues to celebrate Martin Luther king.

South Africa will continue to extract all the goodwill Nelson Mandela continues to offer even in death .

We should  not be afraid of celebrating our own even if his lifestyle doesn’t speak to our ideals .

The Bible says  if men will not praise me I will raise stones to praise me.

We haven’t celebrated Fela but he is the first Black man a Broadway musical has been made about .

You can imagine my elation in the midst of 1800 people; I was so proud to be a Nigerian. This is an emotion you rarely feel outside Nigeria. .

In the Akan tribe in Ghana the bird Sankofa means that to look forward you have to look back.

Fela will continue to be celebrated even if his compatriots can’t or don’t

Fela , Abami Eda , Omo Iya Alaje your legacy is beyond Nigeria and the African continent .

May your compatriots awaken to the truth you shared so generously with us.

SOJI AKINKUGBE

MANUFACTURER AND SOCIAL THINKER

2 Comments

  1. A very thought provoking write-up. It is indeed a shame that we do not recognise the value of Fela’s music today. His music is definitely is so much more relevant in Nigeria of today.

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