Fela Kuti: Music is the Weapon

The impact of Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s music in Nigeria, and worldwide, cannot be overstated. Fela Kuti (1938–97) is Africa’s musical genius, the creator of Afrobeat – a genre combining traditional African highlife, jazz, James Brown funk grooves and Latin rhythms into a unique mix that is wholly his own – and a revolutionary. Fela’s politically inflammatory songs laid bare the corruption, violence and greed of the ruling regimes in his country and beyond. He was arrested over a hundred times by the Nigerian government, and ultimately 1000 soldiers invaded and destroyed the Kalakuta Republic – Fela’s living and performing compound that he shared with his 27 wives – sending nearly all of the inhabitants to the hospital, or worse. Despite the death of his own mother due to the siege, Fela never stopped fighting the powers of imperialism, colonialism, conformity and racism with – as the legend himself put it – music as his weapon. Due to the re-release of his music worldwide and, interestingly, a Broadway musical based on his life, Fela's legacy is enjoying renewed attention and a reinvigorated profile in Nigeria. The Lagos government even donated money to launch the Kalakuta Republic Museum, and Felabration is celebrated for a week each year around his birthday on 15 October.