[PHOTOS: A visit to Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Kalakuta Museum with my 16 year old son – who is named after him]
In my 2003 personal philosophy paper titled “Why I Do What I Do, The Way I Do It”, I wrote as follows:
“In certain ways, I see myself as a non-singing ideological equivalent of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Through his lyrics, I discovered myself, and became passionately proud of being Black
, Nigerian and African. (I named my first son after Fela, for this/his other good sides). My objective is to help others achieve similar Self-Discovery.” – Tayo Solagbade
The photos below show my (now 16 year old) son who got named after Baba 70
The photos were taken when I took him through some areas of Ikeja I used to “pavement-pound”, doing my door-to-door marketing. That was how I worked back then (pre-2012), to find clients for my custom Excel-VB software development service and products (like the Payslip Generator, Hotel Records Management System etc).
I told him how I would park close to Fela’s house, before leaving to “hunt for clients”. AND I also told him MANY stories about how I had to go on marketing all day, most times with NO money to eat/drink.
Sometimes I’d return to take a break in the car, for 30 minutes to an hour to recover my strength – before resuming my “runs”. Most times I returned home as late as 10p.m to 12 midnight, with little to show for my efforts (I’ve since learnt to make clients/buyers come to me, instead of going to them – click here)..
But back then Fela’s house was a shadow of itself, badly neglected.
I recall I would sometimes see “Seun” – one of Fela’s sons (younger brother to Femi Kuti), come outside from one of the rooms at the top of the building – often shirtless – having returned from a music tour abroad.
Each time I parked there however, I could not help wondering how the house of a legend like Fela could have been allowed to degenerate the way it had. It saddened me greatly.
It goes without saying that I was not alone in thinking this way. Anyone who’d heard Fela’s legend would naturally think the same thing on seeing the house!
One time I overheard a white man with an American accent who’d come to see the house with a Nigerian friend, asking why it looked so neglected.
The response he got missed me, but I’m sure it would have been along the lines of “Search me!”
Thankfully, the broadway show named after FELA (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fela! and http://felaonbroadway.com), has helped to raise the profile of this great man’s legacy to the height it belongs…
…And I BELIVE the massive followership triggered worldwide by THAT wonderful broadway show, was the reason things changed for Fela’s house!
That show boosted Fela’s global popularity, leading to overwhelming international demand for news and information about him. Among other things, all-white Afro beat bands springing up in Europe became commonplace. Events of all kinds, art shows etc got organized to share his story.
Nigerians in diaspora who’d previously neglected to mention they knew a Fela Anikulapo Kuti back home, suddenly got infected with the fever.
They became proud to answer questions about Afro beat when asked “Hey, you’re Nigerian…do you know Fela?”
It became “cool” to be associated with the name of Fela…who some had previously called “hemp smoker” and “trouble maker”…!
YES. It is my considered opinion that ALL of the above made it “politically acceptable” for the Lagos State government and other stakeholders to finally ACT.
They provided the funding and support to transform Fela’s historic building’s appearance into something befitting of a true tourist attraction.
But it SHOULD have been done earlier, and not just that, we should have been the ones to tell the world about Fela, from the time he died!!!
I know some will tell me I’m wrong, but I would ask them:
How come NIGERIA’s government waited sooooo LOOOOONG to do this simple deed of turning Fela’s house into a museum????
The truth is NO answer they give can ever justify the delay.
Only in Nigeria can that kind of atrocity ever be committed against a legendary figure of Fela’s stature!
FACT: Before now, MANY educated and enlightened Nigerians would NEVER allow their kids go near Fela’s shrine or even play his music.
When I was young, I recall reading stories in print media about how some Nigerian elites accused Fela of being a bad influence on youths.
They never saw anything good about him, his music or his activism.
All they did was focus on the fact that he smoked weed, and had multiple wives.
Yet today, NONE of those arm chair theorists/phony critics commands the recognition that Fela, and his kids (who are carrying on the Afro beat tradition admirably), enjoy from fans all over the world.
I don’t smoke weed. Never have. Never will.
I don’t need it to function in any way. My creativity is 100% nature driven, and requires no artificial stimulation.
But the fact that Fela smoked weed NEVER made him any less worthy of my admiration.
What he stood for went beyond his foibles.
Indeed, no genius exists without faults – and that should NOT stop us from appreciating his/her ingenuity!!!
Sadly, many of our people – we Nigerians – missed it. As a result, instead of being the ones to SELL Fela to the world, the irony is that the WORLD, led by America, is SELLING our own Fela to us!
Think about it and you’ll see my point.
Which American great did outsiders ever have to help Americans recognize or celebrate?
None that I can think of. And that’s because America always celebrates its own.
That’s why even though Martin Luther King Jr. has African roots and fought slavery, AMERICA was the one that SOLD him to the rest of us.
They went further and set aside a day to remember him, which even here in Nigeria we recognize and join them to observe.
Several years ago, I saw audience members at Benin City’s Igbinedion Education Centre, applauding wildly to the rendition of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech by a student, at an end of year event broadcast on TV.”
Would ANY Nigerian school, before now, have ever let students recite lyrics from a Fela album at ANY event???
Indeed, can we easily find schools today that would even readily permit that to happen?
The answer is debatable…BUT the fact that it is ONLY serves to further underscore the point I’m making in this article, that we do NOT value our own.
Instead we devote needless time, energy and money joining others to celebrate their own geniuses.
In other words, they taught me to have self-esteem: which is what schooling should do. And that makes Fela’s lyrics relevant, for instance, in Civics classes, and his life story relevant for History classes.
Instead, our kids/youths get taught about Mungo Park, Malcolm X, Mahathma Ghandi, Karl Marx etc.
As a result, YEARS after Fela died, we (Nigeria as a nation, and Nigerians as a people) have no formal message about his life and works to share with the world.
Many Nigerian youths today cannot really tell you what he was about. But they can tell you the life history of Michael Jackson!
No “official” Nigeria branded interviews or documentaries were done to capture the history of his amazing life.
And to make matters worse, his house was left neglected for about a decade and a half after he passed on in 1997.
Things only changed when the Americans – JayZ, Will Smith etc – got a glimpse of the life and times of Fela: they instantly knew it was a story worth telling.
So the broadway show was born, about 3 years ago
Eventually, after the show had generated rave reviews all over, they brought it down to Nigeria’s Lagos to show it to Nigerians – last year I think.
They came to show their dramatization of a legend made in Nigeria. They came to show it to NIGERIANS, in NIGERIA.
They came to show it to Nigerians who should have been telling the whole world the story themselves, in their own voice, by their own people.
It thinks it’s sad that it happened that way.
BUT I also believe it probably would never have happened at all, if it’d been left to Nigerians to do it!
And that says a lot about the people – us Nigerians – who Fela fought and died for.
We have SUCH a long way to go where it concerns celebrating our own!
I find it ironic that many well schooled Nigerians (who in the past snubbed Fela and those who followed him) now readily take their white-skinned tourist friends from Europe and America to see Fela’s house/shrine.
We now see/hear them narrating anecdotes about Fela, and getting kids in their posh schools to recite his life story during history classes or celebrations.
Few, if at all any of them would however admit that they NEVER identified with Fela when he was alive!
On one occasion, an elderly relative pointedly told me Fela was a criminal
He claimed to have known Fela from his childhood days, arguing that he’d been “spoiled” by his mother – Mrs. Ransome Kuti.
This elderly relative would later query me for saying Fela was my role model, adding that as far as he was concerned, “the man was a criminal!”
I could not believe my ears, because I recalled once hearing Fela’s music blaring from a music player in this relative’s car, 3 decades earlier.
When I asked why he now called Fela a criminal, he said it was because Fela got sent to jail, and served a sentence for a criminal offence (actually trumped up charges), adding that even his activism was often unlawfully done.
I countered that the logic he employed qualified to make Nelson Mandela eligible for labeling as a criminal too, but he disagreed!
It goes without saying that I tossed his expressed opinion out of the window, and gave it no more thought.
Today, I’m sure the massive worldwide celebration of Fela must be hitting him hard where it hurts most…his ego!
Anyway, I’m glad I finally got to take my son to see Fela’s tomb, and house-turned-museum.
I’ve told him MANY stories about his name-sake, and shown him photos, plus videos of his live shows and interviews for him to watch.
As far as living one’s life in service of others, Fela – for me – is the ultimate role model. He took it to a whole NEW level!
Like I tell all who care to listen, Fela Anikulapo Kuti was the closest I ever came to having a human being I worshipped.
And I live my life today striving DAILY to emulate him in every way possible.
Not just by myself – but also through my kids…who I ALWAYS challenge to be like him in the way they FEARLESSLY stand up for truth, and justice.
PS: To Better Prepare them for Life, Spend Quality Time Sharing YOUR Life Experiences With YOUR Kids
I must not end without saying this….
Regular readers of this blog know I’m currently home-schooling my kids to give them Personal Achievement Education (PAE) – with a special focus on building street-smartness and income-earning-skills to complement their academic education.
Like I continue to point out to parents who will listen, PAE is crucial to giving your child the BALANCED education s/he will need to function competently as an independent adult in society AFTER s/he leaves your home.
My actions derive from the RUDE awakening I got after leaving school – especially when I chose to leave the security of paid employment, about surviving in the real-world’s shark infested waters of our society.
Look around you, and observe the warped values prevalent in society today, and you’ll appreciate the need to adopt a similar strategy, for your kids’ sake!
You’re reading Why Instead of “SELLING” Fela Anikulapo Kuti to Them, it’s the WORLD – led by America – that’s “SELLING” Fela to Nigerians! by Tayo Solagbade, originally posted on his Daily Self-Development (SD) Nuggets™ blog. If you loved reading this post, be sure to follow Tayo on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
On 4th May 2014, Tayo’s 9 year old domain (Spontaneousdevelopment dot com), was taken over by Aplus.net. Within a few days however, Tayo used his advanced self-taught web development skills to build (and move his website contents into) a SUPERIOR "reincarnation" at http://www.tayosolagbade.com.
Most URLs bearing the old domain name appearing in search engines should now work if "spontaneousdevelopment.com" is replaced with "tayosolagbade.com". If you experience any difficulties finding a page or document, email Tayo at tksola dot com.
Click "Tayo, What Happened to SpontaneousDevelopmentDotCom?" to read a detailed narrative about how the above event occurred :-))
Here’s an article Tayo wrote, to inspire others to defy adversity, and bounce back to even greater reckoning at what they do EVERY time:
Succeed by Emerging from Adversity Like a Phoenix (TayoSolagbade.com launches extra Hosting plan with FREE Web Marketing!)
And he wrote the one below, to explain why losing a domain name, no matter how old NO LONGER determines your online success or otherwise: