The music created by Fela Anikulapo Kuti is one that would make him immortal, as long as people have ears and are willing to grow. Fela’s passion for Africa was a characteristic that surmounted all passions, his love for the art that is music led to the creation of a genre so divine and brilliant.
The fusion of traditional African music and American jazz, a combination that only a deity could design, is something that will live for centuries to come. His love for country and its roots, his educational background and the need to speak up and say the things everybody is scared to say, to make Nigeria great again – are part of the elements that made his music so distinct.
Fela was fearless and blunt. He sought for a revolution from tyranny, corruption and the like that we (Africa) are yet to attain. His music wasn’t centered only on the ills faced by African countries, there were songs about women (a recurrent theme in both his music and his personal life), religion, education, and reality in general.
This genre he created many years ago, the idea surrounded by his musical style, and his application has impacted a great number of artists from all works of life. This is evident in artists we already know, those we are getting to know and those who would remain “low-key” by choice.
Fela Inspires Music
It’s no news a number of Nigerian musicians such as 2face, D’banj, Nneka, Wizkid and Burna Boy have at some point in their music career sampled Fela’s music and infused it with their own sound. Many of these acts have attested to being influenced by Fela Kuti’s style of music and even his fashion taste (for the likes of D’banj and W4).
If you remember, Lady was sampled on Wizkid’s Jaiye Jaiye, which featured Femi Kuti and remains a jam till tomorrow. Lady was also sampled on Tiwa Savage’s 2013 album, Once Upon a Time. Sound Sultan’s music also reverberates Fela’s themes and ideas as heard on Jagbajantis, Bushmeat and his other unique songs. Nneka’s music which is something out of the ordinary has the Fela spirit flowing through it. Fela Kuti has also influenced artistes around the world such as J.Cole, Nas, Jay Z, Missy Eliot, Paul McCartney, and Yasiin Bey amongst others.
The new generation of artistes from all works of life have followed suit as we hear, see and read many works of art with a heavy Fela vibe. It is important to note that Fela has not only influenced music acts but also painters, photographers, fashion designers and graphic designers.
Fela Inspires Illustrations
Designer and illustrator, Ozase Amadasun who studied Architecture at the University of Lagos and recently won the third prize in the BBM Stickamania competition has a number of works which showcase his adoration for the musical icon. He has adapted the old and new in his illustrations of the Abami Eda, from the creative imitation of the Iron throne from the hit series Game of Thrones, with hands instead of swords, to Rafiki proclaiming Fela as king (Simba style) and other creative illustrations that create a great sense of loss and happiness at the same time.
Fela Inspires Fashion
Sisters, Doreen and Joan Caven created a fashion and art platform inspired by 90’s fashion and the African culture. ‘Pop Caven’ features clothing and art which promotes both the African culture and the black culture as well as other movements that are super relevant today. Their 2016 “Fall Back” collection was inspired by sport brands and television commercials from the childhood days in Lagos in the 90’s. “Taking an afro-hip spin on Western classics” they switched up the FILA logo, replacing the “I” with an “E”, creating an iconic Fela logo (which is super wavy tbh).
An African inspired fashion label Kancky, founded in 2014 released their Resort 2016 collection which was tagged “Road to Kalakuta” in July 2016. The collection, as can be deduced from the tag, was influenced by Fela’s unique style and achievements. It features pieces that can be easily linked to Fela with a combination of the Yoruba Adire. It showcases various styles from the bell bottoms, flared sleeves and a combination of different western fabrics. The shoot also features the use of African beads, the shekere and the Adire backdrop which adds to the African essence and the Fela feel.
These creative minds have one thing in common, their love for the musical legend, and this has led to the creation of different ideas which all have the same central idea, FELA!! He is missed every day and because we miss him, we keep creating and recreating his image based on what we have learnt from him and the things we love about him. This makes him live on forever not only in the minds of the ones that already know but to the generation yet to come, he created a wave that will never die.