Fela was a singer-composer, trumpet, sax and keyboard player, bandleader and politician. He was a presidential candidate on the platform of Movement of the People (MOP), a political party he founded in the 1980s. He was greatly influenced by his parents particularly his mother, Funmilayo, a leading figure in the nationalist struggle. Fela was known for his outspoken attacks on the Nigerian government, which earned him several brushes with the law. He was clamped in detention several times, but always emerged more resolute than ever. The one that readily comes to mind was the infamous invasion of Kalakuta Republic on February 18, 1977. The ensuing battle resulted in his 78-year-old mother being thrown from the second floor, which hastened her death in later years.

Musicians Celebrate a Decade of Fela’s Death

By Kemi Lawal and Samuel Olatunji (Friday, August 3, 2007)

It was exactly 10 years yesterday since Afro-beat creator, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the one his fans all over the world knew variously as Abami Eda, Basket Mouth, Naija Airways, among other names, transited to eternal glory.

Fela’s death on Saturday, August 2, 1997, at a Victoria Island private medical centre brought to an end journalists’ speculative report about the state of his health.

Highly controversial during his lifetime, a concert has been scheduled for tomorrow at the Afrika Shrine, Agidingbi, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his transition. The concert will feature top rated performances by some of Nigeria’s greatest music stars including Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, his son; African China, Muma Gee, Daddy Showkey, Pastor Goodie-Goodie, Weird MC, Eedris Abdulkareem, 2face, Batman and a host of other acts.

A number of comedians have been included in the line-up. They are Gandoki, Gordons, Klint Da Drunk and Abagana, all will spice up the evening with rib-cracking jokes.

Born Olufela Oludotun Olusegun Ransome-Kuti in Abeokuta, Nigeria, to Reverend and Mrs. Ransome-Kuti on October 15, 1938, he was the fourth of five children born to a middle class family. His other siblings, all of whom are also dead, were Olikoye, Dolu, and Beko. His father, Rev. Israel Dotun Ransome-Kuti was the first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) and his mother a political activist and feminist. Fela was a singer-composer, trumpet, sax and keyboard player, bandleader and politician. He was a presidential candidate on the platform of Movement of the People (MOP), a political party he founded in the 1980s. He was greatly influenced by his parents particularly his mother, Funmilayo, a leading figure in the nationalist struggle.

Educated at Abeokuta Grammar School, he was sent to London in 1958 to study medicine; instead he enrolled at the Trinity College in London between 1958 and 1962 where he studied music. Fela married his first wife, Remi, in 1961. She bore him three children – Yeni, Femi (who carries the family torch with his Positive Force band) and Sola.

In 1954, he began his career with the Cool Cats as a singer in the highlife band. In 1968, Fela announced the birth of Afro-beat. His music was intricate and his band, which he re-christened Egypt ’80 from Africa 70, had a huge line up comprising many different parts. A brilliant fellow, his compositional and organisational skills are unmatched till date.

Fela was known for his outspoken attacks on the Nigerian government, which earned him several brushes with the law. He was clamped in detention several times, but always emerged more resolute than ever. The one that readily comes to mind was the infamous invasion of Kalakuta Republic on February 18, 1977. The ensuing battle resulted in his 78-year-old mother being thrown from the second floor, which hastened her death in later years.

He was a stickler for pan-Africanism, which saw him drop his colonial name, Ransome for Anikulapo [one who has death in his pouch] and shunned the Festac ’77 celebrations to protest the culpability of government in its corrupt dealings with foreign multinationals like Shell and ITT that culminated in the economic rape of the country.

Fela courted controversy more often than not and it seemed his never-die spirit consolidated on each episode. In 1978, at a public ceremony he wedded 27 women comprising mostly of his dancers in response to an accusation that he was corrupting young, unmarried girls who absconded from home and sought solace at his Kalakuta residence.

He re-christened himself Abami Eda (the strange one) and in his career that spanned several decades, he recorded over 50 albums, all masterpieces. Most of them were directed towards government of the day and sought to fight enslavement of the masses.

Talking about Fela is not complete if reference is not made to his open romance with cannabis. The bigger the wrap the juicier, he made no pretence that he’s pro-dope. A giant wrap accompanied him on his journey to the great beyond. Neither a Christian nor a Muslim, he was an advocate of African traditional religion that saw him pour libations at the start of his shows at the shrine, which was a Mecca of sorts for followers who idolised him.

Fela died at 58 from complications arising from AIDS, as announced by his brother, Professor Olikoye Ransome- Kuti, a former minister of health. Nonetheless, for two days people did not go to work in Lagos just to participate in his funeral activities.

Meanwhile, diminutive entertainer, Julius Agwu, would treat fun seekers to a session of rib-cracking jokes tomorrow on the platform of "Laff 4 Christ’s Sake".

In its fourth year, Laff 4 Christ’s Sake is a medley of non-offensive Bible-inspired jokes. Billed for MUSON Centre, Onikan, established comedians like Okey Bakassi, I Go Dye, Gandoki, Holy Mallam and Gordons are billed to perform. In his selfless quest to encourage upcoming acts, a host of them will grace the stage with their talents.

Described as an evening of gospel rhythms and jokes, there will be musical performances by Yinka Ayefele, Sammie Okposo and Infinity.

The music-comedian, who claims he has been doing comedy from his mother’s womb, has a stage presence that reminds one of Eddie Murphy, but Julius is in a class of his own.

He knows how to work the audience and is not your usual stand-up comedian who looks and talks down on you from the stage. No wonder his fans address him as Julius de Genius.

The Choba, Rivers State-born act has exported his talents abroad. He has held several comedy shows in Europe and America. In the last few years, his brands "Crack Your Ribs" and "Humor Combat" have been hosted in major western cities. He just completed a performance tour of the United States, where he held shows in Atlanta, Georgia; Houston, Texas; and Maryland. Crack Your Ribs is billed for August 26, 2007, in U.S.

The theatre arts graduate of the University of Port-Harcourt won award as the funniest comedian at the Nigerian Comedy Awards in far away America. Constantly re-inventing himself, Julius is the first comedian to embrace music when he did his own version of Awillo Longomba’s hit single, and imitated his rhythmic dance steps.

His philanthropic activities have not escaped public notice. He is a frequent visitor to charity homes, which has become an annual ritual to spend his birthdays at the Heart of Gold Hospice in Surulere, Lagos.

What he lacks in height he makes up in talent and style. Julius is a power dresser. It suffices to say that he is one of the best-dressed comedians in Nigeria. Head to toe, he can’t be found wanting. His favourite shades are bright and vibrant colours.

Also, Sam Loco Efe, the popular actor who knows how to make people laugh, will be at the University of Lagos today alongside Joke Jacobs, Teni Aofiyebi, Anita Hogan, Tunde Laniyan and Chidi Ukwu, winner of best actor award at Zuma Film Festival.

They were brought together by Bayo Awala to participate in a stage play, Prince of the Savannah. For students of the university, it is going to be a weekend of big stars and time to see one of their alumni, Anita Hogan. The show is almost free for them, as they only have to part with N100 as gate fee. But outsiders would pay N500. Main Auditorium of the university would be venue of the show

Originally appeared in Independent.


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