In within constant replays of Fela’s Don’t make me garan garan and a complete album from the cast recording of Fela! on Broadway on my laptop, my flatmate stopped to wonder what I was listening to that sounded so nice as a mixture of jazz and something he couldn’t place. I told him it was Fela, Nigeria’s famous musical export to the world, and the subject of a coming biopic as well as a multi-award winning play on Broadway.
What I’ve found out within interactions with Americans here so far is not only the ignorance about who Fela was, what he stood for, and how great his influence was, and has now become, but also the depth and greatness of his music and legacy. This is a generalization, I realize. After all, the Broadway play captured the attention of the world and won three Tony awards last year, and has had the participation and support of top Hollywood players including Jay-Z, Patti LaBelle, Jada Pinkett Smith and a few others, and there is a biopic in the making, also by an American film company. It is mainly the young people on campuses that I’d naively expected to have at least got wind of the man’s story in the news enough to be somehow a little interested. Now I know that it is too much to expect that so early (less than two decades) after the man’s death, his name would have become such a household one for young music lovers in the country where he himself was mostly influenced to his style of music.
Fela Kuti would have been 72 on the 15th of this month. A series of events called Felabration are now taking place in Lagos and other spots in the world to celebrate the man, his music and his legacy.
Photo credit: http://www.therealfemioke.com/dbFemi5/?p=189