Fela's People ("Everybody say: 'yeah, yeah'")

A Brazilan fan happily showing off his ‘Fela’ t-shirt

Anyone (and everyone) who is familiar with Fela’s music will know the phrase above: the late Afrobeat creator connected with his fans with it, and his listeners adored him enough to do as he told them to. In a way, I felt ‘yeah, yeah’ when we wrapped up this edition: it’s taken a whole year of waiting and visualising to package a souvenir issue in honour of a man who has been described as Nigeria’s best ‘cultural ambassador’.

For 14 years the Kuti family have sustained the Fela heritage through FELABRATION, the annual carnival of scholarly conversations and stage performances in Otober at the New Afrika Shrine (Agidingbi) to coincide with his birthday (15th). And it is no surprise that the venue throbs with thousands of Fela followers from within and outside Nigeria.

Last year’s outing provided an opportunity for many individuals who knew Fela closely to share their knowledge of him; the revelations were astounding, and you will find some of them in the articles we’ve published.

For this edition, we’ve also commissioned articles from people who knew Fela one on one: Azuka Jebose Molokwu was a young reporter for The Punch in the 1980’s when he met Fela (first inside the courtroom and later in hospital and at the musician’s home); over time Fela developed a liking for Molokwu so much so that he made a surprise appearance at the young journalist’s 25th birthday one midnight in August of 1986. On a performance tour at the Apollo Theatre in New York, Fela introduced Molokwu to the audience as his son and ‘great entertainment journalist’.

waka-about (Oct. 2011 edition) on sale inside the New Afrika Shrine during Felabration of same year
waka-about (Oct. 2011 edition) on sale inside the New Afrika Shrine during Felabration of same year

The other commissioned story has been written by Majemite Jaboro, Fela’s Personal Assistant (Shrine) back in the days; his recollections are worth reading, not just because they portray Fela in his elements but for the fact that they provide a nostalgic chronicle of a day in the life of the unforgettable Afrika Shrine, where Fela was both preacher and priest.

And musician, art curator and producer Lekan Babalola gives us a glimpse into what life was like inside Fela’s Kalakuta. Babalola feels that a lot has been written and said about Fela but not so much is known about the people (The Kalakutians, he calls them) who lived with him. He has pursued this agenda for 25 years and, incidentally, the Art Council of England has commissioned him to produce a multimedia project on the subject. “By the grace of God, by the grace of Allah and by the grace of Ifa, we should start touring by October of 2012,” he told me just before we went to bed with this edition.

Still, there are many stories yet to be written about Fela. Reason: Fela was no ordinary person: he lived a purposeful and colourful life, and one marked by several milestones. Fourteen years after his death, his music remains with us while his fame has spread even farther from his country of birth. For a man who “worked on his music, at least eight to 10 hours in a day…strict with his band’, he deserves no less; and we at waka-about are pleased to have produced this commemorative edition in his honour.
Winner, CNN/Multichoice African Journalist Awards (Tourism)
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