I have to thank Bro. Kalamu for this… Being a hardcore member of the Fela nation, this info & insight is immensely valuable, and moving, to me. There are other musicians, including Femi Kuti, his son, who we are asked to embrace as equivalent, but like when Marley passed, we have yet to discover anyone truly in that league….for either. Make sure you check out the link for the full article…an excerpt follows…
(Chimurenga) I had planned to visit the Shrine the night I arrived in Lagos but never made it. My sister Dupe, who knew some of the band Egypt 80, then took me to the Kalakuta Republic2. But each time we got there, every day for a week, we were told Fela is sleeping. On the fifth day, Sunday June 11, 1996, we decided to wait. We waited six hours. By that time he had stopped giving conventional interviews and was not talking with journalists. I sensed someone who truly loved himself and all peoples, but who has been persecuted for speaking truth, by the very same people it was designed to uplift. In the middle of our conversation there was an electricity failure and the second half of our talk took place in the dark. In Yoruba cosmology, some things happen outside of the logic of time and space. This felt like one of those moments. When I left he came out to greet me from his balcony—an unusually polite gesture from the Chief. It’s under that very balcony that over a million people gathered, around a year later, to wish a safe passage to the Black President.
Boto: Fela’s assistant
Seun: Fela’s youngest son
Dupe: My sister
Femi: Olufemi Sanyaolu aka Keziah Jones representing The African Anarchist Corp.
In Fela’s Living Room
I hang with the various people coming in and out of the main living room—beautiful women, tough area boys, businessmen in smart suits, the curious, — everybody united by His music, N.N.G.3 and the possibility of revolution. Waiting to Exhale4 is on the TV (by satellite). He walks in wearing only a towel, excuses himself, reappears in his underpants, explains that he has just woken up and lights up a large spliff. With eyebrows arched, he slowly surveys the room and dismisses several people. He is a little bit skinny and graying at the temples, keeps you in constant and direct eye contact, speaks in short bursts of baritone. His speech is embedded between long pauses and punctuated with a deep resounding laughter. In the three hours or so that we spoke I eventually submitted to this flow, I realized that my questions interrupted trains of thought so I just chilled, listened and replied with my ideas when necessary.
Femi: Fela, I’m glad to be interviewing you. This is quite an opportunity for those of us outside Nigeria, cuz we don’t really know what’s going on.
Fela: About me?
Femi: Yeah, so I thought it would be a good opportunity cuz many young blacks read Chimurenga and they know about you, so I thought it would be good to come back with some news, you know what I mean, to tell them that things are cool.
Femi: After 20 years of essentially political music do you still believe music to still be an effective way to change a political system?
Fela: [long pause] Oh wow! That’s a very good question [laughs] . . . music. Do I still think music is the best way to change a political system? You have to give me time to think about the question. Pause the tape so that I can understand what I want to talk.
[Personal assistant-type character, Boto pauses the DAT while Fela sits still for about twenty minutes in silence. No one in the room moves. Then with a smile he speaks.]
Fela: If one actually believes that he still wants to go into politics… [notices me adjusting the DAT] ah you see? It’s not loud enough. Are you sure? Please… it’s okay? [asks Boto] Wetin I first say?
Boto: …if one still believes…
Fela: If one believes that politics is still the best way to enhance a human life then music is a good medium for spreading message. I think it’s only one of the ways and with music it’s not so important who is playing the music. Or is the person who is playing the music going to get involved in politics? Or is he playing it just for people to listen? Those are the two points. If you are playing it just for people to participate its okay but it is best if you yourself are willing to participate within the music itself. But then again I don’t think politics is the best avenue for developing human life. Don’t ask me obvious question. [General laughter.] Continue, you can ask me that later on.
Femi: Okay. I found that—not only me, many many young people, Nigerians lets say—many of the social and political issues that you were talking about since the early 1970’s proved themselves true. The present political crisis in Nigeria and the revealed long term collusion between our military dictators and western powers came true. What next? Read More…