Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the one who held death in his pouch, influenced many artistes while he was alive through his distinctive genre of music that blended jazz, highlife with a healthy portion of traditional percussion and call-and-response feature that was never thought of by any before— reason he is regarded as a musical genius! The Afrobeat creator, even in death- 18 years after- continues to direct paths of musicians in his philosophy, sounds, speeches, anti-government-anti-establishment lifestyle.
Here are a few of the artistes whose careers take root from the maestro (yes, maestro- interestingly he initially leaned towards Mozart and Beethoven):
That Queen Bey is a fan of the late great, is an understatement; she is much more than a fan, more of a follower of Fela’s ideologies. She recorded a Fela Kuti-inspired album, at one point, that didn’t leave the studio shelves. Perhaps the fear of an underwhelming project and weight of expectation led to its non-release. Though she has released works that mirrored Afrobeat including ‘End of time’, ‘Grown Woman’. While speaking on the shelved project, The Dream (her frequent collaborator) noted: “We did a whole Fela album that didn’t go up… She wanted to do something that sounds like Fela.”
Now it seems the love of Fela is a family affair. The ROC Nation boss and partner of Beyoncé is on Fela’s music, too. Sean Carter couldn’t keep with just being a behind the scene lover of the great, he hopped on the Fela! On broadway project as a co-producer. On his MTv interview, he made this known: “It’s an inspiration, about the power of music. Here’s a guy […] who takes this thing and makes his own sort of genre of music.”
Talib has referenced Fela in his music and spoken about his admiration for his music. Talib featured on Red Hot Organization’s Fela tribute album on the remake of ‘Shuffering and Shmiling’. Keeping with his Fela tribute, the ‘Black Star’ shot scenes of his ‘Hostile Gospel’ video at The Shrine in Lagos.
Abami Eda’s political consciousness messages have been imbibed and displayed on occasions by the Kennis Music act. Eedris’ songs bear a marking with his musical mentor’s works. No surprising that they share a common political foe – Olusegun Obasanjo. While the late legend dedicated ’77 Zombie, ’79 Unknown Soldier, ’80 Coffin for Head of State to the former head of state, Eedris threw his own punch with ‘Jagajaga’— a scathing attack on the former president’s administration, a song that interpolates lyrics from Fela’s ’75 Everything Scatter, and Blood, Sweat and Tears. They both sought asylum in Ghana when the heat got stoked. He did a Fela-tribute titled ‘Fela’.
Omo baba mukomuko has never dismissed the Fela similarities in his music. Like the Chief Priest of The Shrine, he infused traditional percussion and the Yoruba religiosity into his records. The spiritual theme lines his oeuvre in a manner akin to the worship of Eledumare. Fela’s nomme de guerre- Anikulapo or Abami Eda- brings a supernatural influence, just like Lágbájá’s masquerade- symbol for the spirits. The Motherlan’ curator also released a 4-track Fela tribute, Abami, in 2001.
2 Baba sef know say Fela na baba, ask am…
The Black President laid out the template for the Koko Master to follow, though his music may not pack punches like his mentor’s, he does fairly in his reverence.
Wizzy is a Fela follower. It wasn’t something of a shock then when he decided to get a tattoo of the late great. His Sarz-produced ‘Jaiye Jaiye’ hit song samples Fela’s ’74 Lady; his ‘Expensive Shit’ was inspired by the title of Fela’s ’75 record. He once did a re-make of ‘77 Zombie; his DJ Xclusive ‘Jeje’ interpolates Fela’s lyrics. Popular catchphrases uttered by him ‘oh yeah’, ‘arara rara, ororo roro’ were created by Fela.
You don’t have to look so far to see it…
Mos Def/Yasiin Bey
The other half of Black Star has made reference to the Afrobeat originator on record. His ‘Fear of Man’ samples Fela’s ‘Fear Not for Man’, he rapped “Black like, Fela man cry” on Black Star’s ‘Astronomy’- reference to Fela’s Black Man’s cry from his Africa ’70 band ’71 live album, he sampled Fela’s prison speech- Music is the Weapon ’82- on ‘Quiet Dog Bite Hard’.
The former Beatles man travelled from the UK to Lagos to get inspiration from Fela for his album. “They were the best band I’ve ever seen live. When Kuti and his band eventually really began to play […] I couldn’t stop weeping with joy,” he said while recording his ‘Bands on the Run’ album in ’72.
Bantu’s hit song ‘No vernacular’ was inspired by Fela’s ’86 Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense. His band also draws influence from Fela’s Africa 70 and Egypt 80 bands. He revealed in his 2007 the Nation interview “Fela molded me […] his music, politics and philosophy was everywhere.”
Mighty Slim didn’t look far when he was searching for a muse for his ‘Ministry of Corruption’ mixtape. He only had to find Fela’s discography and do the honours. He also referenced the late great on several songs including “I bump Fela Kuti […] I’m badass something we can agree on” on ‘I’m not a Rapper’.
Getting politically conscious and speaking for the common man is a Fela forte, and Jesse Abaga has done well to replicate this. On his ‘Redemption’, ‘High-Life’, and others. He sampled Fela on his ‘Sunshine’ track. Also, he and Kahli Abdu did a song ‘Gimme Shit’ which sampled ’84 You Gimme Shit I give You Shit. His love for political philosophy and the smoke is also reminiscence of the late great.
When Modo did an autobiographical piece in the form of ‘My Life’ off the ‘Da Vinci Mode’ album it was only right for him to channel his inspiration- Fela!
On his Rolling Stone interview, D’Angelo revealed that while producing his ‘Voodoo’ album, he drew inspiration from Yoda figures, one of whom was Fela. He performed Fela’s Water No Get Enemy with Macy Gray on the Red Hot Organization album.
His Fela tattoo wasn’t just for fun, he rapped on his ‘African American’ album to tell where his head’s at: “Even Femi and Seun know I’m Fela’s prodigy. No disrespect, homie but that’s how it’s got to be— don’t care if I’m political(-ly) incorrect ‘cos this ain’t politics” on “Nejei’s Song’.
The ‘Heartbeat’ singer has in interviews referenced Fela’s music as one of her muses. And her ‘Heartbeat’, ‘Soul is Heavy’, and other songs are testimony to this.
Double Wahala, his biggest single till date, samples ’92 Confusion Break Bones.
‘Lanre Fasasi’s music catalogue bears marking of Fela’s influence; from his ‘Jangbanjantis’, to ‘Craze World’, to’ Bushmeat’.
Before his addiction problems, the ‘Rainmaker’ had Fela’s voice and spirit in him. His blackness couldn’t be resisted.
Abami Eda’s black consciousness and love for his heritage speak in AbdulRasheed Bello’s music. Cue ‘We are Africans’.
Jay Electricity while on his Nigerian visit granted Beat FM an interview saying: “I grew up with my mum playing Fela. He also referenced the last great on Don Jazzy’s ‘Get Down’.
The Somali-born rapper did a Fela tribute mixtape- The Messengers- with producer, J. Period.
The Hip-Hop collective has referenced and sampled Fela on not a few songs. Member Black Thought rapped “Look, my squad half mandrill, half Mandela/My band ‘bout 70 strong just like Fela” on ‘Get Busy’ off ‘Rising Down’ album; they sampled Fela on ‘I Will Not Apologize’- ’75 Mr Grammarticalogylisationalism is the Boss; member ?uestlove also got inspired while producing D’Angelo’s ‘Voodoo’.
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