Fela Kuti is remembered for many things, one of which was his style of using music as a form of activism.
The name ‘Fela Anikulapo-Kuti‘ means different things to different people. To his family, he is an immortalized being who created the path they would follow, to his nemesis, he was a rebel, to the international Marlet, he was a phenomenon, to music lovers, he is the pioneer of Afrobeat.
No matter the perceptive you choose to look at Fela, you can’t help but be amazed at his life. He was one man that knew how to touch the sore points of the Nigerian Government with his music.
The man warned Nigerians back then of the type of Government they had allowed to rule them. He wasn’t scared to call people he thought were robbing Nigerians.
It’s however unfortunate that twenty-three years after his death, his songs are a reflections of the current issues we face.
One of those issues, Police Brutality. Fela was a regular customer of the Nigerian Military and Police Force. If there is anyone who suffered hell in their hands, its him.
That didn’t stop him from speaking up about their misuse of authority. He made sure he mocked them every single chance he got.
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“Alagbon close” sees Fela preach about how important everyone’s path in life is but yet some people still choose to act like they are not humans and misuse the authority given to them all in the name of performing their duty. The people are men of the Nigeria Police force.
This song is perfect example of what is currently going on in the country. Police brutality is fast becoming a norm in Nigeria and those in power are silent about it.
“For Alagbon den go know say you be civil servant den go lock you for jail…Dem no get respect for human being” he sings highlighting the problem of police brutality. This again solidifies Fela’s reputation as a Prophet.
Sorrow, Tears, and Blood
Although ‘Sorrow, Tears & Blood’ was originally released in 1977 in response to the Soweto Uprising of 1976, the lyrics is still relevant in a time like this.
The lyrics went, “So policeman go slap your face, You no go talk
Army man go whip your yansh,You go they look like donkey
Rhodesia they do them own,Our leaders they yab for nothing
South Africa they do them own,Them leave sorrow, tears and blood
Them regular trademark’’.
The Military satire song, “Zombie” sees Fela taunting the Military for its robot-like nature, however, this did not go down well with them as the military laid a massive assault on Kalakuta, burning the place down and beating people including Fela.
On Zombie, Fela uses the Military quick march accompaniment, “Attention, Quick March, Slow March, Salute” while his backup singers’ replies with the taunting response, “Zombie” at each call.
In Kalakuta Show, Fela recounts a story of a Large Scale attack made on his Self-independent Kalakuta Republic on the 23rd of November 1974.
The attack which was on a smaller scale than the army assault of 18 February 1977 in which Kalakuta was burned to the ground was gruesome.
Even though Fela had erected a ten-foot-high barbed wire fence and stationed guard around the compound for protection against Police raids, it still didn’t stop 60 policemen from raiding his compound and beating him and his men.