M.anifest’s yet-to-be-released EP, Apae: The Price of Free, is clearly shaping up to be a surefire hit. Following up on July’s fantastic Ebei: Dream Killers, the latest single from the Ghanaian spitter’s upcoming hip hop project is the jazz-infused Someway Bi — a perhaps unintended homage to Fela Kuti’s legendary Afrobeat genre. Delivered in his all-too-familiar (but not at all mind-numbing) laidback style, the Accra native’s signature whip-smart quips are as sharp as ever on this feel-good Yung Fly production. Replay, maybe?
Around noon on Friday, February 18, 1977, about a thousand heavily armed government troops stormed the Kalakuta Republic, Afrobeat pioneer and outspoken human rights activist Fela Kuti’s residence at 14, Agege Motor Road, Idi-Oro, Mushin, Lagos.
After a fifteen-hour siege in which mortars were presumably fired, the building was in flames, women had been raped and Fela’s mother, women’s rights activist Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was badly injured after being thrown out a second-floor window along with her son. Mrs. Ransome-Kuti later lapsed into a coma in which she remained till her death on April 13, 1978.
Since rebuilt, the Kalakuta Republic was converted to a museum by the government of Lagos in 2012. Head below to see pre-1977 photos (courtesy of The Nigerian Nostalgia Project) of Fela, his wives and dancers as well as a clip from Music Is My Weapon, the 1982 documentary on the legend. Also, stream Zombie, the anti-government song released shortly before the irate Olusegun Obasanjo-led military regime ordered the vicious attack on Kalakuta.
Fela Kuti was a one-man revolution, the irreverent antithesis of the corruption that was fast gaining ground in Nigerian government during his time. He wasn’t the best vocalist, true, but Fela’s powerful, irrepressible lyrics as well as his intelligent fusion of jazz and tribal sounds into the universally acclaimed genre known as Afrobeat remain untouchable twenty-six years after his passing.
High definition footage of Fela’s impassioned live performances are not anywhere online, but here’s the next best thing: a clear 18-minute video shot at the 1978 Berlin Jazz Festival. This performance of the bitingly critical song, Power Show captures the essence of Fela, his music and his purpose.
Filmmaker Ishaya Bako sure has the Nigerian government in a tizzy. That’s because Bako has, with his documentary, Fuelling Poverty, kicked open a large can of worms. Crammed full of revelations about the inhuman underhandedness that led up to the massive Occupy Nigeria protests of January 2012 (and a cinematic account of the nationwide remonstrances), the sub-30-minute visual tell-all is President Goodluck Jonathan’s worst nightmare, captured on film in vivid colour.
From its rousing soundtrack featuring songs by Afrobeat legend Femi Kuti and singer-songwriter Asa, to the powerful deliberateness of the footage employed, there is no room for anyone to doubt that this is the story of Nigeria’s great fuel subsidy whooper, the story of the man on the street, and an artful stripping away of the coat of arms-emblazoned sheets that have long masked corruption in this once-great country. The truth couldn’t have been told any better.
P.S. A collaboration between writer/director Ishaya Bako and producer Oliver Aleogena, production of Fuelling Poverty was funded by The Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA). According to this report, the documentary has been banned by Nigeria’s federal government and Bako has been placed under security surveillance.
Afrobeat legend and human rights activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti loved his weed. And his briefs (if you can call them that). And his women. Check out photos of the ‘queens’ who stood by him over the many turbulent years at his infamous Shrine (now a museum), courtesy of The Nigerian Nostalgia Project.