Fela Kuti Biography, Career, Wives, Family, Politics, Death, Networth
Who is Fela?
Fela Anikulapo Kuti, often referred to simply as Fela Kuti or Fela, was a Nigerian musician, composer, political activist, and pioneer of the Afrobeat genre. He was born on October 15, 1938, in Abeokuta, Nigeria, and passed away on August 2, 1997, in Lagos, Nigeria.
Fela Kuti’s early musical influences came from his parents. His father, Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, was a Protestant minister and a school principal, while his mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a feminist activist. Fela initially studied classical piano and later attended the Trinity College of Music in London. However, he was drawn more to the vibrant music scenes in London, particularly jazz and highlife.
After returning to Nigeria in the 1960s, Fela formed his band, Koola Lobitos, which later evolved into Africa ’70. Combining his diverse musical influences, Fela developed a unique sound that fused traditional African rhythms, jazz, funk, and highlife. This new genre, which he named “Afrobeat,” became his musical trademark.
Fela Kuti’s music was not only known for its infectious grooves but also for its strong political and social messages. His lyrics addressed issues such as government corruption, social inequality, and the mistreatment of ordinary Nigerians. Fela used his music as a medium for activism, advocating for the rights and liberation of the Nigerian people.
His songs often ran for extended durations, allowing for intricate instrumental sections and improvisation. Fela’s performances were legendary, featuring energetic dance routines, elaborate costumes, and the use of African traditions like call-and-response vocals and the Yoruba language.
Fela’s music and activism made him a target of the Nigerian government. In 1977, during a raid on his commune, Kalakuta Republic, Fela was severely beaten, and his mother was thrown out of a window, which led to her death. Undeterred, Fela continued to speak out against oppression and corruption.
In addition to his music, Fela Kuti founded a political movement called the Movement of the People (MOP), which aimed to challenge the existing Nigerian political system. He also established his own independent record label, known as Kalakuta Records.
Fela’s influence extended far beyond Nigeria. He toured extensively, gaining a dedicated international following. His music resonated with people worldwide, and he became an inspiration for artists across various genres.
Fela Kuti’s legacy lives on even after his death. His music continues to inspire generations of musicians, and his socio-political impact remains significant. In 2018, the critically acclaimed Broadway musical “Fela!” portrayed his life and music to a wider audience, bringing further attention to his extraordinary contributions.
Fela Kuti’s uncompromising spirit, musical genius, and unwavering commitment to justice have solidified his status as one of Africa’s most iconic and influential musicians.
Fela Kuti had a complex personal life and was known for his polygamous relationships. Throughout his lifetime, he married multiple women. Here are some of Fela Kuti’s wives:
- Remilekun “Remi” Taylor: Remi Taylor was Fela’s first wife. They got married in 1960 and had three children together. Remi was a civil rights activist and played a significant role in supporting Fela’s music and activism.
- Laide “Lama” Anikulapo-Kuti: Laide Anikulapo-Kuti, also known as Lama, was another of Fela’s wives. She was a dancer and a member of Fela’s band. They had one child together.
- Fehintola Anikulapo-Kuti: Fehintola Anikulapo-Kuti, also known as Remi’s sister, was married to Fela Kuti. They had one child together.
- Naa Lamiley Oshunbumi: Naa Lamiley Oshunbumi, also known as Naa Lamiley Labinjo, was one of Fela’s wives. She was a dancer and choreographer and performed with Fela’s band. They had two children together.
- Seun Kuti’s Mother: Fela had a relationship with a woman whose identity is not widely known, but she is the mother of his son, Seun Kuti. Seun Kuti has followed in his father’s footsteps and is a musician and activist in his own right.
These are some of the known wives and partners of Fela Kuti. It’s worth noting that Fela’s polygamous relationships were a part of his lifestyle and beliefs, influenced by African traditions and his own personal choices.
Fela Kuti was a highly controversial figure, and throughout his life, he found himself at the center of several controversies. Here are some of the notable controversies surrounding Fela Kuti:
- Political Activism: Fela was a staunch critic of the Nigerian government and openly challenged its corruption, repression, and human rights abuses through his music and activism. He composed songs with explicit lyrics criticizing government officials, which often led to confrontations and clashes with authorities.
- Kalakuta Republic Raid: In 1977, the Nigerian government launched a raid on Fela’s commune, known as the Kalakuta Republic. The raid was a response to Fela’s growing influence and his vocal opposition to the government. During the raid, Fela and his entourage were subjected to severe beatings, his property was destroyed, and his mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was thrown out of a window, resulting in her death.
- Legal Troubles: Fela faced numerous legal battles throughout his life. He was arrested multiple times on various charges, including drug possession, currency smuggling, and trumped-up charges of murder. Fela often claimed that these arrests were politically motivated attempts to silence him.
- Controversial Lifestyle: Fela’s personal life and lifestyle were often considered controversial. He openly embraced polygamy and had multiple wives, which was a source of both admiration and criticism. His commune, the Kalakuta Republic, was known for its unconventional practices and lifestyle, including marijuana use and free-spirited communal living.
- Views on Homosexuality: Fela’s views on homosexuality have been a subject of controversy. He expressed homophobic sentiments in some of his interviews and songs, which has drawn criticism from LGBTQ+ activists and advocates.
Despite these controversies, Fela Kuti remains an iconic figure in Nigerian and global music. He is widely celebrated for his musical genius, his fearless activism, and his contributions to the development of Afrobeat. Fela’s legacy extends beyond the controversies surrounding his life, as he continues to inspire musicians and activists fighting for social justice and political change.
Fela Kuti passed away on August 2, 1997, in Lagos, Nigeria, at the age of 58. His death was a result of complications from AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). Fela had been battling the disease for some time before his passing.
Fela’s death was a significant loss for Nigeria and the music world. He left behind a powerful musical and political legacy that continues to influence artists and activists to this day. His funeral was attended by thousands of grieving fans and supporters who celebrated his life and mourned his passing.
After his death, Fela’s children, especially his son Femi Kuti and his son Seun Kuti, have carried on his musical and activist traditions. They have continued to spread Fela’s messages through their own music, advocating for social change and speaking out against political injustices.
Fela Kuti’s impact on music, his fearless criticism of the Nigerian government, and his championing of human rights made him an enduring figure whose legacy continues to resonate with people worldwide. His music and ideology continue to inspire generations and remind us of the power of art to challenge and provoke change.
Fela Kuti’s net worth at the time of his death in 1997 is difficult to determine with precision. Fela was known for his uncompromising stance against commercialism and wealth accumulation. He believed in using his music and resources for political and social causes rather than personal financial gain. Consequently, he lived a modest lifestyle despite his significant influence and popularity.
During his career, Fela faced various legal battles, raids on his property, and financial challenges due to his outspoken activism. These factors, combined with his disdain for mainstream success and commercialization, suggest that he did not amass a substantial personal fortune.
It’s worth noting that after his death, Fela’s music gained even more recognition and popularity, leading to increased revenue for his estate. However, specific figures regarding his net worth are not widely available or reliable.
Ultimately, Fela Kuti’s legacy lies in his musical and political contributions, rather than his financial status. He continues to be celebrated for his artistic genius, activism, and his significant impact on the music landscape, particularly the development of Afrobeat.