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For Femi Kuti… tough push to limelight



I WAS going through my old album and musical video collections, when I came across the musical video of Femi Kuti, which was released in 1989. I re-played the musical video and I instantly, went into retrospection.

I recalled the last time I watched same musical video being played on the television set and what happened in it. In the video, where a light complexioned young man was gesturing widely at his dancers for a back-up chorus, “No cause for alarm”, although by then, Nigeria’s low development status actually called for alarm. His name occasionally flashed on the screen.

“who is he?” Some people I was watching the television with asked. That was in 1989.  Today, no one dares ask such a question.

Today, 57 years-old Femi Kuti, for he was born in 1962, has shrugged off the toga of obscurity, he is no longer known only as Femi, the son of the late Afrobeat music legend, Fela Anikulapa-kuti, because he has carved a niche for himself in the afrobeat music industry.

Femi Kuti has arrived as a talented international music crooner and like his late father, a social crusader of repute.

According to Modupe Ogunbayo, it was not surprising that Femi Kuti rose to be a leader in the music world; because, the amazing trait of being exceptional runs in his lineage. His grandparent, late Rev. and Mrs I.O. Ransome Kuti, were among the earliest nationalists of Nigeria.

By then, while  Reverend I.O. Ransome Kuti or “Dawodu” as the gentleman in shepherds clothing was fondly called by his admirers, was busy challenging the colonialists on the educational content of Nigerian schools, Olufummilayo Ransome-Kuti, the first Nigerian woman to drive a car, was in the forefront of the crusade for the banishment of Ademola II,

then Alake of Egbaland, for imposition of taxes on women, a replica of the Aba women riot of 1929, led by late Magret Ekpo. Apart from his crusade against the whitemen, ‘Dawodu’ also displayed his artistic bent by composing the Egba National Anthem, an important cultural aspect of the Egbas in Ogun State.

Late Fela Anikulapo-kuti (aka “Abamida”), his son, later-on in life gave his father’s artistic inclination, greater emphasis. Audacious enough to change his course of study from law to music in England, he progressively rose above his parents’ outrage to become a global music icon.

The scenario was later to repeat itself. Femi Kuti was also attracted to music. Characteristic of a born leader determined to pursue his vision of achieving greatness, he discovered painfully that he had to sacrifice the quest and ambition for higher education when the desire and pull for music took the upper hand and was almost irresistible.

Femi shares many similarities and characteristics with the late father, Fela. he sings Afrobeat in pidgin English, a deliberate effort to reach the masses of the people who are comfortable with that medium of communication.

They both bare their upper body and wear only trousers made from local fabrics. Later in life, Fela, chose to appear on stage with only his under-garments. Back-up-singers for both double also as sniggers.

The skimply clad dancers, bedecked in African beads and ornamentation, somehow, are personally connected with both musicians. Apart from his legitimate wife and Femi’s mother, Remi, Fala was married to his 27 dancers in one day. Femi, though, has one wife, Funke, who also doubles as a dancer in Femi’s band.

Both father and son have shown on and off stage their Pan African credentials. They believed in lifting the integrity of the African race in diaspora; re-awakening their consciousness in the face of tyranny and exploitation and propagating the need for Africa to unit.

This consciousness was also reflected in the titles and lyrics of their songs. To make the struggle multi-dimensional, Femi, founded the Movement Against Second Slavery (MASS), which focused on the enlightenment of Africa through her youths

, especially those in institutions of higher learning on positive attitudes. MASS, was, however, disbanded, when Femi, later realised and or discovered that the managers of the project were deviating from the original script, objectives and aims of the organisation.

Femi Kuti has spent about 30 years in the music industry, spanning from 1989 till date, during which he has released many albums  that include his debut “No cause for alarm”, “Mind Your Own Business”, “Wonder-Wonder”, “Shoki-Shoki,” etc.

This Afrobeat music icon reached his tempo when he released, “Bang, Bang, Bang”, into the music rack. It was then that music buffs generally agreed that he has arrived the music scene with a bang.

No doubt, it was Femi’s musical breakthrough, for the album won three Kora awards, which is Africa’s supreme and most prestigious musical awards in 2002; the album also earned him a Grammy Award nomination in 2003; and since then there is no holding this musical genius back as he has continued thrilling his fans with various scintillating and electrifying albums.

Femi without over stating the obvious has gotten his fare share of international exposure. He has appeared on BBC’s Hard Talk; He is an UN ambassador on the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Nigeria and Africa. Besides, Femi was one of the entertainers at the completion of the maiden edition of Big Brother Africa, a reality television programme.

The French cultural arm also invites Femi Kuti to play on special occasions. At his last American musical tour, more than a hundred thousand fans gave him a standing ovation in Hollywood, capital of perfection in music and movies in the whole world.

All these achievements attest to Femi’s emergence as a leader in his own right, which has enabled him to put Nigeria on the world’s music geography and map.

Typical of a person with boundless passion, hardwork and stubborn determination to succeed, Femi has risen and is still rising. Though Femi Kuti does not relish the incessant comparison between him and his late father, Fela, he acknowledges his influence as a father and music idol,

but, he is always quick to point out that Fela was a legend that is unrivalled by anyone, himself inclusive, hence, he chose like a born leader to chart his own course in life when he realised this fact.

That is why today, at the New African Shrine in Alausa, Lagos, “no more kalakuta village” according to his late father, Fela, Femi, unlike his late father, through a harmonised heavy percussion, rhythm of drums, trumpets and saxophone, elaborates on his own pattern of philosophy of pan Africanism.

Femi sings, speaks, dances, he plays the saxophone, delivering both pleasure and politics to a rapturous audience that often includes people of various nationalities. He has an excellent organisational ability, one that enables him to take his music, his band, his entertainment, his business, to a new level of professional efficiency.

Today, Femi Kuti, the Afrobeat music crooner, from the legendary Ransome-Kuti dynasty, first son of the late Afrobeat music founder and legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, remains a source of inspiration to youths who view his success as a guarantee of their own eventual success if they work hard as he does. And that’s why, no one dares ask anyone and or anymore “who is he?”

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