Felaism:An Evoking Ideology
Its another year of reflection and celebration for a musical enigma,an African icon and the man who used his musical genius to awaken a whole generation's patriotic fervour and evoked our complacent sense of Pan Africanism.
I have been musing on how to adequately put this in words for a while now,partly because of the complexity and brilliance of the man and also due to the fluidity at which his ideals and ideology has evolved over the years.Even as i write this,i must admit it is still very difficult for me to put forward an all encompassing view of what he was all about, prompting me to come to a decision that i will use my own personal perspective.Yes, he was that unique and hard to put in a box even several years later.
I grew up a really shy and introverted child,earlier on in my childhood, i didnt participate in sports and its attendant pursuits.I was happiest and in my element as soon as i was given a book to read,so it was like an eye opener the first time my much elder brother and his friend took me along to meet the man that would change my whole perspective on Politics and Political ideology. My first encounter with Abami eda was when my brother and i where ushered into his presence,i beheld a man leaning back on a settee with what i though was a cigarette dangling from his lips.Male and Females in different stages of dressing and outfit lounging all about the room and outside the multi storey building in Gbemisola,truth be told i was intimidated but waited with bated breath as my brother's friends introduced us.
He must have known my dad or just one of his offhand comments, because he immediately yabbed my brother and even little me,although the overwhelming sight of the small crowd around me didnt let this register with me until much later.
In concert with my group of friends that we grew up together in Opebi/Allen/Gra through the influence of my brother,i began to listen to Fela's music ,however my full conversion didnt come about until i listened to and was blown away with "Beast of No Nation" and "Lady"even if i could not understand the deep Political and spiritual messages those songs were conveying fully,me and my friends began to sneak out of the house to go see Fela in shrine,even on school weekdays for comprehensive night.An equally young Seun's unique but honest rendition of Lady and Dede's vibrant and melodious version of PALAVA AND WATER when he opens for Baba are memories i would forever cherish.Ever since that time,i have been an avowed and unapologetic Devotee of the great man's music,his Political,moral ideals and convictions and the principles he stood for all through his life.
I will not go into his music,as that is not the purpose of this write up,what are the core ideals he stood for,several years after his demise?
How has his ideals shaped not just those who believed in him and followed his music but Nigeria and Africa and beyond?
For a proper appreciation of this dynamic and truly charismatic man,one must look at his ideals,then later on use that as a stencil to trace the progression of his music to appreciate his real ingenuity and thought process.Like the western media has made us understand, only a bonafide A lister in the show business can lay claim to being Truly Mononymous names as acronym,if we were to strictly go by this then the man 'FELA',the enigma will be rated high amongst the worlds great like CHER,BONO,PRINCE,MADONA e.t.c
Even though he had a privileged background,which he never let the late M.K.O forget to his constant anger and irritation lol (as he was wont to borrow fela's books while in school as he could not afford them while growing up) in addittion went to ivy league schools,nevertheless he turned his back on all this to take up activism, before it became cool and profitable to be an activist.He became an activist before the advent of facebook,twitter, ipad and imacs which are now the veritable tools of modern day activists.
He inconvenienced himself and his musical career, progression for activism,he put himself and his family in peril and went through immense suffering,all due to his radical ideology in the Fundamental rights of an individual and Egalitarian ideals.It is somewhat contradictory though that while he constantly stood for the same ideals as what Neo Liberals and African/Nigerian Politicians promise voters during campaigns ,he disagreed with the deceit,hypocricy otright lies and Politricks which can be heard in Beast of No Nation, amongst several others,thus is the deep and compelling clash in ideals and contradiction.
Fela's ideology was simple or complex depending on your approach and depth of understanding,i say this because while some see him as a Prophet who was ahead of his time,some still see him as a drugged up man who was simply an irritant and negative influence.Whichever way you view him,the influence his name,music and personality has been able to garner almost 20 years later is his ultimate vindication.This is without highlighting the credit of having two immensely talented sons who are not just flying the Afro beat flag,but still playing sell out tours the world over doing their own brand and interpretation of Afro beat and at the same time propagating their father's legacy and ideals.
We have often heard our Nigerian Politicians make reference to themselves as either Awoists,or Zikist, they make such refference to themselves not only as a follower of these great men's ideals but also an implicit believer in their guiding ideologies.I have always taken an intellectual departure from this school of though,not because i do not respect what these people have achieved,but because i cant really see myself identifying with them or what they stood for.While their place in history can never be denied or discountenanced, i believe strongly that they are firmly enshrined in my past and sense of history but not in my guiding ideals or Political influences which has shaped me as an individual.
My believe and guiding ideology is as simple yet complex as that which the man himself stood for in his lifetime,i reffer to myself as a "FELAIST" and practise an ideology i have coined as FELAISM.Some are already confused,irritated or perplexed based on their understanding of the man, pls let me explain myself.
First,Fela implicitly believed in the concept of equality irrespective of one's age,religion,gender.He was an example of this creed which his children,family members and followers will bear witness to that he was never called daddy,master or any of the generic titles used by the averageNigerian big man. All through his life time,he compelled his children from the youngest to the oldest to call him by his name FELA, he was called by name not just by his children and immediate family but by his followers,employees and even hangers on.He could have lived his life in comfort and opulence but due to this concept of frugal equality he lived exactly as every other person in his life lived, no employee no matter of low in hierachy or even hangers on lived a lower quality of life than the man himself lived.
Second,Fela was an avowed Pan Africanist to the core,even though he was born trained and schooled in the British western way of life both while in Africa and abroad,as soon as he discovered his real purpose in life through the guidance and influence of his muse and friend in the United states,there was no looking back.He did not only change his whole way of life,he changed his ideologies and how he approached and dealt with westerners.This was at a time when the average African, blacks were still suffering the enduring residue of colonialism/slavery hence still viewed the average white man as superior to them.Rumour has it that Fela was Island records main interest when they were seeking to promote and push an indigenous African artiste onto the world stage,however due to his uncompromising beliefs which they saw as potentially jarring Anti-western and could affect business long term, Bob Marley was chosen.This never slowed him down nor even affected him in any way.A man who totally discouraged spraying of money on him and embarassed Bash Ali (THE WORLD CHAMPION BOXER) because he was spraying dollar bills on him,a man who told a white man to move his camera and equipment from the unoccupied chair for his fans to sit down,never mind the fact that the said man had come all the way to do a documentary on Fela.
Third Fela totally and unequivocally hated and stood firmly against oppression, corruption and theft of any kind shape or form.It is laughable that while the Political class were pouring vitriol on him and casting him in a negative light as promoting and infusing negative values amongst Nigerian youths,they conveniently forgot to navigate nor address their own issues which is in his own words he represented via an enduring quote "STEALING BY GOVERNMENT" or Political Corruption.This stance of his not only led to the castigation in the press,it also led to his compound "KALAKUTA REPUBLIC" being raided by the duo of OBJ-DANJUMA sanctioned "UNKNOWN SOLDIERS",properties worth millions were destroyed,women raped and what really got to him was the pushing of his old mother from a storey building, an icon in her own right ,which invariably led to the untimely passing of the iconic Feminist and crusader Mrs Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti.A listen to "Unknown Soldier" vividly captures his pain and anguish at the state sponsored murder of his mother.
He was summarily jailed,whipped and harrassed thereafter all due to his uncompromising stance against corruption and all the vices therein.Yet he never capitulated for a second but influenced the most radical set of ALUTA GENERATION amongst Nigerian students of the 1980s and 1990s.
Fourth,even though Fela was a Yoruba by birth he not only welcomed every single tribe into his household,he treated everybody without any tribal or religious distinction.He gave his all but most importantly a sense of belonging which has prompted followers and adherents across tribes and religious persuations to regard him as "BABA" which in Yoruba Language means "Father" or you simply called him "FELA" . No matter your tribe,sexual preference,age,religious beliefs if you were a runaway,or in need of shelter or protection just like an embassy or foreign mission, walking into FELA'S compound will guarantee you shelter and feeding and basic employment with pay. Many instrumentalists,artistes and several others who learnt at the feet of FELA arrived in his compound at a vulnerable time of want but he treated them like his own and imparted a lot into their life.
Several years after Fela's untimely passing,the tables have turned full circle,those who have been casting aspersions on him pouring scorn on his base convictions now interject their speeches with copious Quotes from His music.The man Nigerians love to hate and never appreciated is now being celebrated and feted abroad by Mega stars who not only admire him,but his ideals and Personality.
At the height of shocking hypocrisy,the same man we labelled and called all sorts of names we all trooped out to pay in dollars and to watch his life potrayed in a musical because outsiders admire and celebrate him the sad conundrum confronting Africans/Nigerians.The very man we Nigerians condemned his lifestyle and everything he stood for,we now shout and struggle to identify with all over the world,anytime he is mentioned the life we scorned is being feted and celebrated.
Some of the ideals which Fela stood for over the years have evaporated in our society and we are now suffering for it,it is a moot point to catalogue the devastating effects of corruption and unequality in our society,we can see how Neo liberal Anti African ideals which he sang against have served to perpetually keep us in a state of poverty and want,one does not even need to highlight how devastating corruption has been in the society.
Boko Haram and the Comedy of the Absurd we are being daily entertained with by Nigerian Politicians resoundingly highlights what FELA sang about in zombie and other songs,we can candidly see how religious leaders have represented us,including their morally curious and amorphous relationship with Policital Elites.
For an altruistic leader and father to all,a self effacing man even at the height of his world wide influence to still being celebrated years, later speaks to how much of a ripple effect his ideals continue to have,not just on one generation but several generations after his death.
He was not only fearless in the strenght of his convictions,he was primordial and radical in his though process.The result of this is visibly evident in his children,not only are they humble and approachable they have imbibed their father's core ideals and continue to unashamedly soldier on,they constantly and continually preach the gospel of FELAISM,not being hypocrites they also live and practise the ideals of the man.
Little wonder then that rather than believers in Fela's ideals to reduce at his death,it has continued to grow exponentially in leaps and bounds.
The good news is that his ideals are undergoing another revival and re emergence,the present generation most of whom did not even see him alive,nevertheless are influenced by his music and ideology, not only have they supremely identified with his revolutionary spirit and music, they have owned it and adopted it as a sort of soundtrack through their life is being tele-guided,living the great man's life through his equally and supremely talented Progenys.
If you feel in need of a though provoking and stark reminder and trajectory of what we are going through both as Africans and Nigerians presently, then go listen to Femi Anikulapo Kuti's 'DEM BOBO" if you are in a happy frame of mind and need something uplifting to lighten the mood BENG,BENG, BENG is an all time evergreen,his newer release is also as poigyant and though provoking if not more in-depht than all his other works not only symbolic of the extremely mind blowing personal talents he exhudes,but also re iterates the fact that he is firmly on the ideological track laid by the departed icon.He has been able to adequately fit into the massive shoes the great man left behind. Seun Kuti who is the Junior brother but also imbibed of the Musical Genes infused into them at birth,is also adequately and comfortably holding his own world wide,his highly unique,though provoking Album IMF is scant reminder of why he is of Kuti stock.You cannot listen to the cerebral musical arrangement,beats and most importantly the message of western imperialism,even his prophetic and anguished sermonisation on all issues African/Nigerian without being spiritually stirred in your soul.His performances also always seems to unleash the true spirit of Fela which is uncanny,organic and free flowing,we are all anxiously awaiting his new album which promises to be awe inspiring,i can only wonder at what influence the next generation of Kutis will wield musically and politically.
On the whole,with the quiet but formidable mien and deeply thought provoking even poetic lyrics of Femi Kuti coupled with the junior brother Seun's fire brand and equally revolutionary and Pan Africanist personality both Politically and Musically,not forgetting the Matriach of the Kuti Family YEYE,Yeni Kuti,who not only stands as the glue that holds everybody together but the enforcer who makes sure no one steps out of the Ideological path laid down. The combination of hot and cold delivering the uncompromising ideology of FELAISM, is deadly in the accuracy and telling in devastation of the camps of Corrupt Political jobbers and leaders.
Some people have questioned what i reckon as Fela's spiritual Proprietary of the term "FELA LIVES ON" well a cursory look at the influence wielded by his Progenys world wide, and the influence they have garnered and continues to do is proof enough without accompanying evidence.One of the most poigyant prayers the Yoruba culture favours even at the birth of a new born is when you pray that the new born child/children will surpass the Parents.It is to Fela's credit that his children are already striving to surpass him both Musically and Politically.
In the state of rudderless flux the Nation appears to be drifting at the moment,a moral compass is sorely needed to navigate the Nation through it to our Political El dorado,in the absence of a superior pure and non compromising ideology, i humbly suggest we adopt FELAISM,which will not only highlight hidden potentials it will also serve to re-awaken the patriotic fervour of African and Nigerian Youths including their capacity for leadership.
FELA LIVES ON
- Previous This Woman Confessed to Selling up to 19 children to Ritualists
- Next The forgotten army of WWII: West Africa’s soldiers in Burma – exclusive video