August 2, 2018 marks the 21st anniversary of the death of Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, also professionally known as Fela Kuti.
On this day in 1997, the prominent Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre and human rights activist, passed away yet his influence on music all over the world still lives on.
His legacy in Afrobeat has set the pace for what we know Nigerian music as today, and it has become one of our biggest exports. Today, many of our most popping artists pay homage to him through their sound and style, from the likes of Wizkid, J.Cole and even Beyoncé.
We bring you some facts you thought you knew about the king of Afrobeat.
- His dad, Israel Ransome Kuti was a founding member of both the Nigerian Union of Teachers and Nigerian Union of Students.
- Fela stopped using his surname Ransome-Kuti because felt ‘Ransome’ was a slave name, so he adopted a Yoruba name Anikulapo which means “He who has death in his pocket.”
- He formed his first band Koola Lobitos in 1963 but the name was later changed to ‘The Afrika 70’ and later to ‘Egypt 80 Band.’
- When he returned to Nigeria in 1963, Fela trained with the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation as a radio producer.
- Fela is a first cousin to the Nigerian writer and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
- He formed the Movement of the People, a political party in 1979 and also sought to contest for the presidency that year but he was rejected.
- His mother Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti was instrumental to the abolition of the separate taxes for women in 1953.
- Fela set up a nightclub in the Empire Hotel, first named the Afro-Spot and then the Afrika Shrine, where he both performed regularly and officiated at personalized Yoruba traditional ceremonies in honour of his nation’s ancestral faith.
- The late Afrobeat king was banned from Ghana in 1978 after a riot broke out during his concert in Accra while he was performing the song “Zombie”.
- In 1978, Fela was named in the Guinness book of record for marrying 27 women in a single wedding ceremony.