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Fela Kuti
Feb 13 2021

#RockHall2021 Nominees

Fela
Kuti

Multi-instrumentalist and  Afrobeat  pioneer  Fela  Anikulapo  Kuti  (born  Olufela  Olusegun  Oludoton  Ransome  Kuti) fused music and politics to become a singular global revolutionary voice.  Fela  was born in 1938 into a politically active and musical Nigerian family: his father founded the Nigeria Union of Teachers and had a passion for piano, and his mother was known for her anti-colonial, Nigerian home rule movement advocacy. In 1961, while studying music in London,  Fela  formed his first band,  Koola  Lobitos,  and quickly became a fixture on the London club scene. He later toured the United States, where he was influenced by soul and funk legends James Brown and Sly Stone. Reflecting the musical and cultural flavors of Africa and Black America’s Civil Rights Movement,  Fela  fused elements of traditional West African highlife, jazz, and soul music and dubbed this rhythmic hybrid  “Afrobeat.”  

 

Throughout his career,  Fela  showcased his love for jazz and soul on hits like “Water Get No Enemy,” “Expensive Shit,” and “Beasts of No Nation.” It was with the album  Alagbon  Close (1974) that  Fela  addressed the ills of the Nigerian government openly in his music. His revolutionary Pan African ideology was even depicted in his album covers,  and he focused his music on provoking political change. Although vilified by the press and jailed for his anti-corruption stance,  Fela  was celebrated as  a  hero in Africa,  and that soon stretched to a global reach.   

 

“As an artist, the whole idea about your environment must be represented in music,” Fela  said. “So, I think, as far as Africa is concerned … music has to be for revolution.” Even 24 years after his death in 1997,  Fela  Kuti’s  innovative music, revolutionary message,  and generational impact continue to represent the indomitable and evolving spirit of rock & roll.  

Nominee: Fela Kuti

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