Olufela Olusegun Ransome-Kuti: A political and musical maverick

Olufela Olusegun Ransome-Kuti, best known as Fela Anikulapo Kuti was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria into an upper-middle class family on the 15th of October, 1938. His mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement while his father, Reverend Israel Ransome-Kuti was the first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers.
Fela was sent to London in 1958 to study medicine but he decided to study music instead. He formed the band Koola Lobitos, playing a fusion of highlife and jazz. He married his first wife, Remilekun Taylor in 1960 and in 1967, he went to Ghana to think up a new musical direction after which he began calling his music Afrobeat. In 1977, Fela and his newly renamed band, Afrika’70, released the album Zombie in which they described and lampooned the methods of the Nigerian military and this album was a smash hit. Due to this, Fela suffered major losses and was severely beaten. He also formed his own political party called Movement of the People, putting himself forward for president for more than a decade but his candidature was refused. Fela was announced dead on the 3rd of Augur, 1997 from Kaposi sarcoma brought on by AIDS. Rumor had it that Fela had refused treatment before his death.
Fela’s life as a person, a musician and as an activist can’t be easily described or summarized but he managed to combine them and the product was his eccentric character. Though I believe the spirit of activism runs in the blood of the Kutis; Fela was a first cousin to the Nigerian writer and Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka. Fela’s music was a complex fusion of Jazz, Funk, Highlife, Psychedelic Rock and traditional African chants and rhythms. His music had this head-bobbing, powerful, funky feeling to it as well as simple but hard hitting lyrics. Yes, he exhibited some….weird traits but never failed in the area of speaking up his mind. He was quick to judge the irrational decisions taken by the government.
In other words, He used a very simple style, music, to fight for what he believed and simply spoke the truth. Fela is dead but his legacy lives on. After all he did say “I no be gentleman at all..”


6 thoughts on “Olufela Olusegun Ransome-Kuti: A political and musical maverick

  1. FELA!!..I remember his ZOMBIE song..(laughs)…that guy really got into trouble with the millitary…FELA,may your “trouble-trouble” soul rest in perfect peace

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