The Ransome-Kuti’s ancestral home in the state’s capital of Abeokuta will be turned into a museum, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun,
“We have always said that one of the important assets we have is our cultural heritage, our history and this project, which is going to immortalise the Ransome-Kuti family, is laudable and admirable,” Lai Mohammed told Punch.
“The family, as you know, represent different things to different people, whether you talk about education, emancipation, music or entertainment. Therefore, this attempt by the government at immortalising the family by preserving and restoring the ancestral home is very commendable.”
The new museum will be called the Heritage Museum and is set to open next year.
Governor Amosun added that “the Kuti family is one of those illustrious families that conquered the world, not only Ogun Sate or Abeokuta or Nigeria . Indeed, at times when I am away in the US and I take a cab, the music I hear is that of great Fela himself.”
Interesting Facts About Fela Kuti the Afrobeat Originator
- “Fela was far ahead of his time. For us, it will be in our interest to let people know his origin, his root,” he told Punch.
- Fela was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti on 15 October 1938 inAbeokuta, Ogun State,
- His mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement
- His father, Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, an Anglican minister, and school principal was the first president of the Nigeria Union of Teachers.
- 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 was arrested 200 times and endured numerous beatings, but continued to write political lyrics, producing albums before he died on August 2, 1997, in Lagos.
- He attended the Abeokuta Grammar School in Abeokuta and later he was sent to London in 1958 to study medicine but decided to study music instead at the Trinity College of Music.
- The trumpet was his preferred instrument
- Fela married his first wife, Remilekun Taylor, with whom he had three children (Femi, Yeni, and Sola).
- In 1963, Fela moved back to Nigeria and trained as a radio producer for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation.
- In 1967, he went to Ghana to think up a new musical direction
- He first called his music Afrobeat In 1969.
- He then formed the Kalakuta Republic, a commune, a recording studio, and a home for the many people connected to the band that he later declared independent from the Nigerian state.
- 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.
- He changed his middle name to Anikulapo (meaning “He who carries death in his pouch”, with the interpretation: “I will be the master of my own destiny and will decide when it is time for death to take me”).
- In 1978, Kuti married 27 women in a single wedding ceremony. He would eventually divorce them all. In the documentary Finding Fela, he explained the decision: “I wanted it to be meaningful … to have a meaningful life. Tradition expects me to marry 27 women.”
It’s almost impossible to overstate the impact and importance of Fela Anikulapo (Ransome) Kuti (or just Fela as he’s more commonly known) to the global musical village: producer, arranger, musician, political radical, outlaw. He was all that, as well as showman par excellence, inventor of Afro-beat, an unredeemable sexist, and a moody megalomaniac. His death on August 3, 1997 of complications from AIDS deeply affected musicians and fans internationally, as a musical and sociopolitical voice on a par with Bob Marley was silenced. A press release from the United Democratic Front of Nigeria on the occasion of Fela’s death noted: “Those who knew you well were insistent that you could never compromise with the evil you had fought all your life. Even though made weak by time and fate, you remained strong in will and never abandoned your goal of a free, democratic, socialist Africa.” This is as succinct a summation of Fela’s political agenda as one is likely to find.
Born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, north of Lagos in 1938, Fela’s family was firmly middle class as well as politically active. His father was a pastor (and talented pianist), his mother active in the anti-colonial, anti-military, Nigerian home rule movement. So at an early age, Fela experienced politics and music in a seamless combination. His parents, however, were less interested in his becoming a musician and more interested in his becoming a doctor, so they packed him off to London in 1958 for what they assumed would be a medical education; instead, Fela registered at Trinity College’s school of music. Tired of studying European composers, Fela formed his first band, Koola Lobitos, in 1961, and quickly became a fixture on the London club scene.
He returned to Nigeria in 1963 and started another version of Koola Lobitos that was more influenced by the James Brown-style singing of Geraldo Pina from Sierra Leone. Combining this with elements of traditional high life and jazz, Fela dubbed this intensely rhythmic hybrid “Afro-beat,” partly as critique of African performers whom he felt had turned their backs on their African musical roots in order to emulate current American pop music trends.
At his death from an Aids-related illness at the age of 58 in 1997 Fela left behind seven children, 50-odd albums and a musical legacy that has been kept fiercely alive by his sons Femi and Seun, and by his erstwhile drummer Tony Allen, who last month celebrated his 70th birthday with an all-star concert in London. Belatedly, Afrobeat has become a cause célèbre among young European and American music fans.
Yet the most surprising aspect of Fela’s afterlife arrived two years back when the biographical musical Fela! became the unexpected toast first of off-Broadway and then Broadway itself, garnering rave reviews and a string of awards. Never able to conquer the United States while alive, Fela Kuti had finally been taken to its cultural heart, captivating a new generation of black luminaries such as Jay-Z (one of the show’s co-producers) and Alicia Keys. Next month the production opens at London’s National theatre, with African-American actor Sahr Ngaujah alternating in the lead role with Britain’s Rolan Bell.