LAGOS, Nigeria – Nigeria celebrated the memory of late Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti this past week as his family put on a series of concerts featuring singers and artists channeling his funky style.
Felabration, as the concert series is known, began with the opening of the Kalakuta Museum, which offers a glimpse of how Fela lived in his former home. Thousands came to the New Afrika Shrine, the performance hall where his son Femi Kuti performs each week.
Through the haze of marijuana smoke, top artists in Nigeria, including Asa and Tiwa Savage, performed on stage. Most raised their fists above their heads, mirroring the famous image of the singer who called for pan-Africanism and human rights in his country when many were cowed into silence by a string of military rulers.
Fela created Afrobeat in the late 1960s, mixing the rhythm of jazz, the catchiness of pop music and traditions of African mysticism into 10-minute-long songs riffing on politics and sex in a nation only recently freed from colonialism. Many in Nigeria, at times a very religious and conservative nation, largely shied away from Fela over his heavily publicized sexual appetite and marijuana use. However, the singer has received more attention in recent years following a smash Broadway musical about his life.
Fela died in 1997 of complications brought on by AIDS.