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Re: Fela : RIP

At 1:38 AM 8/5/97, andre wrote:
>At 07:35 PM 8/4/97 -0800, you wrote:
>>I just learned that Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Nigerian musician, bandleader 
>>activist died friday in his sleep.
>oh my god!! that's quite a shock ?? how old was he ?? early/mid 50s ??
>Strange/funny - i had just just thought a lot about Fela, having NOT 
>of him in ages - but reading up on the new Eno at some website - several
>quotes from mr Eno - lauded Fela - and he said how he had TONS of his
>albums. - This caused me to think how lame i was for only having 1 or 2
>??@!!!!! But, having heard quite a few of 'em... then i actually wondered
>where he was, what doing, etc. Very strange. And sad.
He was only 58, rather surprising given how long a career he had. I'll
include an obit from the London Times at the end of this message for anyone
interested.  I got into Fela after reading about Eno raving about him in
the late 70's.

>anyone unfamiliar with this man - check it out... another GENIUS , yes, 
>comparisons to Miles, Sun Ra, etc are right on.... Talking heads from 
>in light to the next 3-4 albums would not exist without him and his
>hybrid.... there's a great album he did in like 1970 with ginger baker
>also... whew. another one gone. our counter culture is dying. we must
>preserve it.

Yeah, it does kind of make you wonder where all the true visionaries are in
the younger generations. Are we the people meant to carry on the legacies
of these musicians? Whew, that's a huge responsibility.

I have been thinking a lot about this stuff lately, excuse me if this gets
a bit overly personal and morbid. The same day I found out about Fela and
Burroughs,  a friend of mine, a woman I had gone to music school with, was
killed in a car accident. She had just found a job as a music educator,
after searching for several years, and was looking forward to finally
having a career in what she wanted to do. And all gone in an instant. I
don't mean to use this list as a therapy forum or whatever, but these
things have been on my mind lately, how incredibly fragile our existence
is, and what we have to contribute while we're here and what remains when
we're gone. In a recent Keyboard mag, Freff wrote, in his usual back page
philosophy rant, about a quote he keeps by his computer, "Procratination is
the denial of death." This phrase has been with me a lot in the last few
days, how easy it is to put off the creativity, producing the music or
whatever while just surviving, making the house payments, doing the job,

I guess the important thing is to just keep making the music, by any means
necessary, the arguments of whether what we do is ambient or what looper is
best, or the validity of live looping versus sampling become trivial in the
face of our own mortality.

Anyway, end of depressing lecture, here's the Fela obit from the London
Times. Typically, I didn't see any of this kind of coverage in the american

Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 06:57:29 -0700 (PDT)
From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org>
X-Sender: papadop@kira
Subject: London Times obit. on Fela Kuti
MIME-Version: 1.0
Sender: owner-ykboo@peak.org
Precedence: bulk

If you've heard this musician's work, you'll know something about the
man. If you havn't heard it go out and find some.

London Times   August 5 1997

                                 FELA KUTI

    Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Nigerian singer and political activist, died of
    an Aids-related illness on August 2 aged 58. He was born on October
                                 15, 1938.

   A FLAMBOYANT singer of international acclaim and an outspoken
   political opponent of successive military governments in Nigeria, Fela
   Anikulapo-Kuti mixed music with social criticism, and revelled in
   being a thorn in the side of the authorities. Known to his fans simply
   as Fela, he also won a reputation for smoking marijuana, sleeping with
   hundreds of women and dressing only in his underpants.

   As one of the earliest and most vocal post-colonial activists, he
   influenced many through his music, and in Lagos he commanded a
   militant following among the poor and dispossessed.

   He was one of five children. Their father was an Anglican cleric and
   ran a rural grammar school in Abeokuta, a small town in Ogun province,
   western Nigeria. Their mother also worked at a grammar school, and she
   was the first to sow the seeds of Fela's political activism.

   This was nurtured when he came to Britain in 1960 to study music at
   Trinity College in London, where besides singing he played the piano
   and trumpet and met his first wife, a Nigerian. His years in London
   opened his eyes to the social neglect in his native country, and when
   he returned to Nigeria in 1963 he formed the Koola Lobitos band.

   His early music was high-life jazz, and his songs were critical of the
   rich and the growing neglect of roads and other amenities. His
   political focus was sharpened in 1968 by a tour of the United States
   with his band. He met members of the Black Panther movement and was
   exposed to the writings of Malcolm X. Subsequently his music evolved
   into Afrobeat, a mix of jazz and more traditional African music, and
   his pan-Africanist advocacy shone through his lyrics.

   By the early 1970s he was on his way to stardom with records that
   pulled no punches in criticising military rule in Nigeria,
   highlighting the brutality and corruption of the country's leaders and
   singling out individuals for particular criticism. Inevitably this led
   to confrontation with the authorities, and in 1977 he had a
   spectacular clash when soldiers stormed his house in Lagos. His mother
   was thrown from a second-storey window and died six months later from
   her injuries. Fela received a severe beating that resulted in a broken
   leg and arm, leaving him unable to play the saxophone.

   His confrontation with the authorities reinforced his growing legend
   as a champion of the people and a crusader for human rights. In 1979
   he formed a political party, the Movement for the People, and he was
   urged to run for president, but the party was disqualified from
   elections. It was around this time that he persuaded his brother Beko
   Ransome Kuti, a doctor, to enter the political fray. He assisted Beko,
   who became president of the Nigerian Medical Association, to organise
   doctors' strikes, and later his brother formed the human rights
   organisation Campaign for Democracy.

   In 1981 Fela received another beating from troops using rifle butts,
   and afterwards he told family members that he felt as if his body had
   left him. Subjected to continued harassment, he was detained several
   times and imprisoned. In 1984 he was jailed for 18 months on
   trumped-up charges before being freed after the judge admitted having
   been under pressure from the State.

   His political fire dwindled in the final two years of his life, even
   though his brother Beko had been imprisoned by the military strongman
   Sani Abacha and was being kept in solitary confinement. Fela was said
   to be disillusioned because the changes he had fought so hard for had
   not materialised. He stayed mostly at his home in Ikeja, a
   working-class district in Lagos, and gave infrequent performances at
   his club, the Shrine. He would smoke marijuana on stage and the weed
   could be purchased, ready rolled, on the premises.

   Earlier this year he was held by the drugs squad, which said it hoped
   to reform his character and wean him off marijuana. There was uproar
   when he appeared on national television in handcuffs, and officials
   released him, admitting defeat.

   During his heyday Fela changed part of his family name from Ransome to
   Anikulapo, which means "one who keeps death in his pouch". He is
   survived by 27 wives and three children.

Dave Trenkel : improv@peak.org  : www.peak.org/~improv/

"...there will come a day when you won't have to use
gasoline. You'd simply take a cassette and put it in
your car, let it run. You'd have to have the proper
type of music. Like you take two sticks, put 'em
together, make fire. You take some notes and rub 'em
together - dum, dum, dum, dum - fire, cosmic fire."
                                            -Sun Ra