Few people in the history of Nigeria have had the power to expose the innate, unrelenting, and abiding corruption in the marrow of Nigerian leaders as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Fela—who needs no introduction, no reference, no subtext—lives on in the psyche of the people, in their fashion, in their musical aspirations, in their poetry, in their anger, in their hope. This week, Felabration begun, marking its nineteenth year celebrating the life, legacy, and significance of Fela.
Fela was an intellectual, who thought very hard about matters of culture. He was part of the Nigerian national participation committee for FESTAC 77. Like his father, who was one of the founders of the National Union of Teachers; and his mother, a great feminist who represented women in the negotiations that led to independence, Fela was also a great public intellectual. He had a strong liking for public debate, with a desire to get people thinking and moving to improve their conditions. His ‘Yabis Night’ at the shrine illustrated his strong liking for debate and exposition of the intellectual basis of his beliefs.
The idea for Felabration was conceived in 1998 by his eldest child, Yeni Anikulapo-Kuti. The idea was to create a week of festivities in which people could celebrate Fela, his ideas, his beliefs, and debate pressing issues that Fela often harped on in his music. Felabration holds once a year during the week of Felas birthday. Fela would often joke that if anything required serious exposition, that it was a topic for symposium debate. This year, Felabration started off with a symposium on Monday, October 10. The theme – “Movement Against Second Slavery” was a call to Nigerians to work against living in a state of slavery, especially in their thoughts and outlook. Prof. Sophie Oluwole moderated the symposium. The speakers included House Leader of Nigeria’s 8th House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Adebola Williams, Lemi Ghariokwu, and Affiong L. Affiong.The theme for Felabration this year is “everybody say yeah yeah.” This, according to his daughter Yeni Anikulapo-Kuti, is a worldwide call for peace and unity. This phrase was a call Fela often used at his shows to interact with his audience. This theme resonates particularly well in the current climate of the world; with an increasing awareness of war, its effects on the world, on populations, and on the future, the call for worldwide peace and unity is timely and necessary. The past themes of Felabration speak to the socio-political awareness of members of the Felabration committee. Each year of Felabration has seen relevant themes such as ‘Viva Africa’, which celebrated Africa; ‘Buy Africa’, a rallying call to support African businesses; ‘Movement of the People’, an acknowledgement and encouragement to the people to keep moving forward. Felabration has shown itself to be more than just a festival of music and art; it has proven to be a powerful voice in uplifting Africa, encouraging black pride and proclaiming that black lives matter. Fela often spoke and sang about the suffering of the common man, of the black man, of the poor. He would have been extremely proud to see that one of his favourite phrases is the theme for this year. Felabration has become a premier festival for artists and musicians worldwide, looking forward to paying homage, as well as carrying on Fela’s legacy. If you have never made it to any Felabration, it’s imperative you attend any of the events slated for the rest of the week at New Africa Shrine, Freedom Park, Radisson Blu, Studio of Mode, Kalakuta Museum, and several other venues. A full list of events is available on the official Felabration website- www.felabration.net.