BY EMMANUEL DARALOYE
Fela Anikulapo Kuti passed on more than two decades ago, the musician was one of the greatest of his time, he was adjudged to have been way ahead of his time, no wonder every year, there have streams of artists posited to replace or like the new word become the “Young Fela”.
While he was alive, there were conversations on artists becoming the ‘New Fela’ although it was not as rife as now, for example, his son Femi Kuti was already penciled down as a possible replacement (When he passed On) while Fela was alive. The mask-wearing musician Lagbaja has also been posited a the new Fela during his year 2000 exploits.
In the last five years, there has been an increase in the ‘New Fela’ tag by Nigerian mainstream act who have been quick to latch on the Fela name whenever it suits them. The reasons are plethora, three stand out, Afrobeats is going global, it is staple music in the black community in the United Kingdom and some other countries. Following the success of Fela on Broadway in 2009/2010, the conversation about the icon now command the needed attention more importantly outside the country, also a lot of Nigeria artist claim to be the new Fela just to sell records, they do this when it convenient for them, when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, there is a problem.
Do you blame the artists for this, for trying to find their daily bread in a country where the average citizen survive on less than one dollar, do you blame them for exploiting the name of Fela to sell a record, for using the name when it suits the narrative they want to peddle to the media, do you blame in an industry where getting money from music is hard like Olumo rock.
Fela represents different thing to different people, to some he is a Musician, other see him as a Philosopher and Pan Africanist. When he talks, the people listen because he is well-read and knows his people, how many of these new Fela have half of this? You don’t give what you don’t have, ask them, do they even understand the concept of Pan Africanism?
Fela was arrested more than 200 times for calling for social change, I bet anyone reading this that the new Fela wannabe can’t call for change in their street. It is that bad.
A larger part of Fela’s discographies was dedicated to social activism which he considered as the greatest function of music in Africa, using his words “Music is a weapon”.
What’s the correlation between Fela and the new wannabes?
None whatsoever, they are miles apart, while Fela music calls for social change, the current musician dwells in hedonism, debauchery, the music makes you less than a man (If you don’t have self-esteem), how does an artist tells you he would collect your girl or pop some bottles of VSOP. Was that what Fela music was about?
Different generations with different realities, the current artists should strive to be themselves, rather than try to wear the ever-enlarging shoe of Abami Eda.
Emmanuel Daraloye is a music journalist and a pop culture curator.