Born October 15, 1938, Fela’s family wanted him to become a lawyer, and in 1958 he left Nigeria for the UK, ostensibly to study law.
The trumpet was his preferred instrument.
In 1954, Kuti joined the Cool Cats (a highlife band) as a singer.
His first professional group was “The Koola Lobitos”.
In Fela’s opinion, James Brown had actually “stolen my music”.
Fela’s second group Nigeria 70, later renamed Africa 70 and finally Egypt 80, had three live sessions a week in Kakadu nightclub in Yaba.
He virtually composed his songs in public. Classics such as “Lady”, “Go-Slow”, “Water No Get Enemy”, “Chop And Quench”, “Palava” and “Shakara-Ologe” emerged to become part of the urban folklore of Lagos.
In 1974, he moved to African Shrine which was owned by Chief Kanu.
Fela was arrested and taken to the notorious Alagbon Close jail, where he was hailed as a hero by the prisoners and installed as ‘president’ of one of the toughest cells ‘Kalakuta’.
On his release he immortalised this experience in the extraordinary protest song “Kalakuta Show”, and renamed his commune the Kalakuta Republic.
His hit track, “ITT” (“International T’ief T’ief”), a 25 minute song was targeted at Chief MKO Abiola who was then ‘Vice President for Africa and the Middle East of ITT’, owners of the Decca label.
Fela’s mother, Funmilayo, who was then around 75 years old, was thrown from a first floor window by “an unknown soldier” during a second raid on his house and she died months later from complications.
Fela died on 2 August 1997, and is reported to have died of AIDS.
The immediate cause of death of Fela was heart failure, but there were many complications arising from the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome – Olikoye Ransome-Kuti
Beyonce’s fourth solo album, 4, was inspired by Fela Kuti; it included hits like “Run the world (Girls)” and “Best thing I never had”.
In November of 2009, Fela! a run on Broadway began at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. Jim Lewis helped co-write the play (along with Bill T. Jones), and obtained producer backing from Jay-Z and Will Smith, among others.
In addition, a movie by Focus Features, directed by Steve McQueen and written by Biyi Bandele about the life of Fela Kuti was rumoured to be in production 2010, with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead role, but has not eventuated.
Felabration is celebrated annually to commemorate the life and times of Nigeria’s musical legend: Fela Anikulapo Kuti.