Afrobeat Culture Federator

FELA SPEAKS : PART 3

Friday 20 May 2011 by Mabinuori Idowu (aka ID)

Yabbis the Pidgin-English word coined from the verb “to yap at” is the center-piece of the third part of our Fela Speaks. To those who had the opportunity to participate in the Yabbis sessions in the Africa Shrine, here is a little gift to quench your nostalgia and to those of you out there who are just discovering ‘The Chief Priest’ here is an introduction into the multi- faceted personality of the one called Black President. You will discover how Fela used jokes and charm to get his message across. When I say multi-faceted man, it is important to remember that Fela was of that generation that had as credo: “spare the rod and spoil the child”. He was like his father a very interesting man but very strict when it came to respecting his laid-down principles - very jovial in his moods but strict and unbending when he punish you for going against his laid-down rules like he confirmed in the fist part of our video streaming.

Like I have reiterated on numerous occasions apart from Cheikh Anta Diop and Theophile Obenga, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti is also another personage that have contributed immensely towards African awareness in the last half of the 20th Century and beginning of the 21st Century. In their quest to economically reap the fruits of the extraordinary explosion of the brand name FELA in this capitalist world where morality in not capital, we believe it is also important to do everything to avoid sweeping under the carpet the emphasis on the man and what he stood for. We don’t want to see all what we suffered and stood for in Kalakuta reduced to: “WE LOVE FELA” written on underpants and g-strings in-order to sell their brand name. Hence we need to watch out what kind of image of him is being touted out there.

Since his demise and the extraordinary explosion of his name world-wide there is this tendency to present all kinds of image of him from those who claim to know him. This was the case with the facebook debate where the creation of the music classic called afrobeat today and drum-beat were credited to Orlando Julius Ekemode and Tony Allen respectively. My intervention setting the records straight, and the prompt intervention of Yeni Anikulapo-Kuti with her “thank God ID people like you are still alive….” the debate was quickly put to rest as my big brother OJ had the decency to admit that he never claimed to be the originator of afrobeat but journalist who put that claim out in the press.

Since the release of the first part of Fela Speaks, I have had some feed back saying it is OK to criticize the misrepresentation of Fela in the Broadway musical, but my criticism of Carlos Moore is seen as “divide and conquer”. Again without any prejudice to his legal battle I affirm that I thought I was dealing with a brother when I made my opinion clear to Carlos Moore in long-distance phone conversations and exchanges of e-mail about the musical being a wrong representation of Fela. He confirmed his total agreement with my views (I have e-mails and my phone bills to substantiate this fact). Hence my utter disgust after his hobnobbing with the producers and later turns round to claim that their production was inspired by his work ‘This Bitch of Life’. Does this mean he is the origin of the misrepresentation of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti?

“This is historio-graphic combat” like the one I consider as my philosophical guru – professor of Egyptology, linguist and philosopher Théophile Obenga is apt to say when it comes to defending our ideas and struggle. This is no attempt to ‘divide and conquer’. How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look (apology Bob Marley). Kwame Nkrumah was maligned as a dictator, despite his idea of African Unity: unique monetary and defense system for all Africa in a continental federal state being primordial actuality for the survival of the African continent today as Fela sang in Confusion. Charlie Parker in the film ‘BIRD’ was projected as a drugged-out drunken looser despite him being a musician’s musician to several jazz icons like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Today his concepts and ideas are transcribed, studied, and analyzed by a great deal of jazz students and are part of any player’s basic jazz vocabulary. Charlie Parker contributed a vast rhythmic vocabulary to the modern jazz solo despite the negative image of him projected in the film ‘Bird’.

Malcolm X was considered as the man who could start or stop a race riot and called all sorts of names in the American press. Image of him from his childhood in Omaha up to his assassination in New York in 1965, Malcolm X’s life, was projected as the charismatic and controversial leader of Black Muslims, who after a delinquent youth fought up to his death for the equality of his African American brothers and sisters. An important evolution of his life – the formation of the Organization of Afro-American and African Unity was to a large extent played down until the film by Spike Lee helped the African and Diaspora African to identify them in Malcolm X.

Unlike when pioneering what is today known as RAP music in the early ’70s, accompanied by congas and bongo drums Gil Scott-Heron in his album ‘Small Talk at 125th and Lenox’ declared “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. Thanks to Internet the revolution is being televised and people can communicate without waiting for their information from their national “official” media only. Fear is one factor that has kept black people in bondage for so long - people using family bonds, as justification for their non involvement in the struggle. Fela states in (STB) that individual fears will not make the fight for progress, freedom, happiness and injustice disappear. For as long as there is fear, police and army brutality will always be a part of our daily lives leaving in its wake, Sorrows Tears and Blood (STB).

It is widely accepted that the spark for the recent dramatic events in Egypt came from last month’s uprising in Tunisia. If people’s power could bring down one regime perhaps it could do the same elsewhere. Many of the necessary conditions are already in place: public fury at years of political repression, economy that rewards corrupt elites and keep a majority in poverty, widespread loathing for leaders clinging to office (apology Fela Army Arrangement and ITT! International! Thief! Thief!) Could other African countries like Egyptians be persuaded to overcome years of fear and apathy and take to the streets? It is no accident that this question has been answered emphatically, the people’s stride for true democracy has begun – this is not “dem all crazy” apology Fela: Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense, this is the people’s true democracy! Let the wind of change blow from Cairo to Cape Town!

Short Break!


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