Femi Anikulapo-Kuti can aptly be described in Yoruba language as ‘Omo d’agba tan’ – which literally means: ‘a child has come of age’ or ‘a child has attained adulthood’.
Considering that at almost 49 years of age (born 16th June 1962), he can no longer be considered as a child. However, the ‘lager-than-life’ image of his legendary father Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, places him in the minds of Afrobeat die-hards as a child, from whom great expectations are awaited.
Siblings of great achievers all over the world are subjected to rigorous scrutiny and are expected to surpass the legacies of their parents. This was the case of Ziggy Marley after the passing of his father Bob Marley alike with Andrew Tosh the son of Peter Tosh and many others not necessarily children of musical icons.
For Femi at an early stage in his life, he realised this great expectation and chose long before the passing of his father to be his own man. This led him to quit his father’s band in 1986 to found his group: The Positive Force. A decision that has served Femi well by the look of things - it helped prepare him as the heir to the Afrobeat throne.
Die-hard Fela fans criticised him for quitting. For many years there were criticisms of him not following Fela’s path by being as forceful, or not playing Afrobeat the way Fela did. Some said his music was too fast, or too jazzy. Others said he was not as militant as his father, and his music is devoid of the outright attacks on the system like Fela.
Were these fans expecting another Fela in the person of Femi? Stepping into Fela’s shoes? What a big expectation. While it is impossible to have another Fela, nature has its ways of giving answers to human expectations. Hence the inequality of their shoe sizes. Fela wore size 43 shoes while Femi - a head taller than his late father, wears size 44/45 shoes. For him, his feet are too big for Fela’s shoes.
Despite all these criticisms, Femi tried to remain true to him - focusing his attention on adding his own input to his Afrobeat heritage. Today, the Femi touch in Afrobeat is evident with his latest work Day By Day - an indication of the progression and future direction of this musical classic. His style of afrobeat music is rich with political motivations and cultural interests the two important reasons behind the explosion of Fela and Afrobeat music as the weapon of the future. Femi in his musical exploits can conveniently re-assure Afrobeat die-hards of the safe future of protest music. He has not only sustained his father’s heritage, he also has improved on the musical legacy bequeathed him: THE RETURN OF THE KING.