Music In Context: Fela Kuti

The father of afrobeat, a political dissident who became a counter cultural hero creating a vision of what African identity could be. When he died, over one million people attended his funeral.  To this day Fela Kuti remains a symbol of Africa. At the centre of his work was “The Shrine.” Fela and his band would regularly play the same venues week after week and in 1971 he began referring to his performances at the Afro-Spot in Lagos as “The Shrine.”

The Shrine moved several times and as Kuti became more overtly political the venues he played began to draw more attention from the authorities culminating in 1977 when The Shrine was raided by Nigerian Military Police and burnt to the ground. Fela Kuti’s message was one of Pan-Africanism in the face of the post-colonial reality of the 20th century. He incorporated elements of the American Black Panther movement, he rejected Islam and Christianity in favour of traditional African religions while living in a commune that was not entirely dissimilar to those you could find in San Francisco at the time. Above all he called out systemic corruption in songs like “Gentleman” and thoughtless police in “Zombie.”