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No One Helped Fela To Create Afrobeat – Rikki Stein

Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti

Late Fela Kuti’s manager, Rikki Stein has come out to write about the Afrobeats genre.

Rikki revealed that even if the recently deceased Tony Allen played a major role as a drummer in his days with Fela, he was not a co-creator of the genre.

According to him, afrobeat as a genre was created by Fela and him alone.

He added that while he worked with his band, Fela still went out of his way to personally tune every single instrument, including the drums, therefore all ideas of co-creators are not valid.

His words, β€œTony was a good friend of mine for many years, for whom I have infinite respect and affection, both as a human being and consummately gifted musician. I never heard him making such a claim for himself and feel that he would have found such a description of his relationship with Fela both embarrassing and inaccurate.”

Even at sound check before a show, Fela would personally tune every single instrument, even the drums, although I doubt that he would have needed to do so with as consummate a drummer as Tony. But that’s still a long way from ‘co-creator’ of the entire opus. From composition, arrangements, rehearsals, on stage performances and in the studio, Fela was totally in charge. Always.”

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Fela Anikulapo Kuti (15 October 1938 – 2 August 1997), also professionally known as Fela Kuti, or simply Fela, was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre and human rights activist. At the height of his popularity, he was referred to as one of Africa’s most “challenging and charismatic music performers”.

Fela was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti on 15 October 1938 in Abeokuta, the modern-day capital of Ogun State in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, then a city in the British Colony of Nigeria, into an upper-middle-class family. His mother, Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement; his father, Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, an Anglican minister and school principal, was the first president of the Nigeria Union of Teachers. His brothers Beko Ransome-Kuti and Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, both medical doctors, are well known in Nigeria. Fela is a first cousin to the Nigerian writer and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Fela attended Abeokuta Grammar School. Later he was sent to London in 1958 to study medicine, but decided to study music instead at the Trinity College of Music, the trumpet being his preferred instrument. While there, he formed the band Koola Lobitos, playing a fusion of jazz and highlife. In 1960, Fela married his first wife, Remilekun (Remi) Taylor, with whom he would have three children (Femi, Yeni, and Sola). In 1963, Fela moved back to the newly independent Federation of Nigeria, re-formed Koola Lobitos and trained as a radio producer for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. He played for some time with Victor Olaiya and his All Stars.

Fela’s music and strong sense of sharing humanist and activist ideas grew from the environment he was in. In interview footage found in Faces of Africa on CGTN Africa, he spoke of a comparison between English love songs and his own music: “Yes, if you are in England, the music can be an instrument of enjoyment. You can sing about love, you can sing about whom you are going to bed with next. But in my own environment, my society is underdeveloped because of an alien system on our people. So there is no music enjoyment. There is nothing like love. There is something like struggle for people’s existence.”

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