The 1970’s were a time of social and political unrest in many parts of the world. It was an era of love ballads and anti-war anthems; but, there was also a new sound on the horizon, the wavy tempo of jazz infused with the vibrations of the African drum, AfroBeat. It was a musical genre born from the mind of the Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti.
Fela Kuti’s extraordinary talent and innovative ideas were matched only by his extreme politically-laced lyrics and unorthodox lifestyle. Raised in an upper-middle class family in Nigeria, Fela Kuti was the son of an activist mother and a Protestant minister/school principal father. With two brothers pursuing successful medical careers, it was no surprise when Fela was sent to London to study medicine. Once there; however, he chose a different path; the one to Trinity Music College, where his first band, Koola Lobios, was formed.
By 1963, Fela Kuti and Koola Lobios were back in Nigeria playing his first version of a fusion of jazz and high-life. Three years later, in a move to Ghana, Kuti would go in a new musical direction, one he called AfroBeat, for its synthesis of jazz, funk, psychedelic rock, Ghanaian/Nigerian high-life, and traditional West African rhythms and chants. AfroBeat used a variety of instruments in long tracks, lasting more than thirty minutes. The “endless groove” of interconnecting riffs that was repeated throughout each song made the music “danceable” and included drums, shekere, saxophones, horns, bass and guitars.
While his musical popularity grew, Fela Kuti’s political views became confrontational after meeting members of the Black Panthers in Los Angeles. In Nigeria, Kuti formed the Kalakuta Republic; an independent African state of those associated with his band and began changing the theme of his music to social issues and anti-government sentiments. His marriage to 27 women, made him even more unpopular with Nigeria’s conservative government and in 1977, the Nigerian military sent 1,000 soldiers to burn down Fela’s studio, killing his mother during the incidence.
On the Tunde Folawiyo profile page, it is shown that the music of Fela Kuti has seen resurgence in popularity recently as his music is again appearing a decade after his death. Now considered an international staple of music, AfroBeat, this music has a special appeal to a new generation listeners including for Nigerian businessman Tunde Folawiyo.