Saturday, 19 September 2009

Disrespecting Fela

SEUN Anikulapo-Kuti, recently (before he embarked on his latest tour of Europe) had occasion to wine and dine with the elders when friends and associates of his legendary father, Fela, as well as his own growing clan of fans converged on Fela’s Gbemisola Street, Ikeja, Lagos house to give the late music master a befitting 12th year remembrance party.
Among the people at the event were the Octogenarian music maker, Fatai Rolling Dollar, who was once a neighbour (lived two houses away) of Fela at the old Kalakuta Republic in the Moshalashi area of Mushin-Surulere axis in Lagos; and who in fact suffered incalculable damages when Fela’s Republic was razed in the infamous Unknown Soldier episode that eventually destroyed the Republic... The destruction itself was part of the reason a thriving career of Rolling Dollar (real name Fatai Olagunju) went down and was not rebuilt until nearly three decades after -- when the man re-emerged in the early 2000s as the frontrunner in the revival of Highlife music .
Also in attendance at the event that was conceived and sponsored by Fela’s alter ego, Dede Mabiaku was the ace-broadcaster, Benson Idonije, who is reputed as the man who first managed the then fledgling career of Fela; including recruiting the members of the Fela Quintent -- the very first band that Fela formed when he returned to Nigeria after his study in United Kingdom; and later the more famous Koola Lobitos including Isaac Olasugba and Tony Allen.
Idonije was also a colleague of Fela at the then Nigerian Broadcasting Services; and once had to share an apartment with the legend, when they were building the career. Idonije is currently writing a Biography of Fela from an insider’s perspective.

The event at Gbemisola’s house, however, brought home the reality of the waste the legacy of Fela is being put. It is indeed a shame that 12 years after the legendary afrobeat music creator passed on, the Governments of Lagos and of Nigeria, through their so-called Tourism and Cultural agencies, have not thought it wise to look into the posibility of converting his residence, into a monument. Yet this is a property tha has become a mecca for researchers and some tourists who have frequented the country since 1998 that Fela stepped on.
In its current shape, the facility looks decrepit; very unbefitting of the magnificient image that Fela cut globally through his illustrous career.
As at now, not less than 12 documentary (audio-visual and publication) projects are going on around the world on the career of the man who invented the music genre called Afrobeat. But at home, those who should act responsibly in this direction are busy slumbering on half-baked policies; insincere promises; and of course grand failures of governance.

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