The Paris Philharmonic exhibition, which opened on Thursday in Paris, paid homage to Fela Anikulapo Kuti by recreating the atmosphere of his sweaty, politically-charged nightclub in Nigeria, ‘The Shrine’, which became a beacon for global stars in the 1970s including Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.
Femi Kuti,the 60-year-old son of the late legend, spoke of his father’s courageous act of using his “music as a weapon”. He claimed his father was brave enough to use his music as a weapon to fight corruption in Nigeria.
He said, “Instead of picking up a gun, music was the only tool he had. It was a weapon to use against authority, against colonisation and corrupt African governments.
“I’m not surprised. Great people like Miles Davis already talked about Fela.
“Afrobeat was the basic element of hip-hop, it’s where hip-hop got its sauce from,” he said.
He further gave a brave history of how his father was harassed and attacked by military authorities in Nigeria for his relentless criticism of their corruption and violent misrule, which lead to the death of his grandmother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti.
“Soldiers responded to his counter-festival by burning down his home and pushing his mother out of a first-floor window, causing injuries which led to her death a year later.”
“He was a voice for the voiceless, the only opponent who was brave enough to tackle the hardcore military dictators at that time and he paid a very high price.
“But it was ultimately the genius of his music that made him so popular, creating something entirely new with its mix of free jazz, soul, funk, and Yoruba,” Femi said.
Adding that, “McCartney was one of many inspired to come to The Shrine in Lagos, where he recorded his album, ‘Band on the Run’.
“Fela came out of Africa with this incredible sound that caught the ears of everybody.”