A Real Chip Off The Old Block - "...but the boy get real talent..."
2 years before I went off to boarding school we moved from NRC in Ebute Metta to Surulere (Lagos, Nigeria). And every morning at about 5am I was awoken by the sweet melodic sax intro of Fela's 'Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am' followed by 'Open And Close', 'Gentleman', 'Lady' and 'Roforofo Fight' all coming from the stereo of our next door neighbour. So by the time I went off to boarding school I knew all those songs by heart, but didn't realise it much of a big deal.
In my first year in high school I soon discovered it was very hip to know a few Fela songs, but it brought un-due attention from my school father. Who just couldn't phantom how a kid my age, and looked every bit an 'Aje Butter Kid' (not street wise, shielded kid), had access to Fela's song's. And although I did explain to him the circumstances, he still wasn't quite convinced. I went to high school in Isolo (Lagos state), so when the Kalakuta Republic incident kicked off in 77, on our way back from a school function we got caught up in the drama when it spilled onto the Agege Motor way. Zombie is one of Fela's greatest hits to-date, and the song that served as a catalyst to the Kalakuta incident (burning down of Fela's house by the army). And even though I knew and sang it like millions of Nigerians, I really didn't know the significance of the song and Fela's music. It wasn't until the release of 'Unknown Soldier', that I sub-consciously realised there was a message of social in-equality in all the madness that surrounded him, and the rest they say is history.
I was very fortunate to have seen Fela play live at the Shrine, his music and most definitely those dancing girls were enough to keep me HIGH!! (if you catch my drift). Fela was a 'Rock Star' and so lived the life of a rock star. The way he lived his life was no different from the way rock legends of his generation lived their lives (well apart from marrying 27 wives!!) in the Western world. But the rock star life style was totally alien to our culture and society back in the 60's and 70's. So the authorities' and all those that benefited from the corruption and mayhem they created, but who were very much aware Fela had his finger on the pulse were always quick to dismiss him and so he had to endure brutal physical punishment and constant imprisonment.
Went off with some friends to watch Fela play at The Brixton Academy late 1992, half way through the set he stopped and introduced he's young son Seun on stage. Who then went on to sing 'Water no get enemy' backed by the full Egypt 80 band with Fela on keyboards. At the end of the song we all went wild screaming for him to do an encore, and Fela in he's indomitable way responded "na me una pay moni come see, no bi im. But the boy get real talent, I beg make una clap for am" (Translated - "am the one you paid money to see, not him. But the boy's a real talent, a round of applauds please")
Fela's music was relevant over 30 years ago and is still fresh and relevant today, and will remain relevant for decades to come. He wasn't perfect, especially regarding his views towards feminism and women's lib issues. But undeniably he was the voice of the underclass, working class and less privileged, on a continent with abundant human and natural resources, where the ruling elite to this very day continue to fail us. There will never be another 'Abami Eda', 'The Weird One', 'Chief Priest', 'The Black President', 'Anikulapo - The One Who Carries Death in His Pocket'. But Seun and the Egypt 80 band are doing a fantastic job to keep the Fela music dynasty well and truly alive.
Wishing you all a Merry Xmas and the very best of the festive season.