Felabration 2014: Forever lives Fela Kuti


The 16th annual Felabration festival will be happening in Lagos from October 13 to 19, and many fans are looking forward to the occasion with plenty of excitement.
Felabration is an annual festival of music and arts in honour of Fela Kuti, and it’s one of the most important events in Nigerian entertainment. The festival was founded by Yeni Kuti in 1998, a year after Fela died, and every year since then, lots of people from various parts of the world attend Felabration at the New Afrika Shrine in Lagos to participate in the events.
Fela was born in 1938 on October 15, so Felabration is always held in the week of October 15 to coincide with his birthday. In past editions, the festival featured school debates, photo exhibitions, street carnivals and gigs. The gigs take place at the New Afrika Shrine, featuring great music and live performances by Femi Kuti and other top Nigerian and foreign artistes.
Yeni Kuti says about the festival, “The dedication of the organising committee each year and the love that people have for Fela are two things that have sustained Felabration’s continuous success and popularity throughout the years. People love Fela and his music, and they turn up every year because of that love. We’re very happy about that.”
Fela died 17 years ago at 59, but he’s arguably the most revered Nigerian musician ever and remains a big inspiration to many Nigerians till date because of his evocative music and revolutionary views.
Nneka Achi writes, “Many of his songs are like personal accounts of the socio-political state of the Nigerian society during [the 70s and 80s]. The song lyrics are more evocative and relatable than what’s written in books, and from listening to the lyrics, youths who hadn’t been born during that era can picture elements from the era such as the oppressive governments, the timid and complacent masses, and so on. [So] he remains truly inspiring today for many Nigerian youths who want a change in the country and who wish to play an active part in bringing about that change.”
“Fela is also important today because of his life as a heroic character as an activist,” says Olumide. “He was fearless, outspoken and openly critical about issues that others feared to talk about. Indeed he was an extraordinary man. He was Abami Eda.”
Segun also says, “Fela was a philosopher. Look at his songs. They’re still relevant today as ever. He was an exceptional being. When he was alive, there was no one as vocal and charismatic as him, and now that he’s no more, there still isn’t anyone like him. Fela and his music are unforgettable, and that’s something most of the contemporary musicians today lack. They just make music for today’s listening without a lasting message, They don’t make the kind of music that will outlive them. That’s not Fela’s example.”
In the New Afrika Shrine, preparations are presently under way for the festival. Right from the entrance to the farthest corners of the house, the ambience, decor and features of this historic place expressly reflect Fela’s legacies. There’s the house centre where guests can sit, have a drink and watch live music on the stage. By the right, there’s an actual shrine with a couple of statues on the ground and a characteristic Fela outfit, slim fit yellow shirt and trousers to match, hanging from the top of the shrine.
There are boards on the walls of the building bearing philosophical and political messages. An interesting one shows a cut of the Punch’s front page story some time ago where Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo bicker at each other and call each other names.
Upstairs at the back of the stage is the administrative part of the building. The walls of the stair case are adorned with many pictures of the Kutis and their friends. There’s a picture of Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, one of Femi Kuti and Beninoise singer Angelique Kidjo, one of Fela and the late Burkinabe revolutionary Thomas Sankara, and many more pictures like that. Taking a tour around this Shrine is like taking a walk through Fela’s life. This place is clearly the capital of afrobeats and every other thing in Fela’s world.
Felabration 2014 will kick off at the Shrine on October 12 with the premiere of Finding Fela, a documentary about Fela’s life. There will also be gigs at the Shrine every day of the week featuring King Sunny Ade, KWAM 1, 2face, Wizkid, and over 20 other artistes. It’s the occasion that many Fela fans anticipate every year, and as the theme of this year says, “Who no know go know.”

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