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Imperialism Case Study Nigeria Notes On The Guitar

1The poststructuralist assault on the author and the romantic myth of genius has greatly inhibited discussion of “creativity” in recent decades. At least, it has inhibited them in academic discussion, and particularly in the social sciences. Outside academia, the high values attached to “creativity” and the so-called “creative industries” in the struggling economies of the West have persisted (see Hesmondhalgh and Baker 2011). Some kind of critical engagement is necessary. I approach the matter in this article from the point of view of globalization and post-colonial theory.

2The concept of creativity has a complex history. It is essentially an Enlightenment term. But it draws on classical conceptions of poesis and mimesis, later entangled with monotheistic theologies. In many of the monotheistic traditions, God alone is deemed capable of “creating’; man merely imitating. Sometimes these capacities were treated with suspicion, in the fear that the artist assumes powers at odds with orderly social life, or that unwary souls might be confused and led astray.1 At other times they were valued for their capacity to produce beauty, and lead people towards (spiritual) wisdom. Here, particularly in the neo-Aristotelian traditions that entered the worlds of Christianity, Judaism and Islam in the early Middle Ages, one finds sophisticated thinking about how the artist, or musician, or poet, produces effects on the person who watches or listens, with what tools, and in what relation to prior models. One also finds thinking about how these creative powers need to be schooled, trained and disciplined.

3Doubts about the very concept of creativity have a long history, in other words. Contemporary theoretical anxieties might be regarded as extensions of these doubts. It is no surprise that it has dropped from the musicological and ethnomusicological agenda in recent decades. But certain music scholars have started to respond. There are three positions that furnish a starting point for this particular essay, which I would like to mention at the outset.

Georgina Born is interested in the possibilities afforded by new technologies to understand creativity as a collective praxis, dispersed over time and space (i.e. “relayed” creativity). In this she sees possibilities for a new cultural politics (Born 2005). Steven Feld is interested in how the global circulation of sounds detached from their source have stimulated new mimetic practices – particularly the appropriation of “pygmy” sounds by a variety of contemporary musicians. His picture of this kind of creativity is much less optimistic. New digital technologies and circulatory regimes have, for all of their utopian claims, deepened western fantasies, and western exploitation (Feld 2000). More neutrally, Jason Toynbee, drawing on Bourdieu, locates the question of creativity in a sociology of “field” and “habitus”. The field defines a more-or-less socially accepted space of artisitic possibilities. Habitus, on the other hand, impels certain individuals or groups towards certain kinds of expression as a consequence of their social formation. Creativity, for Toynbee, is associated with historical moments and social arrangements where the fit between “field” and “habitus” is particularly loose (Toynbee 2012).

4With these writers work in mind, I approach creativity as a social practice that is highly dependent upon a society’s technological and political arrangements. I share these writers” interest in creative practices that effect broader kinds of change, changes that (might) increase social actors” sense of connection, agency, possibility.2 Musically speaking, as all of these writers suggest, these creative practices might be diverse. They may involve, in some situations, the transgression of past models; in others, their artful preservation. They may be accelerated, or inhibited, by changing relations in and around the medium of transmission: oral, written, digital. They will be valued very differently by the people involved. I also share these writers acknowledgment that creativity is located in a complex – indeed, peculiarly intense - field of social values.

5The kinds of transmission practices we label “creative” in such terms will, then, be many and varied – not simply of one kind. So the term itself, “creative”, may be a loose one, in critical terms. But, as these writers suggest, it helpfully sharpens certain kinds of questions. Are certain historical moments, or certain locations in social space, or certain technological transformations, inherently “creative’? How – and by whom – is creativity recognized, validated and rewarded? Whose creative labour is obscured from view, appropriated, exploited? What kinds of struggle take place over these recognitions, and for what political stakes? All of these questions are thrown into particularly sharp relief when considered in the context of global cultural relations. These, of course, have a long history. I will examine two moments that are, I believe, particularly instructive. I will label them, broadly, as “early colonial encounter” and “World Music”.

Early Colonial Encounter

6Globalization is associated broadly with the increasingly connected circulation of people, technologies, commodities and capital. It is thus intimately associated with colonialism. The Spanish imperial project was, arguably, the first to connect things globally with the conquest of Manila in 1570. One can start to speak of musical globalization at this early date, as Irving suggests in a recent study of “colonial counterpoint” in the Philippines (Irving 2010).

In commenting on the speed with which indigenous populations turned towards church counterpoint, and, in fact, became noted for their musical skill far beyond the Philippines, Irving observes that pre-colonial indigenous practice also involved multipart singing, and involved devotion to female deities. Many were, in other words, ready to participate in their colonial transformations – musically speaking, at least. Local elites, in which there was much intermarriage, came to understand themselves as mixed, and attribute value to their “mixed” cultural practices (”mestizaje”). They took particular pride in their church music. The Manilan church thus led in the development of a variety of new Marian repertories, many of which were exported via Mexico to Europe.

7A lively tradition of inquiry about music in what we would now call “cross-cultural” encounter developed. Towards the end of the seventeenth century, Charles Perrault speculated about the connections between the music heard in the Ottoman and Persian courts, and the music of the ancient (biblical and Greek) world, known from scholarship. His writing on this subject took the form of an imagined debate between three characters: the Abbot, representing the church, the President, representing academia, and the Chevalier, representing nobility. Perrault published the various volumes of his Parallèle des Anciens et des Modernes (Parallel between Ancients and Moderns), between1688 and 1692. One of the later volumes, published in 1697, discusses music along with astronomy, geography, navigation, war, philosophy, and medicine (Perrault 1991 [1697]).

8It is worth describing in a bit of detail. Perrault imagines his characters strolling around the gardens of Versailles whilst waiting for the king to return from a trip. In this particular conversation, the Abbot takes the lead. He starts with a provocative observation: we think we know music, but actually know very little about music as it is understood by most of the world. “The music of the Ancients is still today the music of all the earth, except for one part of Europe…”; i.e, our own. The Abbot has heard stories about this “ancient” music, encountered at events and soirees in the French embassy in Constantinople. And they had got him wondering. When the French played their favorite opera overtures, “the Turks could not stand it, considering the mixture of parts, to which they were not accustomed (i.e. polyphony), to be a chaotic racket.” Musical values, he seems to think, might be relative, and not absolute. His companions seem momentarily dumbstruck.

9The Abbot presses on. Like the Ancients, the Orientals have only cultivated monophony. As a result, they have developed a level of sensitivity to tuning and temperament that we have lost. Finally the President manages to splutter a response. The Germans, he observes, have invented keyboards in which the “irregularities” of the current keyboard tunings could be remedied by the addition of extra keys, to distinguish a D sharp from an E flat, and so forth. Surely this is a just a technical matter? But the Abbot has his answer ready. Their musicians really must be regarded, in important respects, as more skillful than ours. When our violinists played favorite tunes, the “Persian” musician at court could play them back instantly. (”Persians”, from various parts of today’s Central Asia, represented the dominant musical style in the Ottoman court in this period.) Challenged in return, the French violinist could manage “no more than four notes” of the tune the Persian musician played.

10The Abbot, Voltaire-like, playfully provokes his companions with suggestions that, from a certain perspective at least, it might be we who lack civilization, not they. He acknowledges, in passing, the areas in which western musicians enjoy superiority – in technology, in music literacy, in multipart polyphony. But he does so with an equivocation that seems calculated to provoke his colleagues. In the end, the Chevalier attempts to steer the conversation onto less contentious ground. Hadn’t Petis de la Croix, sent to study this music by the King, succeeded in learning this music tolerably well? The Abbot is suddenly struck by another flight of fancy. Having learned the music, “it would be nice to mix some bits of it into the Fêtes and Divertissements that His Majesty gave at his Court; to do a scene, for example, where the singers, dressed as Turks and playing the same instruments that are played in Constantinople, would sing the same songs and dance the same dances as are sung and danced before the Grand Seigneur, and another scene where the musicians would sing the same songs that are sung before the Sophi of Persia or the Grand Moghul.” The idea intrigues the President, who muses that it would be like being “transported in a single moment to all the different parts of the world” (Perrault 1991[1697]).

11There are various things to note in this fascinating conversation. It is imagined, but it replicates some of what we know about musical diplomacy from other sources.3 In the first instance, it portrays a scene of exchange. The musicians play their own music, then swap, and see how they do. There is mutual inquisitiveness at play, as well as competition. A variety of restless musical transformations are set in train by these encounters, ones that will last centuries. Instruments circulate – violins, keyboards, triangles, bass drums, cymbals; their strangeness rapidly disappearing. The Ottomans begin to experiment with music notation, to adopt western instruments, to standardize their repertories, and to facilitate performance in larger, coordinated ensembles. And they start to ask themselves questions about the powers of rationality and order that these practices seem to contain, or imply. The Europeans, for their part, start to experiment with intonation and temperament, to retrieve the – mysteriously lost - affective powers of the music of the Ancients. Something, they begin to feel, might be gained by studying this music, by taking it seriously.

12The encounter initiates independent transformations of musical practice – broadly, “creative processes” - on both sides. Some of these are a consequence of the circulation of new technologies and ways of doing things (instruments, notation). Others (the quest for a style of composition that conveys the emotional power of words, for instance) may have been independently underway, but now receive a boost, as a rival power is deemed, possibly, to have an edge. It also initiates practices that somehow seek to combine these different musics, to think about them in relational terms, to bring them to bear on one another. Much later Arthur Koestler might have understood this in terms of “bisociation”, the creativity that emerges in the intersection and interaction of two frames of reference (Koestler 1964).4

13So this was a creative moment, one might say, one rich in implication for both the modern West and the post-Ottoman world. But it was also entangled with a global struggle for power. There are many traces of this in the conversation. The Abbot wants to have costumed French musicians performing Ottoman music for the King, whose power might, somehow, be amplified by this act of mimesis. The capacity to represent in this way, to grasp the essences, structures and plans of things and impose them on others, became vitally important to Europeans in their colonies (Mitchell 1991). The President, for his part, is immediately lost in a daydream about musical teleportation, about music’s capacity to enable us, somehow, to be everywhere at the same time. These might be understood as emergent fantasies of power at the dawn of European colonialism. They are, too, fantasies of value – of one kind or another - extracted from the Other, and accumulated by the Self. Certain historical conditions have been established, then, for thinking about creativity globally. Arguably, these continue to prevail today.

World Music

14Many initially believed globalization to have reduced the sum total of creativity in the world. Alan Lomax, for example, spoke of the cultural “grey out” of modernity (Lomax 1968: 4). American films, popular music, soft drinks and fast food would conquer the planet. Cultural traditions would wither, the only creative options ones that involved copying of one kind or another. Lomax’s cantometrics project was conceived – pessimistically - against this background.

His views were widely shared. Somewhat later, a period of dominance by a handful of large media companies - Time-Warner, Thorn-EMI, Bertelsmann, Sony, PolyGram and Matsushita (the six “majors”) excited a great deal of discussion under the general rubric of the “cultural imperialism hypothesis”. In the mid 1990s, the International Federation for Phonographic Industries estimated that the majors controlled approximately 80-90 per cent of the sales of (legally) recorded music worldwide. These were widely understood to homogenize global tastes, and to commoditize culture in ways that broadly facilitated American hegemony.5

15Enthusiasm for “World Music” in the industrial heartlands of Western Europe and North America the 1980s and 1990s suggested that this was not the case. The origins of the term and its history are debated.6 The concert promoters, journalists, musician and independent record company owners who coined the term in the UK intended to create “a handle for something that was already there, but needed to be identified” (Cottrell 2010: 62). This, at least, was the opinion of Ben Mandelsohn, one of the musicians and promoters present at the event. It was, then, in the view of those responsible for the term, a benign marketing device, intended to pull together the activities of “a bunch of people who were already friends, already working on things that they loved and supported” (Cottrell 2010: 63).

16These people had recognized two things. Firstly, that far from “greying out”, or remaining trapped in tradition, the post-colonial world had, all along, been the scene of vibrant musical creativity. Secondly, that independent record producers in the West were already playing an active role in its diffusion and transformation. Following the punk rock explosion in the 1970s, the independents had become highly responsive to new confluences of youth, Black and migrant culture in European and American cities. World music styles such as rai, a North African migrant music, were shaped and nurtured by independent recording companies, like the French label, Barclay.

17The case of rai is instructive.7 PolyGram bought Barclay in 1978, and reaped the benefits when a rai album, Khaled’s Didi of 1992, became an unexpected hit and sold in significant numbers across Europe. Khaled’s success had a major impact on rai production in North Africa, accelerating transformations already underway. A genre formerly dominated by women (like Cheikha Remitti) gradually became a male dominated genre. Sounds earlier engineered and marketed with a North African audience in mind were fused with a variety of transatlantic black styles, and oriented to a broad European and American audience. PolyGram certain profited, but this would not have happened without Barclay’s cultivation of various underground and migrant markets in France. In part, then, the World Music phenomenon involved recognition that the “cultural imperialism” hypothesis had predicted matters quite wrongly, at least as far as media systems was concerned. Globally speaking, the interaction of large and small, official and unofficial media systems had had a productive and creative effect, transforming musics and markets in rather unpredictable ways.

World Music involved a recognition, then, of an “actually existing” globalization, one that had relatively little to do with American cultural hegemony, or the dominance of the six “majors”. This might be thought of as a kind of “globalization from below”.

18It not only forged creative links between the industrial west and the “global south”, but creative links within the global south. Musically speaking, these conversations have flourished, over significant periods of time, across the African diaspora, or what Paul Gilroy refers to as the “Black Atlantic”, linked by significantly shared instruments, dance practices and performance techniques (Gilroy 1993). Religious movements and post-colonial solidarities would intensify these conversations, and spread them, later in the twentieth century. The West established the conditions of possibility for these musical interactions, through slavery and colonialism. But it has not necessarily been the dominant voice.

19Consider, for example, that broad range of musical practices usually labeled “Afropop” in the West. The guitar, bought to sub-Saharan Africa by missionizing Christianity, was adapted to the interlocking aesthetic of indigenous lammelphones and chordophones. A guitar-based dance music, blended with rumba rhythms, and popularized in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in the 1950s, spread to a number of emerging African post-colonial states as a result of a political identification with both Cuba (for its revolution) and Zaire (for its glamour and modernity). Genres such as Chimurenga in Zimbabwe, mbaqanga in South Africa, juju and highlife in Nigeria, makossa and bikutsi in Cameroon might be seen in part as adaptations of the Zairean model, in part as independent local developments, and in part as responses to growing World Music interest in the West.8 The traffic in musical styles between West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean continues to be intense, as Rick Shain has shown in various publications (see, for example, Shain 2009).

20So, on the one hand, World Music simply meant recognition, by white intellectuals in Western Europe and North America, of the incredible vitality of music in the “global south” in the twentieth century. There had been no “grey-out” of global tastes. Cultural imperialism did not mean the total domination of the “big six” media companies. Radio, recordings and guitars did not mean the triumph of western musical values. Far from being downtrodden and culture-less, migrant and black populations in the heart of the Western metropolis had, all along, been vibrant global cultural actors, creating, shaping and circulating important new sounds.

21But “World Music” also involved, perhaps inevitably, a desire to control and master. For some, there were commercial considerations. New metropolitan fashions for exotica were, and remain, profitable. For others, there were administrative and bureaucratic considerations. Given pressures in public life in the west to be more inclusive and aware of colonial pasts and the rights of minorities, difference had to be managed, ordered, bureaucratized. For others, there were considerations of intellectual capital. How was one to think diversity, multiculturalism, postcolonialism? What were the challenges for rethinking the arts, and who might seize the intellectual high ground in these debates? In the desire for control and mastery, I would argue, a new discourse of creativity came to play a complex and rather paradoxical role.

The distribution of creativity

22Throughout the twentieth century, and well into the present century, non-Western music has continued to play a role in reinvigorating the creativity of the Western art music system. From the earliest period of European expansion, the non-West provided exotica – a stimulus to critical thinking, and some specific kinds of experimentation, as already mentioned. In the colonial period it began to justify a more general and systematic experimentation with scale, tonality and rhythm. The media revolutions of the twentieth century meant that these energies shifted to embrace popular music, from tango to rap and hip hop.

23Ethnomusicology, from its earliest days, was hostile to such exoticism, primarily on the grounds of faulty representation. An ethical critique emerged only later over the attribution and ownership of creativity. Copyright laws involving non-Western music have always been easy to dodge. Concert audiences and CD listeners rarely expect attribution where, for example, Javanese gamelan, or Arab samai” forms, Breton bagpiping, or West African drumming are evoked, whether in western art or popular music. The “non-Western” creativity that is appropriated is, by implication, “traditional”, something disconnected from individual agencies and rights and thus not really “creativity” at all. Western creativity by contrast, enshrined in copyright legislation, is of a different, and by implication, more important order. The work of Brian Eno, Enigma, Peter Gabriel, David Byrne, Paul Simon and others was primarily criticized not for misrepresentation, but for exploitation (see, for recent examples, Feld 2000; Feld and Kirkegaard 2010).

24This, then, is a picture of a world divided into two: a “traditional” non-West, and a “creative” West. A closely related picture simply inverts things: a West capable only of imitating; the non-West the site of a primal and powerful creativity. The latter assumes healing properties in a world damaged by industrial capitalism. Consider Peter Gabriel’s description of his attraction to African music in Philip Sweeney’s early World Music handbook:

“It was the choir I was drawn to initially – by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and others with their close kinship to Gospel and their blend of spirituality and sensuality at the same time… the spirituality of South African music appealed especially…. One of the most striking things about West African percussion is the fluidity of the rhythms. This is partly due to the actual equipment used. The little drumsticks that Senegalese drummers like Doudou N’Diaye use are often freshly cut from the tree, so they’re much more flexible than western drumsticks. They’re also much shorter. The result is a more liquid tone, somewhere between a hand and a western drumstick in sound.” (Sweeney 1991: 2)

25African music here is deemed to operate in a space different to that of the industrial west, with its categorical and rigid distinctions between spirituality and sensuality, the body and technology, nature and culture. It involves “fluidity”, “flexibility” and “liquidity”. The west offers an alternative: a drumstick or a hand. Africa provides the space in between.9 The healing narrative is not difficult to discern. Gabriel’s words echo long traditions of understanding Africa and the African Diaspora as the creative source of western popular music, one that white Europeans have come to consider “their own” only through appropriation or theft.

26Afro- or Black-centric theft narratives are of course ubiquitous in Western pop music discourse, whether in relation to Elvis, the Rolling Stones, or Eminem. On the one hand, they involve a (no doubt sincere) recognition of musical exploitation on a global scale – one kind of exploitation among many. On the other they have done absolutely nothing to stop people exploiting African music, on one pretext or another. Criticisms of the way other people have exploited African music are usually intended to create an ethical space of possibility for more equitable appropriations of African music. These, as Feld notes in a damning critique (Feld 2000) are usually entirely self-deceiving. At issue here, though, is the way in which such narratives construct a world divided in two, in which the West either celebrates its creativity, or attempts to justify is appropriation of the creativity of others.

Hybridity, migrancy and fusion: a critical perspective.

27World Music also perpetuates a rather different – though complementary – notion of global creativity: one associated with hybridity, migrancy and cultural “fusion”.10 We could start with Philip Sweeney, in an early guide to World Music. World music might, he suggests, be understood

as a sort of new mutated “First World” genre, a conscious fusion of traditional “Third World” forms with elements of Anglo-American rock and jazz. “I play world music,” Salif Keita told me last year, “not African music.” The new crossover/fusion area of music-making is currently booming, typified by the Brussels-based Belgian-Zairean female quintet Zap Mama, whose a capella arrangements mixing European, Central African pygmy, Zulu and Arab melodies, among other things, have made them one of the hottest attractions at this summer’sEuropean festivals (Sweeney 1992).

28One must subject these terms, which simultaneously suggest and conceal struggles, accommodations and distinctions, to scrutiny. Salif Keita, for example, had followed a number of West African musicians to Paris, notably Manu Dibango. In his poignant memoir, Dibango describes the difficulties of life as an African musician in Paris n the 1950s, and, later, America. Dibango struggled with conflicting expectations and demands on his identity. In France he was expected to behave, musically, as a conduit for jazz, i.e. black American culture. In America, he was expected to behave, musically, as an African. Back in Cameroon, it was his European and American experience that mattered. “I am a divided man,” he notes plaintively at the outset of his autobiography (1994: 2). But he eventually came to regard the way Americans and Europeans interpreted his Africanness with an amused detachment, and as a kind of creative resource. Ad hoc musical experiments in one of these spaces might pay off, unexpectedly, in another, with other musicians and other audiences; returned to the original site of such experiments, an entire new genre might spring into existence. Such, indeed, is the story he tells of Soul Makossa, his major hit.

29Hybridity here is linked to migration. Migrancy from the post-colonial world has, as is well known, been met by opposition, and, on the part of some, violence in the former colonial metropolitan heartlands. But attitudes all over Europe and North America are complex. Sociological and anthropological interest in “hyphenated identities” – Franco-Maghrebi, “Newyorican”, Irish-American, British-Asian and so forth - meant a rejection of the tenets of an earlier social science, which saw migrant culture as problematic, an inability to be fully one thing or another. Quite the reverse: such “hyphenated identities” came to be understood in terms of kinds of empowerment, agency, and creativity. The managers of metropolitan areas that increasingly felt a need to market themselves as “global cities” would subsequently make much of this (see Sassen 2001). “Ethnic neighborhoods” in such “global cities” signified diversity, energy and creativity, and thus an intelligent workforce, lively consumers, and a great place to do business. Hybridity has thus come to be equated with creativity, by many, for a variety of reasons.

30In privileging migrancy as a particular site of creativity, there is a temptation to romanticize, and we need to be careful. Anna Tsing remarks trenchantly on the need to distinguish cosmopolitans and migrants. Cosmopolitans fashion their own world. Migrants have to fit into worlds made by other people, as anthropologist Anna Tsing once observed (Tsing 2002). Hybrid cultural practices –Sweeney’s “cross-over/fusion” - involve power relations that must always be carefully considered. Should there be any doubt about this, Manu Dibango’s autobiography speaks forcefully about the very real struggles faced by countless African migrants in Europe and America’s cities today, even when they are talented musicians.

31Zap Mama, the well known “Brussels-based Belgian-Zairean female quintet” led by Marie Daulne, provides Sweeney with his second example of crossover, fusion and migrancy. This case, too, is worth exploring in a little detail. Daulne was born in Zaire, of a Belgian father and Zairean mother, and grew up in Belgium. Following Zap Mama’s initial success, she returned to Congo to learn traditional central African vocal techniques. After extensive travels, and a stay in New York, she returned to Belgium. Her story is reminiscent of Manu Dibango’s, though her struggles with her identity led in different directions. Manu Dibango seems ultimately to have come to understand his Africanness as a position, or stance, in a complex field of musical representations. Daulne, on the other hand, seems to have been animated by a more active fantasy of Africanness in music, one significantly shaped by ethnographic recordings. The track “Babenzélé”, for example, on Adventures in Afropea of 1993, closely mimics the densely layered interlocking of voices, whistles, and hand clapping on Simha Arom’s 1966 ethnographic recording, made among the Babenzélé, in the Central African Republic. For all of its studied fidelity to the Arom recording, the Zap Mama version contains a variety of subtly added elements. The women’s voices, for example, provide a sparse harmonic underpinning, in the form of an oscillation of tonic and dominant seventh chords throughout. Such combinations of the musical values of European a capella singing and African vocal technique prompt Sweeney to characterize their music as “hybrid”.

32Musically speaking, the term “hybridity” is quite problematic, though. It might point, as Sweeney’s terms suggest, to a consciousness of fusion on the part of the actors involved. But there is always more to be said – beyond the contents of various social actors consciousness - about how musical practices have circulated, historically. “Anglo-American pop”, looked at in the broadest historical frame, comprises densely compacted African, Latin and Old World European folk elements. “African” musical practices are of similarly diverse origins, comprising, amongst other things, European elements that go back the earliest days of slavery, colonialism and missionary activity. Every element of a hybridized style is itself a hybrid, a bricolage of previous encounters, assimilations, blendings. At a given historical moment, a musicians such as Salif Keita or Marie Daulne may conceptualize their art and their creativity in terms of such “mixing”. But this might not be the most useful guide to understanding the broader conditions that permit these elements to “mix” in the first place, and how they will continue to circulate.

33World Music discourse is associated with another ideological redistribution of creativity, this time onto migrants in the “global cities” of the West. It has been imagined in terms of hybridity – a term that, I have suggested, does not stand up to a great deal of critical interrogation. And it has been projected on migrants and migrant neighborhoods in ways that are, I have suggested, compensatory, and implicated in the marketing of “global cities”. Here, again, globalization has involved the intensification of myths surrounding creativity. How, then, do we think our way through them? I will make some tentative suggestions in the conclusion.

Conclusion: towards “creativity” in global perspective

34“Globalization” is the term habitually given to late twentieth century transformations in the circulation of capital, labor and technology, or, more specifically, American hegemony. But, as we know, it has a much longer history, and it is not purely a western one. Neither, as we also know, is it simply a history of power. It is also a history of resistances and accommodations, identifications and senses of difference, tastes and pleasures, circulating on ever-increasing scales.

“Creativity” is the term habitually given to acts by individuals within the process of cultural transmission. Something is added, through powers shrouded in mystique, that effects a transformation of materials, a breaking of forms and traditions. Such, at least, is the romantic myth. But it can be collective (i.e. distributed across social space) and relayed (i.e. distributed across time). It can also involve the preservation of materials, forms and traditions, just as much as their transformation. It is, as we have seen, a value attached to certain kinds of cultural transmission, usually of a positive nature, and thus a deeply ideological category.

35These critical observations may, at first glance, suggest that there is nothing much to be said on “creativity in global perspective”. But some observations can surely be made. Firstly, whether in the guise of authenticity (ideally African), or hybridity (ideally migrant), fantasies and anxieties about authentic creativity persist, and are culturally consequential. These have motivated not just plunder and exploitation, but also, from the earliest period of colonial contact, wonder and play.11 They have forced recognitions of the limits - and pretensions - of western hegemony (i.e. “universalism”). They have licensed critical thinking, and experimentation of a consequential kind. They have involved imaginative efforts to bring things deemed separate together, whether to enjoy the play of difference, or explore (the possibility of) commonalities. All of this, too, might be said of World Music today, and its scholarly twin, ethnomusicology.

36Ethnomusicology, the study of the music of the world, has an antagonistic and critical relationship with World Music, but the relationship has, actually, been extremely productive. David Byrne and Brian Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, of 1981, made extensive use of ethnographic and global popular music recordings; it pushed the technological envelope regarding analog sampling in ways that anticipated – and significantly paved the way for – digital sampling. It is also hard to imagine the minimalism of Steve Reich or Philip Glass without taking into account the ubiquity of Western African drumming ensembles and Javanese gamelans in North American ethnomusicology programmes in the same period. In the West, World Music, art music experimentalism and academic ethnomusicology (respectively, commerce, creativity, and critique in relation to the musics of the world) have been mutually implicated for much of the later 20th century, and remain so today. This “mutual implication” has not simply been a matter of western hegemony: it has often been critical, self-searching, and productive in unanticipated ways.

37Secondly, globalization has been a matter of increasing scales of circulation and connection. This is not to imply equality: many are, of course, left out. Portable sound recording and reproduction technologies, from the cassette to the laptop, made sound objects (elements of style, timbre, musical technique) transportable in unique ways – ways that, moreover, have tended to fly under the radar of systems of cultural control and authority. Highly mobile migrant populations thus have had ways of staying in touch with home, musically speaking, and enabling imaginative connections with other migrant communities (who may have little in common other than skin color, or religion). Conjunctions of technological transformation, labor migration and urbanization have produced the 20th century’s most enduring popular musical practices: tango, jazz, salsa, rai, rap and hip-hop – the list goes on. Metropolitan (most recently “World Music”) markets for some of these genres often came to be a significant factor in their production and stylistic development.12 Creativity can usefully be understood in terms of the new global spaces opened up for musical communication and conversation through uneven, though ever-widening scales in the circulation of people, technologies and ideas.

38Today, this would, then, be to explore “creativity” in relation to digital technologies, to ideologies that forge global connections amongst the powerless (e.g. “Blackness”), to markets in exotica (e.g. “World Music”), and to increasingly global patterns of movement and settlement (e.g. “global cities” and migrancy). It would involve, as I have argued throughout, thinking about creativity in more socially, historically and ethnographically grounded ways, in broader contexts of cultural transmission. And it would involve, as I have also argued, not only globalization “from above”, but “from below’; that is to say, in terms of multiple projects of world-imagining in multiple locales, and not just those of the twentieth and early twenty-first century’s dominant powers.

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"Fela" redirects here. For the Broadway musical based on his life, see Fela!

Fela Anikulapo Kuti (15 October 1938 – 2 August 1997), also professionally known as Fela Kuti, or simply Fela, was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre, human rights activist, and political maverick.[1][2] He has been called "superstar, singer, musician, Panafricanist, polygamist, mystic, legend."[3] During the height of his popularity, he was often hailed as one of Africa's most "challenging and charismatic music performers."[4]


Early life and career[edit]

Fela was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti[5] on 15 October 1938 in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria[6] into an upper-middle-class family. His mother, Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement; his father, Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, an Anglican minister and school principal, was the first president of the Nigeria Union of Teachers.[7] His brothers, Beko Ransome-Kuti and Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, both medical doctors, are well known in Nigeria.[8] Fela is a first cousin to the Nigerian writer and Nobel laureateWole Soyinka, the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.[9]

He attended Abeokuta Grammar School. Later he was sent to London in 1958 to study medicine but decided to study music instead at the Trinity College of Music, the trumpet being his preferred instrument.[8] While there, he formed the band Koola Lobitos, playing a fusion of jazz and highlife.[10] In 1960, Fela married his first wife, Remilekun (Remi) Taylor, with whom he would have three children (Femi, Yeni, and Sola). In 1963, Fela moved back to Nigeria, re-formed Koola Lobitos and trained as a radio producer for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. He played for some time with Victor Olaiya and his All Stars.[11]

In 1967, he went to Ghana to think up a new musical direction.[7] That was when Kuti first called his music Afrobeat.[7] In 1969, Fela took the band to the United States where they spent 10 months in Los Angeles. While there, Fela discovered the Black Power movement through Sandra Smith (now Sandra Izsadore), a partisan of the Black Panther Party. The experience would heavily influence his music and political views.[12] He renamed the band Nigeria '70. Soon afterwards, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was tipped off by a promoter that Fela and his band were in the US without work permits. The band immediately performed a quick recording session in Los Angeles that would later be released as The '69 Los Angeles Sessions.


See also: Confusion (album)

After Fela and his band returned to Nigeria, the group was renamed The Afrika '70, as lyrical themes changed from love to social issues.[10] He then formed the Kalakuta Republic, a commune, a recording studio, and a home for the many people connected to the band that he later declared independent from the Nigerian state. (According to Lindsay Barrett, the name "Kalakuta" derived from the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta dungeon in India.)[8] Fela set up a nightclub in the Empire Hotel, first named the Afro-Spot and then the Afrika Shrine, where he both performed regularly and officiated at personalized Yoruba traditional ceremonies in honour of his nation's ancestral faith. He also changed his name to Anikulapo (meaning "He who carries death in his pouch", with the interpretation: "I will be the master of my own destiny and will decide when it is time for death to take me").[8][13] He stopped using the hyphenated surname "Ransome" because it was a slave name.

Fela's music was popular among the Nigerian public and Africans in general.[14] In fact, he made the decision to sing in Pidgin English so that his music could be enjoyed by individuals all over Africa, where the local languages spoken are very diverse and numerous. As popular as Fela's music had become in Nigeria and elsewhere, it was also very unpopular with the ruling government, and raids on the Kalakuta Republic were frequent. During 1972, Ginger Baker recorded Stratavarious with Fela appearing alongside Bobby Tench.[15] Around this time, Kuti became even more involved in the Yoruba religion.[16]

In 1977, Fela and the Afrika '70 released the album Zombie, a scathing attack on Nigerian soldiers using the zombie metaphor to describe the methods of the Nigerian military. The album was a smash hit and infuriated the government, setting off a vicious attack against the Kalakuta Republic, during which one thousand soldiers attacked the commune. Fela was severely beaten, and his elderly mother (whose house was located opposite the commune)[8] was thrown from a window, causing fatal injuries. The Kalakuta Republic was burned, and Fela's studio, instruments, and master tapes were destroyed. Fela claimed that he would have been killed had it not been for the intervention of a commanding officer as he was being beaten. Fela's response to the attack was to deliver his mother's coffin to the Dodan Barracks in Lagos, General Olusegun Obasanjo's residence, and to write two songs, "Coffin for Head of State" and "Unknown Soldier", referencing the official inquiry that claimed the commune had been destroyed by an unknown soldier.[17]

Fela and his band then took residence in Crossroads Hotel, as the Shrine had been destroyed along with his commune. In 1978, Fela married 27 women, many of whom were his dancers, composers, and singers. The marriage served not only to mark the anniversary of the attack on the Kalakuta Republic but also to protect Fela, and his wives, from false claims from authorities that Fela was kidnapping the women. Later, he was to adopt a rotation system of keeping only 12 simultaneous wives.[18] The year was also marked by two notorious concerts, the first in Accra in which riots broke out during the song "Zombie", which led to Fela being banned from entering Ghana. The second was at the Berlin Jazz Festival after which most of Fela's musicians deserted him, due to rumours that Fela was planning to use the entire proceeds to fund his presidential campaign.

Despite the massive setbacks, Fela was determined to come back. He formed his own political party, which he called Movement of the People (MOP), in order to "clean up society like a mop".[8] Apart from being a mass political party, MOP preached "Nkrumahism" and "Africanism."[19][20] In 1979, he put himself forward for President in Nigeria's first elections for more than a decade, but his candidature was refused. At this time, Fela created a new band called Egypt '80 reflecting the fact that Egyptian civilization, knowledge, philosophy, mathematics, and religious systems are African and must be claimed as such. As Fela states in an interview, "Stressing the point that I have to make Africans aware of the fact that Egyptian civilization belongs to the African. So that was the reason why I changed the name of my band to Egypt 80."[21] Fela continued to record albums and tour the country. He further infuriated the political establishment by dropping the names of ITT Corporation vice-president Moshood Abiola and then General Olusegun Obasanjo at the end of a hot-selling 25-minute political screed entitled "I.T.T. (International Thief-Thief)".

1980s and beyond[edit]

In 1984, Muhammadu Buhari's government, of which Kuti was a vocal opponent, jailed him on a charge of currency smuggling which Amnesty International and others denounced as politically motivated.[22] Amnesty designated him a prisoner of conscience,[23] and his case was also taken up by other human rights groups. After 20 months, he was released from prison by General Ibrahim Babangida. On his release he divorced his 12 remaining wives, saying that "marriage brings jealousy and selfishness".[18]

Once again, Fela continued to release albums with Egypt '80, made a number of successful tours of the United States and Europe and also continued to be politically active. In 1986, Fela performed in Giants Stadium in New Jersey as part of the Amnesty InternationalA Conspiracy of Hope concert, sharing the bill with Bono, Carlos Santana, and The Neville Brothers. In 1989, Fela and Egypt '80 released the anti-apartheidBeasts of No Nation that depicts on its cover U.S. President Ronald Reagan, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and South African State President Pieter Willem Botha, that title of the composition, as Barrett notes, having evolved out of a statement by Botha: "This uprising [against the apartheid system] will bring out the beast in us."[8]

Fela's album output slowed in the 1990s, and eventually he stopped releasing albums altogether. In 1993, he and four members of the Afrika '70 organization were arrested for murder. The battle against military corruption in Nigeria was taking its toll, especially during the rise of Sani Abacha. Rumours were also spreading that he was suffering from an illness for which he was refusing treatment.


On 3 August 1997, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, already a prominent AIDS activist and former Minister of Health, announced his younger brother's death a day earlier from complications related to AIDS. However, there has been no definitive proof that Kuti died from complications related to HIV/AIDS, and much skepticism surrounds this alleged cause of death and the sources that have popularized this claim.[24][25] For example, it is widely claimed that Fela suffered and may have possibly died from Kaposi's Sarcoma, which is a symptom of HIV/AIDS infection. However, there are no known photos of Kuti with telltale lesions; moreover, Kuti was honored with a lying-in-state in which his remains were encased in a five-sided glass coffin for full public viewing.[26] More than one million people attended Fela's funeral at the site of the old Shrine compound. The New Afrika Shrine has opened since Fela's death in a different section of Lagos under the supervision of his son Femi.


Main article: Afrobeat

The musical style of Felá is called Afrobeat, a style he largely created, which is a complex fusion of jazz, funk, Ghanaian/Nigerian highlife, psychedelic rock and traditional West African chants and rhythms. Afrobeat also borrows heavily from the native "tinker pan".[27] The importance of the input of Tony Allen (Fela's drummer of twenty years) in the creation of Afrobeat cannot be overstated. Fela once famously stated that "without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat".

Afrobeat is characterized by a fairly large band with many instruments, vocals and a musical structure featuring jazzy, funky horn sections. A riff-based "endless groove" is used, in which a base rhythm of drums, shekere, muted West African-style guitar and melodic bass guitar riffs are repeated throughout the song. Commonly, interlocking melodic riffs and rhythms are introduced one by one, building the groove bit-by-bit and layer-by-layer. The horn section then becomes prominent, introducing other riffs and main melodic themes.

Fela's band was notable for featuring two baritone saxophones, whereas most groups were using only one of this instrument. This is a common technique in African and African-influenced musical styles and can be seen in funk and hip hop. Fela's bands at times even performed with two bassists at the same time both playing interlocking melodies and rhythms. There were always two or more guitarists. The electric West African style guitar in Afrobeat bands are paramount, but are used to give basic structure, playing a repeating chordal/melodic statement, riff or groove.

Some elements often present in Fela's music are the call-and-response within the chorus and figurative but simple lyrics. Fela's songs were also very long, at least 10–15 minutes in length, and many reached 20 or even 30 minutes, while some unreleased tracks would last up to 45 minutes when performed live. This was one of many reasons that his music never reached a substantial degree of popularity outside Africa. His LP records frequently had one 30-minute track per side. Typically there is an An annual festival "Instrumental Introduction" jam part of the song, perhaps 10–15 minutes long, before Fela starts singing the "main" part of the song, featuring his lyrics and singing, in which the song continues for another 10–15 minutes. Therefore, on some recordings one may see his songs divided into two parts, Part 1 (instrumental) followed by the rest, Part 2.

His songs were mostly sung in Nigerian pidgin English, although he also performed a few songs in the Yoruba language. Fela's main instruments were the saxophone and the keyboards, but he also played the trumpet, electric guitar, and took the occasional drum solo. Fela refused to perform songs again after he had already recorded them, which also hindered his popularity outside Africa.

Fela was known for his showmanship, and his concerts were often quite outlandish and wild. He referred to his stage act as the "Underground" Spiritual Game. Fela attempted making a movie but lost all the materials to the fire that was set to his house by the military government in power. Kuti thought that art, and thus his own music, should have political meaning.[16]

It is of note that as Fela's musical career developed, so too did his political influence, not only in his home country of Nigeria, not just throughout Africa, but throughout the world. As his political influence grew, the religious aspect of his musical approach grew. Fela was a part of an Afro-Centric consciousness movement that was founded on and delivered through his music. Fela, in an interview found in Hank Bordowitz's Noise of the World states: "Music is supposed to have an effect. If you're playing music and people don't feel something, you're not doing shit. That's what African music is about. When you hear something, you must move. I want to move people to dance, but also to think. Music wants to dictate a better life, against a bad life. When you're listening to something that depicts having a better life, and you're not having a better life, it must have an effect on you."[28]

West Africa has been a cultural crossroad for musical development. The most widespread and influential music was guitar-based genres including "palmwine" music, which swept the region during the 1920s and 1930s. Palmwine was most often heard at informal gatherings among the urban lower classes. The musicians would accompany themselves with guitars, beer bottles for percussion or kerosene cans. The singers were often fairly political and touched on contemporary issues. The other popular genre was "highlife," which was more associated with the upper classes and social elite. Performed at important events such as weddings, funerals, and holidays, highlife ensembles combined European band instruments and harmonic structures with distinctly African practices such as praise singing. Highlife’s appeal was broadened by its origins in Ghana, the first African nation to gain independence in 1957. Under the leadership of the prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s political and cultural influence was strong throughout the region during the postcolonial period.

With a population of 150 million people, Nigeria was the most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa, gaining its independence in 1960.[29] Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, while dominated by the Yoruba people, is in many ways a postmodern collage of different ethnicities, nationalities, and cultures. The city’s origins lie in the illicit slave trade. Built on a sandy island, its many creeks afforded hiding places for slave traders after the French (1791) and British (1807) outlawed the slave trade. Lagos became an important incubator for urban popular musics as the Kru mariners, as well as Ghanaians, Cameroonians, and others brought palm wine and highlife, which blended with Yoruba traditions, especially jújù.

As in highlife, jújù groups typically play for important social functions, often hired by the social and economic elite. Here they are expected to perform the traditional role of offering praises to their hosts both vocally and articulated by the sonically prominent talking drum or dundun. The social status of musicians as beggars is reinforced by the practice of "spraying" in which the hosts and their guests reward the musicians by pressing money to their foreheads. In the 1930s, as the "rhumba" craze (actually Cuban son montuno) swept much of the United States and Europe, highlife, palmwine, and jújù began to assimilate Caribbean rhythms, percussion instruments, and harmonic and formal structures. Calypso and other genres from English-speaking islands also became part of the mix. Latin and Caribbean influence in West Africa came not only through the African colonies’ and Caribbean colonies’ common tether to the European powers (particularly London), but through the important communities of repatriated former slaves and their descendants.

Lagos’ importance as a center for music grew as Decca, EMI, and other record companies established recording studios in the city as they expanded their operations in Africa (Veal, 2000, 79). In the years after World War II the modern sound of jújù featuring electric instruments, especially guitars, was popularized by such artists as Tunde Nightingale, I. K. Dairo, Ebenezer Obey, and King Sunny Adé. The 1960s brought an influx of American soul music such as Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, James Brown and others. The postcolonial market was ripe for a new broadly popular music, one that appealed to different ethnicities and social classes, that internally was emblematic of African-ness but presented a modern face to the world. As an ambitious young musician, Fela Anikulapo Ransome-Kuti was determined to create a genre to satisfy this demand. But his route to this innovation first led him to two important international black Atlantic destinations: London and the United States.

Political views and activism[edit]


Fela Kuti was a political giant in Africa from the 70s until his death. Kuti criticized the corruption of Nigerian government officials and the mistreatment of Nigerian citizens. He spoke of colonialism as the root of the socio-economic and political problems that plagued the African people. Corruption was one of the worst, if not the worst, political problem facing Africa in the 70s and Nigeria was among the most corrupt countries of the time. The Nigerian government was responsible for election rigging and coups that ultimately worsened poverty, economic inequality, unemployment, and political instability, which further promoted corruption and thuggery. Fela's protest songs covered themes inspired by the realities of corruption and socio-economic inequality in Africa. Fela Kuti's political statements could be heard throughout Africa.

Kuti's open vocalization of the violent and oppressive regime controlling Nigeria didn't come without consequence. He was arrested on over 200 different occasions, including his longest stint of 20 months after his arrest in 1984. On top of the jail time, the corrupt government would send soldiers to beat Kuti, his family and friends, and destroy wherever he lived and whatever instruments or recordings he had.

In the 1970s, Kuti began to run outspoken political columns in the advertising space of daily and weekly newspapers such as The Daily Times and The Punch, bypassing editorial censorship in Nigeria's predominantly state controlled media.[30] Published throughout the 1970s and early 1980s under the title "Chief Priest Say", these columns were extensions of Kuti's famous Yabi Sessions—consciousness-raising word-sound rituals, with himself as chief priest, conducted at his Lagos nightclub. Organized around a militantly Afrocentric rendering of history and the essence of black beauty, "Chief Priest Say" focused on the role of cultural hegemony in the continuing subjugation of Africans. Kuti addressed a number of topics, from explosive denunciations of the Nigerian Government's criminal behaviour; Islam and Christianity's exploitative nature, and evil multinational corporations; to deconstructions of Western medicine, Black Muslims, sex, pollution, and poverty. "Chief Priest Say" was cancelled, first by Daily Times then by Punch. The reason given was non-payment, but many commentators[who?] have speculated that the papers' editors were increasingly pressured to stop publication, including by violence.

Political views[edit]

Kuti was outspoken; his songs spoke his inner thoughts. His rise in popularity throughout the 1970s signaled a change in the relation between music as an art form and Nigerian socio-political discourse.[32] In 1984 Anikulapo harshly criticized and insulted the then authoritarian president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari.[33] One of his popular songs, "Beast Of No Nation", refers to Buhari as an animal in a madman's body; in Nigerian Pidgin: "No be outside Buhari dey ee, na krase man be dat, animal in krase man skin ii". Kuti strongly believed in Africa and always preached peace among Africans. He thought the most important way for Africans to fight European cultural imperialism was to support traditional African religions and lifestyles.[16] The American Black Power movement also influenced Fela's political views; he supported Pan-Africanism and socialism, and called for a united, democratic African republic.[34][35] Some of the famous African leaders he supported during his lifetime include Kwame Nkrumah and Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso.[19] Kuti was a candid supporter of human rights, and many of his songs are direct attacks against dictatorships, specifically the militaristic governments of Nigeria in the 1970s and 1980s. He was also a social commentator, and he criticized his fellow Africans (especially the upper class) for betraying traditional African culture.

The African culture he believed in also included men having many wives (polygyny). The Kalakuta Republic was formed in part as a polygamist colony. In defense of polygyny he said: "A man goes for many women in the first place. Like in Europe, when a man is married, when the wife is sleeping, he goes out and fucks around. He should bring the women in the house, man, to live with him, and stop running around the streets!"[36] Some characterize his views towards women as misogynist, and typically cite as evidence songs like "Mattress".[37][38] In a more complex example, he mocks the aspiration of African women to European standards of ladyhood while extolling the values of the market woman in his song "Lady".[38] In accordance with his beliefs, Fela Kuti married multiple women at the same time in 1978.[19][39]

Fela Kuti was also an outspoken critic of America. At a meeting during his 1981 Amsterdam tour, he "complained about the psychological warfare that American organizations like ITT and the CIA waged against developing nations in terms of language" He did not see why the terms 'Third World, "undeveloped" or even worse, "Non-aligned countries" should be used, as they all implied inferiority."[19]

Revival and legacy[edit]

Since Fela's death in 1997, there has been a revival of his influence in music and popular culture, culminating in another re-release of his catalog controlled by Universal Music, Broadway and off-Broadway biographically based shows, and new bands, such as Antibalas, who carry the Afrobeat banner to a new generation of listeners.

In 1999, Universal Music France, under the aegis of Francis Kertekian, remastered the 45 albums that it controlled, and released them on 26 compact discs. These titles were licensed to countries of the world, except Nigeria and Japan, where Fela's music was controlled by other companies. In 2005, Universal Music USA licensed all of its world-music titles to the UK-based label Wrasse Records, which repackaged the same 26 CDs for distribution in the USA (replacing the MCA-issued titles there) and the UK. In 2009, Universal created a new deal for the USA with Knitting Factory Records and for Europe with PIAS, which included the release of the Fela! Broadway cast album. In 2013, FKO Ltd, the entity that owned the rights of all of Fela's compositions, was acquired by BMG Rights Management.

In 2003, an exhibition in the New Museum for Contemporary Art, New York, titled The Black President Exhibition, debuted and featured concerts, symposia, films, and the works of 39 international artists.[40][19][41]

Thomas McCarthy's 2008 film The Visitor depicted a disconnected professor (Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins) who wanted to play the djembe. He learns from a young Syrian (Haaz Sleiman) who tells the professor he will never truly understand African music unless he listens to Fela. The film features clips of Fela's "Open and Close" and "Je'nwi Temi (Don't Gag Me)".

In 2008, an off-Broadway production of Fela Kuti's life entitled Fela!, inspired by Carlos Moore's 1982 book Fela, Fela! This Bitch of a Life,[42][43] began with a collaborative workshop between the Afrobeat band Antibalas and Tony award-winner Bill T. Jones. The show was a massive success, selling out shows during its run, and garnering much critical acclaim. On 22 November 2009, Fela! began a run on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. Jim Lewis helped co-write the play (along with Bill T. Jones), and obtained producer backing from Jay-Z and Will Smith, among others. On 4 May 2010, Fela! was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical for Bill T. Jones, Best Leading Actor in a Musical for Sahr Ngaujah, and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Lillias White.[44] In 2011 the London production of Fela! was made into a film.[19] On 11 June 2012, it was announced that FELA! would return to Broadway for 32 performances.[45]

On 18 August 2009, award-winning DJ J.Period released a free mixtape to the general public via his website that was a collaboration with Somali-born hip-hop artist K'naan paying tribute to Fela, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, entitled The Messengers.

In October 2009, Knitting Factory Records began the process of re-releasing the 45 titles that Universal Music controls, starting with yet another re-release of the compilation The Best of the Black President in the USA. The rest were expected to be released in 2010.[needs update]

Fela Son of Kuti: The Fall of Kalakuta is a stage play written by Onyekaba Cornel Best in 2010. It has had successful acclaims in 2010 as part of that year's Felabration celebration and returned in 2014 at the National Theatre and Freedom Park in Lagos. The play deals with events in a hideout a day after the fall of Kalakuta.

Fela Kuti is remembered as an influential icon who was brave enough to boldly voice his opinions on matters that affected the nation through his music. An annual festival "Felabration" held each year to celebrate the life of this music legend and his birthday.

The full-length documentary film Finding Fela, directed by Alex Gibney, received its premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

In addition, a movie by Focus Features, directed by Steve McQueen and written by Biyi Bandele, about the life of Fela Kuti was rumoured to be in production 2010, with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead role, but has not eventuated.[46]


Main article: Fela Kuti discography


  • Finding Fela, 2014, Alex Gibney and Jack Gulick (Jigsaw Productions)
  • Fela in Concert, 1981 (VIEW)
  • Music is the Weapon, 1982, Stéphane Tchal-Gadjieff and Jean Jacques Flori (Universal Music)
  • Fela Live! Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and the Egypt '80 Band, 1984, recorded live at Glastonbury, England (Yazoo)
  • Fela Kuti: Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense & Berliner Jazztage '78 (Double Feature), 1984 (Lorber Films)
  • Femi Kuti — Live at the Shrine, 2005, recorded live in Lagos, Nigeria (Palm Pictures)


  1. ^Moore, Carlos (14 December 2012). Fela Kuti. This Bitch of a Life! (in German). Haffmans & Tolkemitt. ISBN 9783942989343. 
  2. ^"Barack Obama and the Original First Black President". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 17 July 2009. 
  3. ^Moore, Carlos (14 December 2012). Fela Kuti. This Bitch of a Life! (in German). Haffmans & Tolkemitt. p. 1. ISBN 9783942989343. 
  4. ^Grass, Randall F. (1 January 1986). "Fela Anikulapo-Kuti: The Art of an Afrobeat Rebel". The Drama Review: TDR. 30 (1): 131–148. doi:10.2307/1145717. JSTOR 1145717. 
  5. ^Ogunnaike, Lola (17 July 2003). "Celebrating the Life and Impact of the Nigerian Music Legend Fela". The New York Times. Manhattan, New York City: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.Retrieved 18 November 2010. 
  6. ^Hamilton, Janice. Nigeria in Pictures, p. 70.
  7. ^ abcAlbert Oikelome. "Stylistic Analysis of Afrobeat Music of Fela Anikulapo Kuti"(PDF). Analysisworldmusic.com. Retrieved 27 January 2013. [dead link]
  8. ^ abcdefgLindsay Barrett, "Fela Kuti: Chronicle of A Life Foretold", The Wire, September 2011. Originally published in The Wire 169 (March 1998). Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  9. ^Spencer, Neil (2010-10-30). "Fela Kuti remembered: 'He was a tornado of a man, but he loved humanity'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 1 October 2016. 
  10. ^ abOlatunji, Michael (2007). "Yabis: A Phenomenon in the Contemporary Nigerian Music"(PDF). The Journal of Pan African Studies. 1: 26–46. 
  11. ^David Ryshpan. "Victor Olaiya, All Star Soul International". Exclaim!. Retrieved 3 November 2009. 
  12. ^Tewksbury, Drew (December 13, 2011). "Fela Kuti's Lover and Mentor Sandra Smith Talks About Afrobeat's L.A. Origins, as Fela! Musical Arrives at the Ahmanson". L.A. Weekly. Retrieved April 3, 2016. 
  13. ^"Meaning of Anikulapo in". Nigerian.name. 11 January 2008. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  14. ^"Fela Anikulapo Kuti: The 'ghost' resurrects and the beat goes on, a preview by The Independence". Emnnews.com. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
    As of 01:07, Sunday, March 11, 2018 (UTC)
  15. ^Bobby Gass creditsAllmusic
  16. ^ abcGrass, Randall F. (1986). "Fela Anikulapo-Kuti: The Art of an Afrobeat Rebel". The Drama Review: TDR. MIT Press. 30 (1): 131–148. doi:10.2307/1145717. JSTOR 1145717. 
  17. ^Matthew McKinnon (12 August 2005). "Rebel Yells: A protest music mixtape". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 November 2009. 
  18. ^ abCulshaw, Peter (15 August 2004). "The big Fela". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  19. ^ abcdefCollins, John (5 June 2015). Fela: Kalakuta Notes. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 9780819575401. 
  20. ^Fela Kuti: Music is the Weapon. Directors Jean-Jacques Flori and Stephane Tchalgadjieff. 1982. Universal Import. March 2004.
  21. ^Fela Kuti and Egypt 80 Interview. Arsenal TV3 Catalonian TV 08 April 1987.[1]
  22. ^Adenekan, Shola (15 February 2006). "Obituary: Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti". The Guardian. London. 
  23. ^"Success stories". Amnesty International. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  24. ^"Fela Did Not Die of AIDS, Widow Insists." Daily Times Nigeria. 29 March 2015.[2]
  25. ^See: Washington, Teresa N. (2014). The Architects of Existence: Aje in Yoruba Cosmology, Ontology, and Orature. Oya's Tornado. pp. 285n105. ISBN 978-0991073016. 
  26. ^"Fela Anikulapo Kuti Lying In State." http://newafricashrine.blogspot.com/
  27. ^As Iwedi Ojinmah points out in his article "Baba is Dead – Long Live Baba,"
  28. ^Bordowitz, Hank (2004). Noise of the World: Non-Western Musicians In Their Own Words. Canada: Soft Skull Press. p. 170. 
  29. ^Dappa-Biriye, Harold J. R. (1995). Minority Politics in Pre- and Post-independence Nigeria. University of Port Harcourt Press. 
  30. ^This section includes material copied verbatim from "Chief Priest Say"Archived 4 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine., at chimurengalibrary.co.za, released under GFDL.
  31. ^Blanche Clarke, "Man of Beats Brings a Message with him", Herald Sun, 4 February 2011.
  32. ^Shonekan, Stephanie (1 January 2009). "Fela's Foundation: Examining the Revolutionary Songs of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and the Abeokuta Market Women's Movement in 1940s Western Nigeria". Black Music Research Journal. 29 (1): 127–144. JSTOR 20640673. 
  33. ^Denselow, Robin (1 April 2015). "Nigeria's new president Muhammadu Buhari – the man who jailed Fela Kuti". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 4 October 2016. 
  34. ^Stewart, Alexander (5 December 2013). "Make It Funky: Fela Kuti, James Brown and the Invention of Afrobeat". American Studies. 52 (4): 99–118. doi:10.1353/ams.2013.0124. ISSN 2153-6856. 
  35. ^Hadj-Moussa, R.; Nijhawan, M. (9 July 2014). Suffering, Art, and Aesthetics. Springer. ISBN 9781137426086. 
  36. ^"Fela Kuti". Jaybabcock.com. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  37. ^Stanovsky, Derek (1998). "Fela and His Wives: The Import of a Postcolonial Masculinity". Jouvert. english.chass.ncsu.edu. Retrieved 16 March 2010. 
  38. ^ abOlaniyan, Tejumola (1 May 2001). "The Cosmopolitan Nativist: Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and the Antinomies of Postcolonial Modernity". Research in African Literatures. 32 (2): 76–89. ISSN 1527-2044. 
  39. ^Moore, Carlos; Gil, Gilberto (1982). Fela: This Bitch of a Life. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781556528354. 
  40. ^"Black President: the Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti", New Museum Digital Archive.
  41. ^Koirala, Snigdha. "—Black President: The Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, New Museum of Contemporary Art". BOMB Magazine. Retrieved 29 November 2016. 
  42. ^Bossler, Gregory (13 July 2012). "Fela!: Review Roundup". Gregorybossler.com. Retrieved 27 January 2013. 
  43. ^Reedy, R. Scott (3 May 2012). "Theatergoers can't stay in their seats during 'Fela!'". Marshfield Mariner. Archived from

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