Legendary Afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo Kuti was only 58 years old when he passed away on the 2nd of August, 1997, and 23 years after his death, his music is still etched into the hearts of every Nigerian both young and old. Known for his radical demeanor, ideals, and morals which is heard in his music, Fela was a major headache for corrupt politicians.
His music captured the zeitgeist of the late 60s and 70s as his lyrics strongly castigates corruption, police brutality, poverty, fear, apathy, and Generation Z would attest that ‘he is not a man of love but a preacher of war’. Fela was undeterred by the power of government which repeatedly had him beaten, imprisoned, and even killed his mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. He simply wanted to battle unjust authority.
The 15th of October, 2020 marks what would have been his 82nd birthday. Fela left a legacy that has lived on and continued to survive for decades as all his songs have maintained their relevance, especially with all the anti-police brutality protests happening in the country at the moment.
Nigerian youths from all over the state have risen in large numbers to clamor for the end of police brutality and other forms of corruption. We’re sure he would be smiling at the youths for not giving up on the dream for a better Nigeria. To celebrate this special day, Melodygist shares with you 10 songs from the Abami Eda that are still relevant to date.
- Shuffering and Smiling (1977)
Regarded as one of his most iconic songs, Fela describes the harsh conditions that Nigerians live in. Fela sings about how Africans are suffering at the hands of oppressors that came to colonize and destroy the heritage of the continent. His main focus is how Nigerians suffer and smile through all the pain because they seem to have the notion that they would be rewarded in the afterlife for not living a lavish life. “Suffer, suffer for world, Enjoy for Heaven, Christians go dey yab In Spiritum Heavinus, Muslims go dey call Allahu Akbar. Open you eye everywhere, Archbishop na miliki, Pope na enjoyment, Imam na gbaladun, Archbishop dey enjoy, Pope self dey enjoy, Imam self dey enjoy, My brother wetin you say?”
The song is aimed at opening the eyes of those that are being blinded by religion and honestly nothing much has changed till today. People worship their religious readers without understanding the true meaning of religion.
2. Yellow Fever (1971)
Skin whitening is a common practice across the developing world and according to the World Health Organization, Nigeria has the highest number of women in the world who use skin-lightening products. Although men bleach their skin too, it is predominantly done by women.
In the song, Fela warns Nigerians about the disadvantages of using bleaching creams which was already becoming a trend at that time. Fela made sure to list out these disadvantages for the stubborn ones to hear.
“Original catch you, Your eye go yellow, Your yansh go yellow, Your face go yellow, Your body go weak, I say but later if you no die inside, The yellow go fade away, Artificial catch you, You be man or woman, You go yellow pass yellow, You go catch moustache for face, You go get your double colour. Your yansh go black like coal, You self go think say you dey fineWho say you fine?”
There’s the chorus where he tells women that they are better off leaving their skin in its natural form. “Na lie, you no fine at all! At all, na lie!My sister, who say you fine?Na lie, you no fine at all! At all, na lie!” Today, bleaching is more rampant than in the times of Fela.
3. Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense (1980)
This is a song about the so-called democracy in Nigeria that the colonial powers enforced in the country and interestingly, they do not follow. This was Fela’s way of calling Nigerians and Africans as a whole to remember their roots and stop trying to copy everything the white man does. Fela sings about how the white man would overlook the bad leadership in the country and do the exact same opposite in their own country. He condemned the act and urged Africans to open their eyes and realize that they are being robbed in broad daylight.
“Na dem-o-cr-azy be the deal, Na dem-o-cr-azy be the deal, Who don teach us ee dem-o-cr-azy?, (Bo-ptch!) Oyinbo teach-ee us, (Yuh-ngh!) Oyinbo for Europe-oh, Oyinbo teach us many many things-ee, Many of dem things I don sing about-ee”.
In the country today, we as Africans have failed to reconnect with our roots as we still depend on foreign countries for things we can handle ourselves. We try to imitate every aspect of their lives forgetting our cultures and traditions in the process.
4. Original Sufferhead (1981)
Fela discusses the woes of Africa as a continent despite having rich and numerous resources. Fela castigates the white men for stealing everything and leaving nothing but suffering and pain for Africans. Sadly, this is still one of the major problems Africa faces. Basic soil amenities like Food, water and electricity are still not provided despite all the resources and there is the issue of the rich getter richer and the poor getting poorer.
“You see yourself you no de for, Afrika at all, If you dey for Africa where we dey, You go know, I go know wetin, Plenty, about water, light, food, house, I go know wetin, Plenty plenty water for Africa, Na so-so water in Africa, Water underground, water in the air, Na so-so water in Africa, Water for man to drink”… he sings, Listen!!!
5. Colonial Mentality (1977)
Africans still live like they haven’t attained independence, they still have the colonial mentality. Africans would rather accept everything foreign and believe that everything from the continent is not good enough or inferior. He speaks about the fact that Africans have a colonial mentality and still live in the past despite having gained independence. They embrace everything foreign and believe theirs to be inferior, from basic things like food and clothes down to their names and religious practices.
This song is still very relevant today, as Africans in general would rather purchase foreign-made products and would use foreign names instead of their traditional ones. Even high-ranked officials in government would rather send their children abroad for schooling and medical treatments than staying in the country.
“Colo-mentality, He be say you be colonial man, You don be slave man before,Them don release you now,But you never release yourself I say you fit never release yourself, Colo-mentality, He be say you be colonial man, You don be slave man before, Them don release you now,But you never release yourself”….
6. Confusion Break Bone (1990)
Fela sings about the confusion that is in the country and he fears that Nigerians might never experience a change. He highlights all the problems he has always mentioned in his songs and says that nothing has changed and truly nothing has changed. Nigeria is still in a state of chaos and disorderliness. The corrupt politicians get away with a lot but the innocent man gets punished instead.
“I sing dis song some time ago, Call am “Confusion”, Then army never burn my house, Oil money flow for Lagos then, LARUDU REPEKE (after each line), Repeke Laru, Laru, laru, Repeke Laru, My people dey say Nigeria done dey, But me as I see am, I no say, Nigeria go-go down, Our country go dey make-ee money, My people of country no see money.”
7. Authority Stealing (1980)
The government for years has continued to steal and loot the country funds and this song tackled the “Authority Stealing.” To Fela, the people in authority are civilized thieves who get away with theft because of their high ranks, and authority stealing is worse than armed robbery. The government people still steal from us and feeds us with lies and we let them get away with it. The petty thief gets thrown in jail while the political robbers remain scot-free and given the chance to continue looting.
Misappropriation, Maladministration, Nepotism, Mitigation, Defraudment, Forgerylization, Embezzlement, Vilification, Mismanagement and Public inquiry, these were the words used by Fela to tackle the government. “Because now authority stealing pass armed robbery, Authority man him go dey steal, Public contribute plenty money.
Na authority people dey steal, Authority man no dey pickpocket. Na petty cash him go dey pick, Armed robber him need gun, Authority man him need pen, Authority man in charge of money, Him no need gun, him need pen,, Pen got power gun no get, If gun steal eighty thousand naira, Pen go steal two billion naira. You know go hear dem shout Thief, Thief, Thief,”
8. Coffin for Head of State (1981)
Considered as one of his saddest songs, it condemns politicians and their hypocrisy. Here, he speaks about corrupt politicians like Obasanjo and Yar’adua. These leaders were involved in killing and stealing from innocent people, yet they openly condemn such activities and hide behind Christianity and Islam. He also sang about the presence of preferential treatment in the allocation of positions based on religion.
Till today, a great deal of corruption and hypocrisy in the guise of leadership and religion is still in vogue. Our leaders are still stealing from us, but yet they are the quickest to attend church programs and quote bible verses. “I waka many business anywhere in Africa, I waka many business anywhere in Africa, North and South them get them policies. One Christian and the other one Muslim, Anywhere the Muslims them they reign, Na Senior Alhaji na him be Director, Anywhere the Christians them they reign, Na the best friend to Bishop na him be Director”
9. Beasts Of No Nation (1989)
Fela sang about, economic, social matters, political and also about the silence of the Nigerian people against government oppression and brutality. He also spoke against apathy in foreign nations like South Africa, . This song remains relevant today as the same hypocrisy and silence in the face of government injustice is still the order of the day in our beloved country and continent as a whole.
B’asket mouth wan start to leak again, oh-, BASKET MOUTH WAN OPEN MOUTH AGAIN, OH, Abi** you don forget I say I sing, ee-oh **(is it not), BASKET MOUTH WAN OPEN MOUTH AGAIN, OH, Oh, I sing, I say, I go my mouth like basket, ee-oh, Malan Bia-gbe-re”
The singer also slammed past leaders like Buhari, Idia Agbon, and Buhari and called them animals in crazed men skin. “Na be outside- Buhari dey, Na craze man be dat,bAnimal in craze-man skin-i, Na craze world be dat, Na be outside- Idia-gbon dey. Na craze man be dat- oh, Animal in craze-man skin-i, Na craze world be dat, Na be outside- dem find me guilty,Na be outside- dem jail me five years I no do nothing”
10. International Thief Thief (I.T.T.) (1980)
This was a direct jab Moshood Abiola, who was at that time the CEO of the International Telephone & Telegraph (IT&T)and other politicians like Obasanjo who were getting rich by selling off the country to the whites. Start start to steal money, Start start to steal money, Like Obasanjo and Abiola International thief thief, I.T.T., International rogue, International thief
Corruption, oppression, inflation is still raiment in Nigeria and this is seen in the Nigeria Delta situation. Despite being the major supplier of oil and the bulk of the county’s wealth, the region is given poor recognition and politicians are still looting, extorting, and selling out their people in their bid to get richer.
This a song from the ‘Gentle-Man’ album most African men don’t joke with. The lyrics ‘I no be gentleman at all, I no be gentleman at all, i no be gentleman at all o, I no be gentleman at all, at all I be African Man Original‘ is one that can’t leave African men mouth for life because it used to clear people that Blacks are not white. The blacks are always ready for Wahala! Even the African weather and environment can’t make you a gentleman… LISTEN!