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Fela Kuti mural
In Search of Fela Kuti

Photo gallery: Max and Rita in search of Fela Kuti

First broadcast on Monday 6th September 2004 at 9.30pm

Max Reinhardt and Rita Ray presented a portrait of this important figure in Nigeria’s musical and social history, to coincide with the Barbican’s multi-arts Fela Kuti festival "Black President" (9 Sept-24 Oct 2004). 

Fela "Anikulapo" Kuti was a Nigerian singer, bandleader, composer and multi-instrumentalist who pioneered one of Africa’s most successful and influential musical styles, "Afro-Beat", which combined elements of West African highlife music with American jazz and funk. Seven years on from his death, the world is starting to recognise the work of Fela Kuti as one of the most significant bodies of 20th-Century popular music. The sheer power of his music, the scathing dialectic of his lyrics, his controversial lifestyle and consequent iconic status have all nurtured a rich legacy. But who was he? What was his impact, before and after his death, in African politics and music? Was he a revolutionary prophet and voice of the people or a just an outspoken rock star, a patriarchal hedonist who famously married 27 women in one ceremony?

Max Reinhardt and Rita Ray are passionate about Fela Kuti and founded the Shrine club night in London, a tribute to Fela Kuti's own club in Lagos, where his music was created and performed. They travel to Nigeria, to the busy port city of Lagos and visit the site of the old Shrine nightclub, the New Afrika Shrine now run by his son Femi, the house and commune which he named the "Kalakuta Republic", and his birthplace in nearby Abeokuta. They talk to family members including his cousin Yemisi Ransome-Kuti and sister Dolupo Ransome-Kuti, one of his widows Fehintolla Anikulapo Kuti, his friend and PR manager JK Braimah, his biographer Michael Veal, journalist Vivien Goldman, and surviving key bandmembers including drummer Tony Allen and keyboard player Dele Sosimi.

Produced by Felix Carey

This programme is only available in the Realmedia audio format - More details and help

Further Reading:

Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway"Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway" edited by Trevor Schoonmaker
Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN 1-4039-6210-3

Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musica Icon"Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musica Icon" by Michael E.Veal
Temple University Press, Philadelphia
ISBN 1-56639-765-0

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