Africa's greatest musical superstar.
Fela Kuti (1938-1997) was a Nigerian singer, saxophonist, dancer and activist, famous for creating the musical genre "afrobeat", a cross between African traditional music, jazz and funk. He wrote and performed several songs attacking political and social conventions in his native country and African society in general. Needless to say, he was arrested and beaten up for this several times during his career. He died in 1997 of AIDS.
In 2008 the stage musical Fela!
was made about his life and in 2014 a documentary, "Finding Fela"
was released in theatres.
This trope provides examples of:
- Ancient Egypt: Album cover art on "Shuffering And Shmiling" (1977).
- Anti-Love Song: Wrote about lust and nothing else.
- Antiquated Linguistics: "Shuffering And Shmiling" instead of "suffering and smiling".
- Badass Boast: Kuti was very cocksure.
- "No Agreement tomorrow, No Agreement today!"
- Badass Preacher: Kuti's concerts sometimes felt like a spiritual experience with Kuti preaching his message to his audience. This despite the fact that he wasn't particularly religious himself.
- Bawdy Song: "Mattress" in which he compares women to mattresses. And "Na Poi" was banned from Nigerian radio for its explicit lyrics.
- Bilingual Bonus: Most of his songs were sung in pidgin English, but there are also a few in Yoruba.
- Blasphemous Boast: Later in his career Kuti poked fun at organized religion a lot, as in "Shuffering And Shmiling".
- Blasting Time: Kuti and his band always ended their shows by raising their arms in the air and clenching their fists.
- Body Paint: He and his band wore body paint during concerts.
- But Not Too Black: Attacked this mindset in "Yellow Fever", pointing out that skin-lightening creams just made the user look sick, and that "light skin is more beautiful" was a holdover from colonialism that needed to die.
- In "Gentleman" he also criticized Africans who try to Westernize themselves into gentlemen and forget their roots.
- Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Fela embodied this trope!
- Crapsack World: His lyrics attack colonialism, militarism, war, organized religion, dictatorships and racism.
- Creator Provincialism: "Africa, Center of the World".
- Epic Rocking: Most of his albums only have two to four tracks, which take several minutes on an "eternal groove". Some of them are even divided in two parts!
- Funk: His music is damn groovy!
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Kuti made fierce attacks on politicians and religious leaders of his day and named names in his songs. He got in trouble a lot for it.
- Grief Song: "Coffin For Head Of State" was written after his mother died when presidential soldiers raided his house.
- Harem Seeker: Kuti had a lot of wives and lived together with them.
- I Am the Band: Had a huge band with musicians, singers and dancers, but he was the star. However, he once praised drummer Tony Allen by stating "without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat".
- I Ate What?: Once, to avoid being tried for possession of a joint, Kuti swallowed the item. The prison guards had a hunch though and waited until the item would come out the natural way. Kuti wasn't born yesterday either: he switched his feces with those of another prisoner and was sent home free from all charges. The incident was recounted in the song "Expensive Shit".
- Iconic Item: The white paint on his face and bare breast.
- Intercourse with You: Had very open-minded ideas about sex.
- Just Following Orders: His song "Zombie" is an attack on soldiers obeying their leaders at all cost. "Mister Follow Follow" is similar.
- Live Album: "Live!" (1971).
- My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: Kuti attacked his country's leaders so much that he was frequently arrested, beaten up and had his house destroyed.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Afrobeat started when Fela Kuti mixed American funk and jazz with Ghanian highlife music (which itself is a hybrid genre) and Nigerian tribal chants.
- Overly Long Title: "Teacher Don't Teach Me No Nonsense", "Don't Worry About My Mouth O (African Message)", "Why Black Man Dey Suffer", "Ikoyi Mentality Versus Mushin Mentality", "Mr Grammarticologylisationalism Is the Boss", "Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am",...
- Protest Song: Lots!
- Ripped from the Headlines: Most of Kuti's songs were directly inspired by (at the time) real life events.
- After escaping jail time over marihuana possession Kuti wrote the song "Expensive Shit".
- "Unknown Soldier" was inspired by the raid on his home, where he was severly beaten.
- Religion Rant Song: "Shuffering And Shmiling".
- Kuti's drummer Tony Allen is given a shout-out in "Music Is My Radar" by blur, with the line "Tony Allen got me dancing".
- Smoking Is Cool: Kuti smoked both cigarettes and marihuana.
- Start My Own: He eventually founded his own political party.
- Take That: The government.
- "Beasts Of No Nation" attacks Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and P.W. Botha, president of South Africa and proponent of apartheid on the album cover.
- Tribal Face Paint: He and his band always wore white face and body paint during concerts.
- You No Take Candle: Kuti sang in pidgin English so that the majority of Africans could understand him.