FELA ON 30TH SEPTEMBER AND A FEW VIEWS

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Fela. The larger than life was in his early 50’s in 1990 and in his final decade.

A view of his live performance on 30th September 1990, gives the sense is of eclectic euphoria. The sound is one of clashing sounds arousing different emotions. The sounds would go classical, spiritual and even traditional.

 

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After his return from studies in England, a young Fela started work at the Nigerian radio cooperation. Married with two kids, Yeni narrates that his mother was still the breadwinner of the family at the time. His mum would lament “This one that you are always begging me for money why don’t you go and play highlife or something”. Fela claims that it was at that time that he got the idea to fuse African music into his jazz style music.

 

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Paying a heavy price for musical activism, he was a major proponent of the African identity.

“Yes in England you can sing about love and who you are going to bed with next….. But in my own environment, my society is under developing because of an alien system on our people. So there is no music for enjoyment, there is nothing like love. There is only a struggle for people’s existence.  So as an artist politically and artistically the whole idea about your environment must be represented in the Arts”.

This represented the very core of his musical existence, that Art must represent your surroundings. It should be able to mark time, place and events. And indeed the break came in 1971 with Jeun Koku a hit song and many more songs after that. It was a well-earned reward for perseverance and trust in the creative process as fusing different genres of music was no mean feat. “I lost a lot of crowd during that period but I still kept going,” says Fela.

A glimpse into his earlier days shows nothing too significant. “In our university days, we would host parties and the girlfriends would cook…. He thought politics was a pure waste of time until he found his satori” says Wole Soyinka a Nobel laureate who happens to be his cousin. Soyinka did, however, criticize his blindfold stance to Pan- Africanism. To him, it was absolutely naïve to sympathize with Idi Amin despite his human rights record.

 

FELA AND MEDICINE

Fela would not touch pharmaceutical manufactured medicine. To him, African indigenous medicine was of a “higher wavelength” when compared to western medicine. Fela would later die of AIDS at the age of 58 and his death would become a major reference point for AIDS awareness in Nigeria.

Critics have cited his death as a flaw in his argument for indigenous medicine. However, it is tempting to ask what the case would have been if he had lived until the ripe old age of 89, as many had done without any attestation to modern medicine. Wouldn’t he have proved his point? He died of an illness that even modern medicine could not cure (but can prevent). His was a classic case of an experiment unsuccessful on the balance of probabilities.

 

FELA AND SANKARA

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Fela’s friendship with Thomas Sankara is also of worthy note.  A critic of presidents and leaders all over the world, he would forge a friendship with Thomas Sankara, a one-time commander in chief of Burkina Faso. Theirs was a friendship of leftists and idealists that commanded the awe of the anti-establishment. Sadly, the friendship would not last 24 months.

As Fela was still basking in the glory of prison release in 1987, Sankara was overthrown and eventually killed by his best friend and second in command. He died on October 15th – Fela’s birthday.

 

FELA AND EDUCATION

 

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Femi Kuti

 

 

Fela didn’t believe in formal education. He did not actively support his children’s education. He encouraged his first son Femi to drop out of school. This was perhaps ironical for someone who had gotten quality education on a platter of gold. His grouse could be attributed to his dislike for academic pressures and rigour.

But he did have a point. Maybe formal education is not a prerequisite for success. Maybe formal education denies you the ability and time to explore your innate qualities and primal inclinations. Today, Femi his son is a very successful Artiste well read and well versed in the ways of the world.

Contrastingly, Femi disagrees, “I could have ended up anywhere” he stated. As far as he is concerned it was an unworthy gamble which he cannot guarantee that everyone can get away with. He has decided to make sure that all his kids go to school.

 

ENDING

On the occasion of a Fela album launch on the eve of Nigeria’s Independence Day celebration in 1990, Femi Falana, his young lawyer lambasted the government for its inability stop the dwindling value of the Naira. The lawyer jovially suggested that perhaps a recolonization of Nigeria will be necessary.

But that in itself is subject to another debate.

 

 

Abdulsalam Abdullahi is a student at the Nigerian Law school. You can follow him on Twitter @shakaabdul

 

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LONG WALK TO FREEDOM A SHORT SUMMARY OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF NELSON MANDELA

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Before reading the book, one got the perception of a media portrayed saint- calm and statesmanlike.   And not much of that image got dispelled by the end of the last chapter although a certain stubbornness and independent will power did seem to shine.

South Africa as known today has been the subject of vested interests for the past centuries back. Battles have been waged to ensure the control and possession of vital sea routes and fertile lands for habitation. Nelson Mandela has inadvertently become the face of this country and for a man who spent 27 years in jail, quite deservedly so. To his credit, he makes it a point to mention and emphasize the role of fellow comrades in a fair and detached manner, except for quite a few. There seemed to be a certain glow when the name Walter Sisulu was mentioned.

The book begins with a romantic description of an early childhood. Staple diets, simple clothing, playing by the river and a simple mat to sleep as the norm of the day. The vivid description gives an inkling to the stereotypical African village beginning of many movies today. The pride in royal lineage could also not be disguised.

Justice’s father, a chief, decided to pay back a favour to Madiba’s family by adopting him.  It was in his court that he developed his distinct leadership style. He likened leadership to that of a sheep and a shepherd. The shepherd leads from behind subtly guiding the sheep without the sheep knowing it is being led. An anti-paternalistic method that endeared him to many.

The book did not fail to point out humorous and embarrassing incidents in his younger days. He had feeble attempts at wooing women and his suits were so patched up he didn’t want an old friend he saw from afar to recognize him.

He struggled to combine his education and a job – a consequence of running away from home.

 

OBAMA’S VISIT TO AFRICA; RECOLLECTIONS

OBAMA’S VISIT TO AFRICA; RECOLLECTIONS

413383_Obama-Africa-Kenya.JPEG-0e8The month of July has been a momentous period for African history. For the very first time, an American president of African descent paid an official visit to the eastern part of the continent, addressed the African Union and enjoyed a home coming.
Amid all joys and fanfare in Kenya, where both presidents of America and Kenya where at  their charismatic best, the issue of same sex marriage was certain to be discussed and onlookers watched on with keen interest. Despite urges and pleas from many Kenyan leaders for President Obama not to advocate for gay rights.President Obama refused to their warnings.

While Mr.Obama chose to be quite succinct on the issue, President Kenyatta of Kenya courteously opposed his views by describing it as a “Non-Issue” for Kenyans. “The fact of the matter is that Kenya, the United  States, we share  so many values, but there are some things we must admit we don’t share- our culture, our societies don’t accept” President Kenyatta explained. Even though one could discern that Mr.Kenyatta seemed to represent the views of the Kenyan mainstream, there seemed to be some form of acknowledgement of opinions from both sides. The American president also cited his concerns on human rights abuses and corruption in Kenya, viewing it as a major obstacle to the development of Kenya.

Similarly, in Addis Ababa, Mr.Obama was blunt in his African Union address. His apple of discord,African leaders’  “sit tight syndrome”.
“Africa’s democratic process is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end” He stated, in a rousing speech that drew rounds of applause from the audience. The president singled out Pierre Nkurunziza, President of Burundi, a central African nation where the president’s third term bid sparked weeks of unrest. To further emphasize this blunt approach,President Obama took a swipe at the dissenting factions in South Sudan,

“In South Sudan, the joy of independence has descended in the despair of violence. Neither Salva Kiir nor Riek Machar have shown any interest so far in sparing their people from this suffering or in reaching a political situation” he said.

Studying the American President’s daring exploits on his visit to Africa, one wonders – why the African audience took it in stride?
Analysts observe that president Obama’s rhetoric on Africa’s social vices, as an American president, would have been viewed by Africans as condescending. However, his ability to present himself as an American president connected to the African cause earned him leeway.

For example he decided to address the issue of gay rights knowing very well the mainstream African consensus on such matters. Despite this,some in the African mainstream seem to understand and respect his position on the matter.
“You know, we took him as an American. He was answering like an American, but according to our African cultures, the Christian beliefs – we say no” explains Ibrahim Lincoln, a Nairobi resident
A second reason could be because he hit at the very heart of Africa’s most pressing issues. As explained by UN worker from Zimbabwe “He touched on all challenges for Africa like the importance of good governance, the fact that this trend of leaders staying in power cannot continue”
Perhaps, it could also be because he,(President Obama) occupies the world’s most powerful office as explained by an Addis Ababa university student “Coming from him, it gives these issues a lot more weight”.
In June 2015, a poll by Richard Wike, a director of global attitudes research at pew research centre scored Obama’s ratings in sub-Saharan Africa as “overwhelmingly positive”.
For these reasons,one can deduce that the American president is a respected figure on the African continent. Obama’s message on his visit this time seems to resonate more with the African populace, particularly with the younger demographic As he hands over the reins of office in 18 months, it is evident that he has cemented his place in the annals of African history. What remains to be seen is the role Obama will choose to play in helping Africa’s evolving democracies after serving as the president of the United States.

Abdulsalam Abdullahi is a law student at the University of Hull. He is also president of its Nelson Mandela society. Follow him on twitter @Shakaabdul

Abdulzazzau72@hotmail.co.uk

The Strange Library, by Haruki Murakami

Library romantics

Blogging for a Good Book

strange libraryA young boy finds himself trapped in a bizarre library with a sheep man and a mysterious girl in Haruki Murakami’s illustrated short novel, The Strange Library.

His journey begins with a trip to his local library to return two books: How to Build a Submarine and Memoirs of a Shepherd. He tells the librarian that he’s also looking for some books, and she directs him to Room 107, located in the library’s basement. When he reaches Room 107, he encounters a cantankerous old man sitting behind a desk. He impulsively tells the older man that he’s looking for books on tax collection in the Ottoman Empire, and he’s presented with three books: The Ottoman Tax System, The Diary of an Ottoman Tax Collector, and Tax Revolts and their Suppression in the Ottoman-Turkish Empire.

The boy plans to check out the books and leave the…

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