Personal Manager of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Rikki Stein has asserted that he still has unfinished business with ‘Abami Eda’, 21 years after the legendary singer’s demise.
At the 2018 edition of the Fela Debates held at the NECA Hall, Ikeja, Lagos state Monday, Top Media Nigeria spoke exclusively with Stein, who describes himself as “the self-appointed guardian of Fela’s legacy.” Stein, 76 became Fela’s Manager as far back as 1983 till the music icon’s death in 1997. Together, they embarked on tours throughout the world.
Asked how long Fela – who is remembered posthumously every year with Felabration since 1999 – will be celebrated, the Englishman explains:
“How long? How long is a piece of string?” He asked rhetorically.
“Talking about Fela. Many people have heard my shouts around the world. But I haven’t finished my job yet. We’re approaching watershed. You know like a huge container of water, and is getting fuller and fuller, and then, it overflows. I’m sure that that would allow Fela to take his rightful place in the pantheon of 20th century’s great iconic actors.”
Fela – greatest African act of all-time?
“Well, I would say yes. But we have to remember that Fela’s music was based on something that come from far – long time. He did his research. When you hear ‘Fefe Naa Efe’ or ‘Water’, inside that music is something from centuries ago. It’s the culture of Africa, which is an ever-moving entity. Culture is eternally-evolving. It doesn’t stand still.
“So, Fela took that heritage – because it was his own; because he did his research on the story(ies) deeply to enable him to make his adaptation, which was to add jazz inside the story of Africa, and created Afrobeat. That is what is Afrobeat.
“So, that was the gift he gave us…You know there are well over a hundred Afrobeat bands now – around the world. And interestingly, they are not a tribute band; they don’t play lady and gentlemen. They have taken the musical form of Afrobeat and applied it to their own creation, which I think Fela would have approved of.
“And now, Femi (Kuti) is doing his thing. Behind Femi is his son, Made (Anikulapo Kuti) – who has suddenly come. And the boy play trumpet; he play piano; he play saxophone. But not just play, beautifully!
“You go to Made now and ask him a question, before he would open his mouth, he’s gonna think about what he’s gonna say, but when he open his mouth, what comes out is cool. So, he is emulating his grandfather. Because Fela didn’t talk bulls**t. When he talk, he had something to say. Fela created this wonderful musical charade which can ride his message. He created the beautiful unbelievable charade of music that became – as time goes by – deeper and deeper, until it became symphonic at the end.
“So, in order to carry his messages, and that message, even people that didn’t agree with him at that time, now they say ‘listen to what Fela was saying 35 years ago’, because it’s inescapable. He (Fela) was talking about life in a way that was open, honest, transparent and life-enhancing (sings Fela’s Sorrow, Tears and Blood):
“So policeman go slap your face
You no go talk
Army man go whip your yansh
You go dey look like donkey…”
“I left school when I was 15. Because they used to hit me with a big f**king stick. And I say this is nothing to do with education!”
It is pertinent to note that the first time Stein would encounter Fela’s music was in the late 70s. Someone played “Sorrow, Tears & Blood” and the song resonated with him.
Meanwhile, at the event, winners in the Artwork Competition held October 13 at the Kalakuta Museum were announced.
The overall winner went home with N100, 000, first runner-up N50, 000 and second runner-up N25, 000.
Felabration 2018 tagged Baba @ 80: Overtaking Overtake features a Music Festival which runs from October 15 to October 21 at the New Africa Shrine, Lagos.
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