The quintessence African counter-culture that challenged the predominant status quo of corruption, oppression and repressive government policies was the very definition of the Kalakuta Republic, the iconic home of Africa's most prominent revolutionary music icon: Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
His iconicity consisted not only in the fact of his genius of musical artistry, his unflappable backbone of activism or his imperturbable stoicism in the face of government-inspired acts of violence against his person and property. It was also experienced in the very charged lyrics of his traditionally long but captivating tracks.
In inventing an entirely brand new form of musical genre, Afrobeat, where he fused Nigerian highlife music, Yoruba percussion, American funk and jazz, the maestro that was Fela imbued the resultant multi-layered rhythms and infectious melody with words that remain today a call to arms against tyranny and injustice. These were borne out of his belief that music in Africa ought to transcend entertainment. It must be revolutionary. It must address squarely the pains the average Obi faces, as it challenges the government of the day to pay more attention to Olu's concerns without turning a blind eye to any of Ali's issues.
In the fearlessness of this activism, Fela endured a life of persecution, beatings, harassments, arrests and raids. Yet, the undeterred soldier of the people, through lyrics that still rank over and above anything that has come after and which reverberate with uncanny sentimental force anywhere it is played today even with new audiences that never knew the man, remained a thorn in the flesh of African oppressors at home or abroad.
The wordings of his lyrics inspired a generation to garner the gumptious nerve to face oppressive tactics anywhere. His life was exemplary, serving as a bastion of hope for those whose fights for their rights and privileges were met with repressive practices from the authorities. Because he stood resolute against the vilest and cruelest dictators even sometimes at the expense of his own freedom, others also stood.
And many today endearingly wish he were still alive.
Well, one only has to look at today's music to know why. No point spending any time on that score (pun intended).
Examples of today's tracks that not only "uninspire" but actually shepherd listeners and deranged dancers towards consumerism, senseless materialism and blind indulgence in carnality, everywhere abound. You don't have to browse too far to find a TV channel (or YouTube channel, for that matter) broadcasting one right now even as you read.
Try it and see.
And are we surprised that there's no inspiration to rise together against common enemies in the very corridors of power? Enemies fully intent on exploiting every atom of division possible?
What do we get instead? Popular choruses such as:
Excuse me I beg your pardon/
This your story e no dey h'add up/
This your Fabu e dey mad gon
Who am I to take a h’action?
So I say Wehdone Sir x4
Tell am say Wehdone Sir x4
Tell am say Wehdone Sir x4
So I say Wehdone sir x4
(image source: GQ234.com)