He was born as Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti in Nigeria, (Abeokuta, Ogun State ) to a middle-class family. Growing up under the bosom of a feminist, activist and an anti-colonial mother, and a Protestant minister /school principal father, Fela was well grounded in his roots, culture and history.
As surprising it may come to others, Fela initially was suppose to study medicine but dropped out of the program to study music at Trinity College in London in 1958. It was there he started playing the trumpet, composing music and formed the band Koola Lobitos. They played a fusion of jazz and highlife . He moved back to Nigeria in 1963 to continue his music carrier which exposed the realness of dictatorship and corruption whiles living there. In 1967, he went to Ghana for a new approach in music, it was there he found his path to what he labeled “Afrobeat”.
To many people outside Africa, Fela was a great singer, the pioneer of Afrobeat who contributed in paving the way for many artist and producers today, especially in hip-hop. Artist and producers of today, especially those grounded into hip-hop such as Nas, Talib Kweli, Mos-def, Jay-z, Swizz Beatz and a few others who studied Fela Kuti’s life outside music, honor him more than the pioneer of Afrobeat.
In Africa, Fela was seen more as was a politician(If alive in today’s world where we have seen presidents from various backgrounds, it would not have shocked me if he was elected as president of Nigeria). He was a controversial musician; A rebel or outcast to those who did not accept him or misunderstood him, but a voice and activist who fought for human right through his music to those who followed him. Just as the legendary Bob Marley’s music still breathes in Jamaica and the world, so does legendary Fela Kuti’s music breathes in Nigeria and the world.. Fela was a symbol of Freedom of speech when there was no freedom of speech. An Activist who through his music became a weapon to fight against dictatorship, colonialism from the west and corruption in Nigeria and in Africa.
Fela died on August 2nd 1997. We remember Fela kuti as the pioneer of Afrobeat, as a mouth piece for freedom and justice, as a connector of diversity, as an icon by his work and sacrifice for the people, as a story to learn from his mistakes.