It is an honour to honour Fela ——Yeni Kuti

It is an honour to honour Fela ——Yeni Kuti

Monday, September 19, 2016 5:22 pm


Yeni Kuti

Yeni Kuti

While growing up, did you experience Fela composing his music, what are those things that inspired him? Were you at such sessions?

There was one thing about Fela. When one new song was coming into his brain, you couldn’t talk to him. I mean, he would just sit down, staring into space, just looking. The only thing that would be moving was his mouth, his teeth would be knocking, and at that time you knew he was composing and if you talked to him, he would not answer you. He might be looking at you but he did not see you. Do you understand? His eyes would be open but he was not seeing you, he was just in his own world. He would just sit down. I mean it happened to me when I was young. My grandmother, Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti, took us to Abeokuta and she didn’t bring us home. She kept us there. They put us in school in Abeokuta. I stepped on a nail and I started getting a temperature. So she had to bring me back to Lagos for treatment in a hospital. When I got to the house the house was empty. I got to the corridor and I saw Fela sitting down and I said Fela and he didn’t answer, Fela, Fela. He didn’t see me, he didn’t hear me, so I went to my mother’s room, that is my father and mother’s room, she wasn’t there. Then I went back to Fela and called him, Fela, Fela, Fela. It took me about five minutes and I said if Fela didn’t hear me, I would go hide under the kiosk so that they wouldn’t take me back to Abeokuta.  Then suddenly he just woke up but all the while his eyes were wild open and he saw me and shouted and hugged me. So it had taken him almost 5 to 10 minutes to realize that I was there, so he was always in his own world . Felawould actually go into his own world when he was composing. For instance, when he was composing Trouble Dey Sleep Yanga Go Wake Am he just came out of his room and he  asked that people should give him ideas on many things that can cause trouble. I remember people gave him contributions for that number because he asked for their contributions. To make himself clear about what he wanted he gave them the example of a cat sleeping and the rat come and bite him so the rat will not rest … I remember that day very clearly. When I was much younger I could hear sounds, maybe a bird chirping, a tune will come to my head. Like my brother, Femi, when he is sleeping, the music will just wake him up.

You know people sometimes think music is easy, it is not. Music is a science. People don’t take music and musicians seriously in Nigeria and that pains me. Music is actually a science, the only form of art that you cannot touch, you can only hear, so it is a gift.

You kept referring to him as Fela as  if he was your brother…

He never let us call him daddy.

Why?

I don’t know. Because when we tried he would say if you call me daddy I will not give you pocket money. They didn’t have to tell you two times before you reverted to Fela!

How has it been running the new African Shrine?

Femi is the artiste, without him, we wont have the shrine because who will be playing there, so he is important. Music is a full time job, you can’t say you want to run the shrine and play music. You have to settle for one and that is why it is good that it is like a partnership. I can do the business but it is not easy. Today before we left the Shrine I was asking: where are we going to get money for a new generator. We need a new one. The one we are using is old now, it is tired. We are not making millions. You count your kobo kobo. And start saving. Then recession will be announced. Inflation will overtake recession. Everyting don pafuka again. I dontire for this country o.

You are echoing a Fela’s song about a poor man who wants to buy a fan, so he starts saving, saving. The poor man saves and saves but each time inflation wipes out his saving so much that he can’t buy the fan….

Exactly. So it is not easy. When PHCN brings bills you will first be very sick. That’s minus the diesel that you are buying. The last time I shouted. It is not easy but it is fulfilling because we are continuing a legacy. That, for us, is important. Everything is not all about money.  It is about the legacy. A legacy that our children will take on but even if our own blood children won’t take it over, there is someone in Nigeria that will take it over from us. That is our prayer.

When is the Fela Museum going to be open?

The museum is partially open. During Felabration, there will be band playing there. We have not opened the hotel yet. Lagos State, our sponsor, gave us half of the money and told us to go and look for the other half but the honest truth is that am not a marketer and so I have not been able to find sponsors. I have been looking, and when we go for the Felabration matter, I would say help us with the museum and they will say ok, ok, ok but they don’t come back. So we are looking for a major sponsor who will help us finish the museum which is very important to us. A lot of people want to stay in the hotel. They just want to have that Fela’s experience. So the museum is open but not completed.