By Nehru Odeh
There is no getting way from Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Twenty three years after his death, he remains relevant not just in the Nigerian entertainment circuit but also in its political landscape. Aside from the fact that his music continues to influence and inspire Nigerians, no day passes without references being made to him.
Currently the leader of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore and multi award- winning Nigerian musician, Burna Boy, are at war over the late Afrobeat legend and trending on social media as well.
Trouble started when Sowore invited Burna Boy to a planned protest on October 1. In that invite Sowore told him that though foreign media always celebrate and compare him to Fela he hasn’t led a protest.
“Hello Burna Boy, everywhere I turn people describe you as a revolutionary musician, the foreign media even celebrate you, compare you to Fela Kuti, but I am yet to see you lead anyone to a police station carrying a coffin for head of state! Join #Oct1stProtest #RevolutionNow,” Sowore tweeted.
Palpably irked by that tweet, Burna responded via another tweet, deriding Sowore and calling him a politician he doesn’t trust.
“Everybody is a Fela fan and supporter now that he is dead. Humans are so Funny, You politicians are ALL the same (especially in Nigeria) and Frankly I don’t trust none of you,” he said
Sowore then threw another salvo at him, saying he wasn’t just Fela’s fan but member of his household.
“Burna Boy, I am not just one of the persons who you could describe as “Fela’s fan after he died,” I am a member of Fela’s household, ask @RealSeunKuti, as a student’s leader in the 90s I met and hung out with Abami Eda at home and the African shrine! If you want to be Fela be Fela.”
At a sympssium in Felabration last October, Nigerian multiple award-winning writer, Sefi Atta, bemoaned the fact that artistes make huge gains from Fela’s music without adhering to his activism, non- conformism and message.
“It’s very easy to say Fela influenced you but it is damn nearly impossible to walk in his shoes. This is an artiste who remained highly productive in the face of relentless persecution. An artiste who said his music was secondary, that his message was more important than his music, that he in fact used music t spread his message,” she explained.
She also had a word of caution for contemporary artistes and music producers who copy Fela’s music and message at his expense. She made two appeals: first, that they should be careful how they handle his music; and second, those in charge of his intellectual property should not only protect his copyright but also his message.
“They borrow his compositions, titles and lyrics. They mail check him at every opportunity, which is fine so long as they keep his message straight. … But when you in the same song sympathize with the masses and glamourize designer clothes and luxury cars and claim Fela influenced your song, you are confusing his message, regardless of your intentions… You are teachers who are teaching a whole lot of nonsense,” she maintained.
Nehru Odeh is a Nigerian writer and journalist. Author of The Patience of an Embattled Storyteller, a book that foresaw the adoption, rape and murder of females by terrorists in Nigeria, his interests include popular culture, the arts, politics, business and sports.