Remembering A Legend: Fela Kuti After 20years

  • By Olamide Onipede

Its been 20 years since the death of a Legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

It was announced that the legendary Fela has passed away on NTA news, the world stood still for this great icon that has put Nigeria, Africa on the map and ever since then he’s been greatly missed in the music industry and the entire world.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti was born October 15, 1938 and passed on August 2, 1997. He was a multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre, human rights activist, and political maverick, Panafricanist, polygamist, mystic, legend. During the height of his popularity, he was often hailed as one of Africa’s most “challenging and charismatic music performers.

Born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti on in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria into an upper-middle-class family. His mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement; his father, Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, an Anglican minister and school principal, was the first president of the Nigeria Union of Teachers. His brothers, Beko Ransome-Kuti and Olukoye Ransome-Kuti, both medical doctors, are well known in Nigeria. Fela is a first cousin to the Nigerian writer and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

On 3 August 1997, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, already a prominent AIDS activist and former Minister of Health, announced his younger brother’s death a day earlier from complications related to AIDS. However, there has been no definitive proof that Kuti died from complications related to HIV/AIDS, and much skepticism surrounds this alleged cause of death and the sources that have popularized this claim. For example, it is widely claimed that Fela suffered and may have possibly died from Kaposi’s Sarcoma, which is a symptom of HIV/AIDS infection.

However, there are no known photos of Kuti with telltale lesions. What is more, Kuti was honored with a lying-in-state in which his remains were encased in a five-sided glass coffin for full public viewing. More than a million people attended Fela’s funeral at the site of the old Shrine compound. The New Afrika Shrine has opened since Fela’s death in a different section of Lagos under the supervision of his son Femi Kuti.


Aside his children Femi and Seun and his protegee son, Dede Mabiaku who are doing his style of Afro beat while Lagbaja whose style is a deviation from Fela’s own, some contemporary musicians have been inspired by the Abami Eda or Baba 70’s style of music. Artistes such as Wizkid, D’banj, Sound Sultan, Burna Boy, Asa, Oritsefemi and Many more, have been  influenced by the legendary ‘Abami Eda.’

We remember Fela today, he might be gone but his legacy and his good works stays with us forever.

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