Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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Contents

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Foreword

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pp. ix-xiv

Fela Kuti (1938–1997) and Afrobeat are here to stay. It is fair to say that no African musician has ever exerted such a powerful cultural force during his lifetime and left such an extensive and resonant international legacy after his death. Rather than fading, Fela’s stature and influence worldwide...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-24

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was Africa’s archetypal Pan-African protest singer whose lyrics condemned neocolonialism in general and the Nigerian authorities in particular. During his turbulent lifetime, and particularly since his death in 1997, this controversial Nigerian creator of Afrobeat and...

Part One: Early Days

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1. The Birth of Afrobeat

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pp. 27-40

In 1958 Fela’s mother encouraged him to go to England to study medicine or law. He went to study at Trinity College in London, but against her and the rest of his family’s wishes he switched to music. At Trinity, he got his training in formal music and trumpet and also fell in love with jazz...

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2. Joe Mensah Remembers

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pp. 41-48

The late Joe Mensah was a pioneering Ghanaian highlife singer who released eleven albums and several singles. He began his musical career with the Broadway Dance Band in the 1950s. This was against his parents’ wishes, so as a teenager he left Ghana for Lagos in 1958, where he joined...

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3. Fela in Ghana

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pp. 49-54

Fela’s early Afrobeat hits in both Nigeria and Ghana were the singles “Mister Who Are You” and “Chop and Quench” (“Jeun Koku”), and the albums Open and Close and Rofo Rofo [Rough Rough] Fight. According to Bayo Martins, the song “Mister Who Are You” is a complaint against...

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4. Stan Plange Remembers

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pp. 55-64

Guitarist Stan Plange met Fela in the late 1950s when Stan was playing with Chief Billy Friday’s Downbeat highlife dance band in Lagos. Stan had first joined the Nigerian Downbeats group in 1957 when the band had been resident in Ghana, and then had briefly been with Ray Ellis’s Comets...

Part Two: Confrontation

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5. The Kalakuta Is Born

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pp. 67-72

On April 30, 1974, the police raided Fela’s house, opposite the old Africa Shrine at the Empire Hotel, Mushin, and he was charged with possessing Indian hemp. In fact, he did have some on him, but he quickly swallowed it. Hemp was a term, incidentally, that Fela himself hated as he claimed...

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6. “J. B.” Talks about Fela

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pp. 73-80

Daniel Koranteng, better known as “J. B.,” was one of Fela’s conga players between 1971 and early 1975. He is half Ga, half Fanti, and was born in the Accra Police Depot in 1948. I interviewed him at the music department of the University of Ghana, Legon, on May 11, 1999. As he explains, although...

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7. The Kalakuta Republic

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pp. 81-113

The following is a diary I kept from January 2 through January 28, 1977, when I was acting in Fela’s film, “The Black President.” I have expanded the original somewhat by adding comments in brackets or in small print indentations...

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8. The Black President

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pp. 114-124

On February 16, 1977 Faisal left Nigeria, and he deposited Fela’s “Black President” film in 128 cans of 35 mm film in the vaults of Rank-Xerox in London. The film was complete except for some of the sound track that was left at Fela’s small recording studio at the Kalakuta. At eleven o’clock...

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9. Amsterdam and After

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pp. 125-136

The last time I met Fela was in the summer of 1981, when he was on a European tour. He was playing at an open-air annual festival in the Amsterdam Woods on a very rainy day. At the time the new songs that he and his newly named Egypt 80 band were playing were “Movement of the...

Part Three: Retrospect

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10. Mac Tontoh on Fela

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pp. 139-151

Mac Tontoh, together with his saxophonist brother Teddy Osei and drummer Sol Amarfio, were founding members of the London based Osibisa band that pioneered Afro-rock in the early 1970s and had a large number of international hits in Europe and the United States. But it was earlier...

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11. Frank Talk about Fela

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pp. 152-164

Frank Siisi-Yoyo was born in Cape Coast and began his drumming career with the group at St. John’s Secondary School in Takoradi. He spent almost twenty years years on and off with Fela and was personally trained in Afrobeat drumming by Fela’s original drummer, Tony Allen. Frank...

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12. Obiba Plays It Again

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pp. 165-173

Obiba Sly Collins played percussion and bass with Fela between 1980 and 1984. Obiba (“someone’s son”) was born in Bekwai, Ashanti, in 1961 and played with Konadu’s guitar band in 1977–78 and then went on to join Kofi Sammy’s Okukseku in 1979, a Ghanaian guitar band that was...

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13. Smart Binete Sorts It Out

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pp. 174-177

Smart Binete is from the Delta State of Nigeria, but his family has been in Ghana since 1948. Smart began running the Ghana branch of Balkan Airlines in 1986, which he has now expanded into a travel and tour company. He completed his SECAPS Hotel in 1993, and his extended family in...

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14. Anku Checks Out the Beat

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pp. 178-182

Dr. Willie Anku is a percussionist and violin player who knew Fela in the late 1970s. Since 1997 he has been head of the Music Department at the University of Ghana at Legon. He was originally a music-diploma student of the Legon Music Department before going to Montana University in...

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15. Nana Danso Orchestrates

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pp. 183-196

As mentioned in a chapter 9, the Pan African Orchestra was established in 1988 and uses solely African instruments, but these are organized into symphonic-like sections. Moreover it is led by a conductor and is presented in an art, rather than dance music, context. In 1994, after performing...

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16. Some Early Afro-Fusion Pioneers

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pp. 197-203

In this chapter I will focus on three musicians who pioneered Afro-fusion music. These are the Nigerians Orlando Julius and Segun Bucknor, who were contemporaries of Fela, and the Ghanaian Guy Warren (Kofi Ghanaba), who began experimenting with Afro-jazz as early as the late...

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17. Interview with Fela

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pp. 204-208

The following is an interview I did with Fela when I was in Lagos for a few days in December of 1975, en route to Benin City to tour and work with the Nigerian highlife musician Victor Uwaifo. On that Nigerian trip I stayed at the Africa Shrine/Empire Hotel with members of the Ghanaian...

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18. Afterthoughts and Updates

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pp. 209-237

I began writing this book in 1998 after receiving a very positive response to the diary I had kept when I worked with Fela in 1977, and published just after Fela’s death in the Nigerian Glendora magazine.¹ It was then that I decided to go ahead and write a full book that would be based on my...

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19. Felabrations at Home and Abroad

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pp. 238-258

Yeni Anikulapo-Kuti is the force behind the annual Felabration that celebrates Fela’s birthday on October 15 and which has taken place every year (except 1999) since 1998. With the assistance of her brothers, family, friends, as well as private sponsors, and in more recent years the Lagos...

Chronology

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pp. 259-268

Notes

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pp. 269-280

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 281-284

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Discography

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pp. 285-302

Ronnie Graham is a historian who specializes in Africa. He was at the University of Ghana from 1975 to 1979 and then Maiduguri University in Northern Nigeria from 1981 to 1984. He then became a freelance writer and journalist who published many articles and wrote two books on African...

Appendix A: “Shuffering and Shmiling” Score

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pp. 303-308

Index

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pp. 309-328

About the Author

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pp. 329-330