Femi Kuti, Living The Dream

Love his kind of music or hate it, love his energy on stage or dislike it, call his commitment on instruments splendid or lousy, insists his dance steps are gorgeous or outrageous, one thing you cannot take away from Femi Anikulapo Kuti is the fact that his music, message and might has attracted global appeal which is evident in his four consecutive nomination in the Grammy Awards.

Femi-KutiFemi has proven that you don’t have to be an R&B star or Hip Hop maestro or even rap sensation to get into the center stage of global music or to win international attention of music lovers. At a point when the face of music in Nigeria has been changed by new generation songsters like Whizkid, Davido, Ice Prince, MI to mention a few with multi-million naira deals from billionaire corporate organizations and multi-national companies Femi has looked beyond the Nigerian shores to sell his kind of music, his brand and personality which originated from our soil anyway.

It is an irony that Afrobeat which originated from Femi’s late father Abami-eda himself Fela Anikulapo Kuti has been given verve, energy and guts by Femi to further dazzle the world and win more recognition outside Nigeria than within Nigeria. It is no news that Afrobeat has been somehow relegated to the background by music awards organizers and promoters in Nigeria, so much so that each year, you hardly see a single award given to an Afrobeat artiste who are even very few anyway. Aside Femi, his younger sibling Seun and Dede Mabiaku, it is really tough to point at any other major Afrobeat songster around. Those who tried out Afrobeat when they started music have branched into other sphere of music perhaps because they are always left out in the scheme of things by awards organizers, show promoters, marketers and even DJs.

This is a more reason why Femi should be better appreciated here at home for what he has been able to achieve for Nigeria and her music in the last four years. Yes, he may not be on nomination list of Headies, NMVA among other respected awards locally but the ‘Bang, Bang, Bang’ crooner is not perturbed since he is more recognized by Americans, Germans, English, French and Asians. If any award could be transparent and credible and strictly given out on merit it is the Grammy which is in its 54th year and for our own Femi to have gotten four nomination in as many years is really awesome. It is pertinent to say that most top American and British musicians have been dreaming to be nominated in the Grammy’s over the years despite the sweet tunes they keep reeling out yearly but yet they don’t get near the nomination list.

Yes critics may argue that there should not be any celebration for Femi for merely being nominated since the likes of Sade Adu, Seal and Sikiru Adepoju the talking drum maestro have all won the Grammy in the past but that cannot close our eyes from the reality that none of these great Nigerian music icons got up to four nomination back to back. That stands Femi out as a potential four-time-winner. Indeed he is so good that they nominated him four times.

Perhaps the message in Femi’s repeated nomination is for music labels, marketers, promoters, DJs and radio stations and television channels ruling our airwaves to spare more thoughts for Afrobeat music and other traditional beats like juju, apala, awurebe and hi-life among others. Did I hear someone scream, juju? Yes, juju, after all it was right before our eyes here that King Sunny Ade was invited to do a show at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. What other honour can a musician get? What other way should our local music and musicians be recognized? What other means can we adopt to prove that Nigeria is gifted when it comes to music? Do we need any soothsayer to announce to us that there is nothing like local or traditional music again? Everything has gone international, it just depends on packaging. Our computer age has ensured that what is done or produced here is seen live, appreciated and enjoyed at the other end of the world.

For the likes of Kenny Ogungbe, D-One, Don Jazzy and Kwame of Nigezie may be, this is a call for us to focus more on Afrobeat and see how we can blend or infuse it into some other tunes to come out with something that could wow the world more. Again the search for the likes of Femi Kuti should begin since there are very few of his type within the Afrobeat category around.

That reminds me of FELABRATION! There is the need to take it to the next level. I sincerely think it has gone beyond and above the children and cronies of the late Abami-eda. It is now attracting world attention. The organizers should seek ways of getting the Federal Government and world bodies involved now, after all Fela left behind a brand of music with messages teaching world leaders how to lead. I even hear that President Goodluck Jonathan is a lover of Fela’s music and he listens to it quite often these days especially now that he suddenly remembers that one of his major political foes in the South West was a victim of Fela’s sucker punch as he was severely injured by one of Abami-eda’s chart busters.

As the 2015 polls draw near and political activities gather momentum, organizers of FELABRATION 2014 should be begin to see what I am seeing or thinking. They should cash on the political activities to drag government, political parties and the top politicians to identify with FELABRATION. Lagos State governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) has made the first major move which is turning Fela’s house on Gbemisola Street off Allen Avenue into a Kalakuta Museum. Fashola is really thinking big and smart too but there is still room for more to be done. Fela is a brand even in death and only the right thinking politicians can see the great advantage and untapped potential in this music late icon.

Before I forget, let me quickly say that with Femi’s nomination in the last Grammy Award should serve as an opportunity for those who want to score any point be it business or politics to achieve that. To be a nominee like he tweeted recently “is as good as being a winner. The feeling is the same rarararara!”

About Desmond Ekwueme


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