Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Femi Kuti, Not Just an Entertainer

Olufela Olufemi Anikulapo Kuti, popularly known as Femi Kuti, is a Nigerian musician and the eldest son of afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.

Femi was born 16 June, 1962 in London to Fela and Remi Kuti and he grew up in the former Nigerian capital, Lagos. His mother afterwards left his father, taking Femi to live with her. In 1977, however, Femi chose to move in with his father and eventually became a member of his father's band.

Femi, like his father has shown a strong commitment to social and political causes throughout his music career. He created his own band named Positive Force in the late 1980s with Dele Sosimi (Gbedu Resurrection), former key-board player of Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

His international career began in 1988 when he was invited by the French Cultural Centre in Lagos and Christian Mousset to perform at the Festival d'Angoulême (France), the New Morning Club in Paris and the Moers Festival in Germany.

In 2001, Femi collaborated on his album Fight to Win with a number of U.S. musicians, including Common, Mos Def, and Jaguar Wright.

In 2002, Femi's mother, who had played an influential role in Femi's life, died at the age of 60. Femi's son currently appears as part of his act, playing alto saxophone.

Also in 2002, Femi contributed a remake of his father's classic song, Water No Get Enemy, to Red Hot & Riot, a compilation CD in tribute to Fela Kuti that was released by the Red Hot Organisation and MCA. His track was created in collaboration with hip-hop and R&B artistes, D'Angelo, Macy Gray, The Soultronics, Nile Rodgers, and Roy Hargrove, and all proceeds from the CD were donated to charities dedicated to raising AIDS awareness or fighting the disease.

Femi Kuti's voice is featured in the videogame Grand Theft Auto IV, where he is the host of radio station IF 99 (International Funk 99, described as "playing a great selection of classics from West Africa, the US and elsewhere").

In similar fashion as his father, there have been complaints of Kuti's criticism of his homeland Nigeria, specifically in the song Sorry Sorry.

Femi has been nominated for a Grammy award three times in the world music category in 2003, 2010 and 2012 but never won.

Femi Kuti, son of the late legendary Afro-beat musician turns 50 on July 16, 2012. In this no holds bare interview, the only Nigerian based musician ever to be nominated thrice at the Grammy opened up on the day to day challenges of sustaining the legacies left behind by his late father.

Nothing, but I believe I'm wiser and more experienced in age and life but I'm indifferent towards it. Pertaining to celebration, some people are making it look like a glorious day because they appreciate my works, but to me, it is just another day that will pass.

However, his first hit was Wonder-Wonder, which won a lot of awards in Nigeria, even as he was the first Nigerian to win KORA Award, World-Music Award and some others.

"I believe I was the most appreciated Nigerian at the Grammy award even though I have not won any yet. I have been nominated for a good number of awards too. I have toured extensively all around the world. I am definitely in the fore front of Afro-beat. The period when Bang-Bang-Bang became an international hit, it opened so many doors especially to the new generations, who did not know my father; they were now able to relate me and my works to him."

The worst days of his life are the death of his sister and mother. "The death of my sister would most likely be the lowest point of my life and my mother's death too because on that day, I had to play at Okoya's 60th birthday party. I was glad I was able to sail through but those two days were the worst days of my life."

"My father's death was not really that bad, because my father was a celebrity. So it was more of celebration rather than a burial.

The only sad thing is that he did not get to see his grandchildren to advise them on their choice of career but it was not as regretful as that of my sister. My father lived a rather fulfilled life with 27 wives, fame and fortune. He was nothing short of the biggest star Nigeria ever had. So his death was a celebration."

"Even though, his death was not something I was prepared for, he had groomed me enough to continue from where he stopped.

But as the days went by, the burden of the legacy that had been passed on to me dawned on me because the African tradition emphasises on the male and as such he is expected to run the family but luckily for me, my sister was very helpful."

"Femi has had the good sense not to try to reproduce his father's music, and instead created his own interpretation of Afrobeat," said Carlos Moore, author of the authorized biography "Fela: This Bitch of a Life" and a Cuban-born expert on tropical music. "He was determined to do that even before the death of his father, and has come up with a modern sound in tune with 21st-century tastes that can be played for audiences in both Africa and the West."

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