“ A piece to Fela kuti who taught me that not all heroes need wear capes”
Growing up I was weaned on tales of ‘Fela’ the folk hero who stood up to the tyranny of the uniformed man armed with just the sound of his music, the pan- Africanist who sparked a revolution with his ideals, the man who defied society’s expectation and stood for what he believed in irrespective of the classic norm.
Suffice to say Fela was the hero of my childhood, and I was not alone in my hero worship of the man. I and my peers were relentless worshippers at the shrine of his legacy untiring in our adulation of the man.
To us, Fela had attained a status similar to those of our favorite figures from mythology,His exploits were legend to us.
At this point, you could be tempted to ask what exactly about Fela was so enthralling to our young minds. We didn’t have much to draw on save for the little disjointed aspects of his life toted down to us by our elders.
But here is what made Fela so exceptional, everything about him stood out as different, even the tid-bits of his life we could snatch from conversations were confounding.
You need to understand that an average Nigerian kid is raised in a culture where he or she is taught that to be different in any way is to be alien to society, you are born into a society where you have your future planned and the course of your life is already mapped out for you, to want anything different is nothing short of rude and disrespectful to the people who have gone to such lengths to play God over your life.
We were at a stage where we chafed under the many restrictions of society & the burden of its expectations, we yearned for freedom, freedom to chase our dreams and follow our path.
And to us, Fela was the trailblazer, proof that you could forge your own path and be whatever you choose to be and that you don’t need to limit yourself to society’s restrictions, that being different is not an ailment.
Today, I am older than I was and not as blind in my hero worship, I know more about Fela than I did back then. I might not agree with some of the choices he made but I respect his daring.
The relevance of Fela in modern pop – culture can never be understated, from birthing a whole new genre of music to influencing a generation of Nigerian youths and having carnivals and broadway shows all in his honor.
I have learnt many things from Fela’s life but the most important thing I have learnt is that it takes courage to turn your back to the music of the crowd and play your own tune and that in itself is an act of true heroism.