On August 2, 1997, the world was shocked by the news that one of Africa’s most iconic figures Fela Anikulapo Kuti had passed away. The musical genius had been a cultural icon since the early 70’s when he created the Afrobeat genre and straddled it like a colossus.
As a musician, he was unequalled. His music was a delightful fusion of classical music, highlife and traditional African music. The result was a sound like no other and Fela’s fame was global.
As a social activist he was unmatched. His message of protest and perpetual search for justice was met with brutal force by successive military governments.
Fela was reportedly arrested nearly two hundred times in his career and suffered great losses, both material and physical, for his ‘stubbornness’.
An unconventional individual, who once married 27 women at once, he spurned orthodox practices and was open with his use of marijuana. Fela also spoke candidly of his voracious sexual appetite and was largely unbothered by anyone’s opinion of him.
His death was announced by his elder brother, Nigeria’s former Minister of Health, Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, who disclosed that it was complications from AIDS.
Fela was 58 years old.