New Nigeria museum fetes late Afrobeat singer Fela
Seun Kuti, the son of Late Afrobeat Legend Fela Kuti, attends opening of Kalakuta Museum in Lagos, Nigeria, on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012. The family of late Afrobeat singer Fela Anikulapo-Kuti celebrated the opening of the Kalakuta Museum on Monday in Lagos in the home the musician once lived in. The opening of the museum comes during Felabration, an annual music festival honoring the singer. (AP Photo / Sunday Alamba)
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — "FELA LIVES," reads the Gothic-lettered tattoo on the back of one of the sons of the legendary Afrobeat singer from Nigeria. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti died 15 years ago but his name seems to be mentioned more now than ever.
Radio stations across Africa's most populous nation continue to play his trumpet-and-saxophone-infused songs, the girlish cries of his female backup singers ringing out of tinny speakers in crowded buses. Leaders he linked in songs to corruption remain close to the levers of power in this oil-rich but poverty-stricken country. He's a legend among unemployed gang members and academics alike and was the subject of a smash Broadway musical produced by some of the biggest celebrities in the U.S.
Now, the family house where his remains lie has become a government-endorsed museum that offers a look inside his life, as well as the challenges still facing Nigeria years after his death.
An onlooker peers into the preserved bedroom of singer Fela Anikulapo-Kuti while a reflection of a room containing the musician's shoes and a saxphone can be seen in a reflection in Lagos, Nigeria, on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012. The family of late Afrobeat singer Fela Anikulapo-Kuti celebrated the opening of the Kalakuta Museum on Monday in Lagos in the home the musician once lived in. The opening of the museum comes during Felabration, an annual music festival honoring the singer. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
"In one of his songs, (Fela) said it takes 10 years for us to catch up to his message," said Theo Lawson, the architect who helped design the new museum. "The expectation, I think, would be that the people would rise up and demand their rights and this didn't happen because everybody was scared.
"Fela's been dead for 15 years and unfortunately, we're still where we are. It's probably longer than he anticipated."
Fela created Afrobeat in the late 1960s, mixing the rhythm of jazz, the catchiness of pop music and traditions of African mysticism into 10-minute-long songs riffing on politics and sex in a nation only recently freed from colonialism. He embraced the idea of pan-African leadership and openly criticized the military rulers who revolved in and out of power in Nigeria when others had been cowed into silence.