There’s no part of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti that has not been covered. The legendary Nigerian musician’s life has been ripped apart, studied, deconstructed and processed for knowledge.
Fela, who was a militant maverick, dancer, singer, performer and composer in life, is a gift that continues to give, decades after his death in 1997. His legacy is one of the most enduring from Africa and up till today, Afrobeat – a genre he pioneered and popularized. That genre is regarded as the source of all that is good and trendy in African music today.
Fela’s influence stretches beyond Africa into distant lands. And artists from all over the world continue to draw inspiration from him. The latest is Wyclef Jean who just released a new song titled ‘Fela Kuti’.
Global superstar and famed Hip hop artist, Wyclef is working on a new album titled “Carnival III: The Fall and Rise of a Refugee.” The project which will be released under the label, Heads Music is due to hit the market on September 15, 2017.
The 12-track project will be Jean’s eighth studio album since releasing his debut album “The Carnival” in 1997.
To lead the album though is track drawn straight from Fela’s breast, and named after the legend. The track, ‘Fela Kuti’ samples “Eko Ile.” It was produced by Supah Mario, who also worked on Young Thug’s ‘Wyclef Jean’ single, housed on his 2016 “Jeffery” album.
Fela’s vocals, the gongs and horns come on, reworked with a rattling emphatic drum creating an immersive yet muscular groove, upon which Wyclef delivers his story about a lady who is on an adventure in Hollywood and wants to have fun. He tells her: “The voodoo is workin’ on me, Dance like Fela Kuti, Mama say ma coosa Energy”
“I decided to name it Fela Kuti because, for me, I feel like we be thinking of [Bob] Marley, we give a lot of people from our past props, so when the kids hear Fela Kuti, I really want them to Google it,” Wyclef tells XXL.
“Fela Kuti studied jazz in England. Wyclef studied jazz at Vailsburg High School. Fela Kuti then went back to his country and tried to help his country by running for president. Wyclef, you know, did the same thing. Then, Fela, through all his obstacles and all that, his music is what pillared him right back to the top. He understood the strongest way to help politically was to make sure the music was bangin.’ So for me, the same way kids can have songs called ‘Wyclef Jean’ who are influenced by me, I want kids to know who Fela is and what he means.”
Wyclef isn’t the only popular international artist to get inspired by Fela. Beyonce have recorded a full-length album based on the Nigerian’s material. Her recent African-themed baby shower also had Fela’s music as part of it’s soundtrack.
“We did a whole Fela album that didn’t go up,” Producer The-Dream wrote, in an entry for Beyoncé song End of Time on lyric annotation site Genius. “It was right before we did [album] “4.” We did a whole different sounding thing – about 20 songs. She said she wanted to do something that sounds like Fela.”
2017 marks 20 years since his death from AIDS in 1997. And as the years go by, Fela’s music continues to inspire across the world. Wyclef is just the latest to squarely connect with his timeless music and re-introduce it into the world, fused with new material.