It was Friday, February 18th, 1977
It was about midday in Kalakuta and ooh myy! It was already a beehive; music was blaring from just every corner, the children had gone off to school, the young men were rolling gigantic reefers in the corner, and the women were busy doing whatever I wanted them to, except my mum, Funmilayo. She was queen of our small country in Surulere. We lived by our own standards, it was our republic and I was called the Black President. It was now over a decade since I combined African highlife and American jazz to form Afro-Beat music, even Beethoven would have called me King.
My morning rehearsals were at an end, the drums and clappers went in first, then the saxophones, then the rest of the horns. Tony Allen handled the instruments as Rikki signaled to inform me of the mass hysteria Zombie was causing nationwide. He spoke to me as if to foretell the imminent doom this song had brought, reminding me of the case of Alagbon Close. Half the time he was speaking, I was admiring this voluptuous Nubian sitting cross-legged at the balcony, lustfully smoking what seemed to be premium Kalakuta marijuana; I have to have this African Lady tonight. Whoever said twenty-seven wives were enough? Back to the matter, I did not take my manager’s warning lightly; I knew he meant well
“Rikki my Manager, this music is a weapon against the oppressor. The only reason Obasanjo is offended is because my message convicts him”
I had dared to call the greatest power in the land “Zombie”, am I mad? Definitely! They have defamed me as a nihilist and a radical political dissident, I don’t mind their lies, history would remember me correctly. This fight against this nonsense we call government will not stop until my people rise and claim what is rightfully theirs. But then again, my people are scared of the air around them, they always have an excuse not to fight for freedom. Zombie might just be the catalyst, the puppets in the State House need the reality check, I can take whatever is coming, am I not Anikulapo? The one who carries… BOOM! BOOM!
The Zombies! They have come
They throw gas canisters into my compound, there’s pandemonium in my already Mad House. These unthinking stooges have come to do their master’s will. Rikki foretold the incursion—over 1,000 menacing-looking soldiers surround my house, it feels like a movie. Then again, my life is a movie. I will not die today! I send message to my friend, John Darnton at the NY Times, West Africa correspondence; the World must know of these happenings. My only crime was love for my country; I have transgressed against the establishment. Kalakuta is on fire, there’s screaming everywhere, they are coming for…
It was a massacre, a bloodbath; children, women, men, all severely beaten and maimed… sorrow, tears and blood. I woke up at the Military Hospital in Lagos to hear that my mum was comatose in a clinic in Yaba, she was thrown down from the 2nd storey window.
They sit and scorn me in high places, my Palace they have burnt down, my mother they have killed. They say I’m done; my fire, they say they have quenched. The beast is now toothless they say. On the contrary, I have lost my head, I’m the headless huntsman, I’m the black panther, the musical Malcom X. My Mother was my leash, I’m free
So today I carry my own army and march to Dodan Barracks with my mother’s coffin on my shoulder, I will not die today, for I am Fela Anikulapo Kuti… I carry death in my pouch, I cannot die.
I live forever
Fela Anikulapo Kuti – The greatest performer Africa has ever seen was born today, 15th October 1938. Today we celebrate him