Fela rein­car­nated

CityPress - - Trending - LEBOGANG L NAWA voices@city­press.co.za

Fela: This Bitch of a Life by Car­los Moore (2016) African Per­spec­tives Pub­lish­ing 292 pages R280

Orig­i­nally pub­lished in French and English in 1982, and now resur­fac­ing un­der the aus­pices of Rose Fran­cis’ African Per­spec­tives Pub­lish­ing, Fela: This Bitch of a Life is a study of con­trasts and a catalogue of hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence.

Writ­ten mainly in the first per­son and in present tense, the book is a rein­car­na­tion – es­pe­cially for South African read­ers who had min­i­mal ex­po­sure to Fela’s mu­sic and thoughts due to apartheid iso­la­tion – of the life of an Abiku spirit child born into split­ting time zones and shift­ing tec­tonic plates; throw­ing into a head spin geopo­lit­i­cal bound­aries, iden­ti­ties, be­lief sys­tems and life­styles. Fela died so that the liv­ing could ap­pre­ci­ate life and even look for­ward to death.

The book por­trays Fela as a man who ex­pe­ri­enced the dou­ble sides of epochs and events such as slav­ery, cap­i­tal­ism, com­mu­nism, the Bi­afra wars, post-colo­nial dic­ta­tor­ship and Chris­tian­ity.

The con­tra­dic­tions are too many to list, but to cite a few, he was born to Chris­tian par­ents, yet his mother held strong fem­i­nist and com­mu­nist views, and was ac­cord­ingly feted by politi­cians such as Mao Ze­dong and Kwame Nkrumah. Fela sup­ported the Bi­afra wars, while at the same time com­posed the song Keep Nige­ria One “so we could get some bread” and “to hus­tle the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment to back my band”. He held pa­tri­ar­chal views cou­pled with polygamy, yet es­chewed lib­eral views about the in­de­pen­dence of women and had reser­va­tions on mar­riage as an in­sti­tu­tion.

Fi­nally, be­cause he viewed life as just an ex­pe­ri­ence and death as a tran­si­tion into the spir­i­tual realm, he was an “anti-celebrity celebrity” who did not want to be re­mem­bered, yet hun­dreds of thou­sands gath­ered in and around the Tafawa Balewa Square in La­gos to pay their last re­spects when he died.

Fela’s Kalakuta Repub­lic mu­sic shrine has now mu­tated be­yond Nige­rian bor­ders. His voice calls be­yond his grave for dis­course on var­i­ous so­cial is­sues of power, knowl­edge, cre­ativ­ity, ar­ti­fi­cial geopo­lit­i­cal bound­aries and forced na­tion­hood, re­li­gion (par­tic­u­larly the rav­ages of Chris­tian­ity and Is­lam on African­ity) and ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

“Women in gen­eral is a sub­ject which calls for a col­lo­quium,” he spec­i­fies. Of course, some of the sub­jects have found voice in var­i­ous books on his life and times. The one chal­lenge that left the Kemet philoso­pher Cheikh Anta Diop speech­less is Fela’s apoc­a­lyp­tic the­ory that “an­cient pyra­mids were built through men­tal telepa­thy and lev­i­ta­tion”. This begets a se­quel to the book to ex­am­ine the top­ics com­mis­sioned by the mu­si­cal shaman.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.