Fela Anikulapo Kuti was born on the 15th of October, 1938. Fela was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti in Abeokuta, the modern day Capital of Ogun State.
He was born into a upper-middle-class family. His mother, Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement while his father, Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, an Anglican Minister and a school principal who was the first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers.
Fela attended Abeokuta Grammar School. Later, he was sent to London in 1958 to study medicine, but he decided to study music instead at The Trinity University of Music. While there, he formed the band of “Koola Lobitos” playing a fusion of jazz and high life. He married his first wife, Remulekun Taylor with whom he had three children (Femi, Yeni and Sola). In 1963, Fela moved back to the newly Independent Federation of Nigeria, reformed Koola Lobitos and trained as a radio producer for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation.
Fela changed his name to Anikulapo (meaning “He who carries death in his pouch”, with the interpretation:”I will be the master of my own destiny and I will decide when it is time for death to take me”). He stopped using the hyphenated surname “Ransome” because it was a slave name.
Fela’s music was popular among the Nigerian public and Africans in general. In fact, he made the decision to sing in Pidgin English so that his music could be enjoyed by individuals all over Africa, where the local languages spoken are very diverse and numerous.
In 1977, Fela and the Afrika ’70 released the album “Zombie”, a scathing attack on Nigerian soldiers using the Zombie metaphor to describe the methods of the Nigerian military. This album infuriated the government setting off an attack against his band group “Kalakuta Republic” during which one thousand soldiers attacked the commune. Fela was severely beaten and his elderly mother was thrown from a window, causing a fatal injury. Fela claimed that he would have been killed had it not been for the intervention of a commanding officer as he was being beaten. In response to the attack, Fela delivers his mother’s coffin to the Dodan Barracks in Lagos and General Olusegun Obasanjo’s residence.
In 1978, Fela married 27women, many of whom were his dancers, composers and singers. The marriage served not only to mark the anniversary of the attack on the Kalakuta Republic but also to protect him from false claims that he was kidnapping the women. In 1984, Muhammadu Buhari’s Government, of which Fela was a vocal opponent jailed him on a charge of currency smuggling and he was released after 20 months.
On the 3rd of August 1977, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, a prominent AIDS activist and a Former Minister of Health, announced his younger brother’s death (Fela Anikulapo Kuti) a day earlier from the complications related to AIDS. However, there has been no definitive proof that Fela Kuti died from complications related to HIV/AIDS.
Today being the 15th of October represents the birth of a born-legend, the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti.