Combine elements of Bob Marley, Malcolm X and Patrice Lumumba you get a sense of the power of the world’s wildest rockstar. Fela created Afrobeat, an infectious mix of American funk and jazz with traditional Yoruba and highlife music, and used it to rail against the corrupt, hypocritical Nigerian government. Repeatedly targeted by police and military for his rebellious, counter-culture lifestyle, he created a political party and seceded from the Nigerian state, renaming his commune the independent “Kalakuta Republic.” Cultural icon and beloved hero of the pan-African world, Fela loomed large: captivating enormous crowds with electric performances (in Speedos or superfly suits), cherished by musicians from Paul McCartney to Mos Def, mourned by millions after his death from AIDS in 1997. These essays explore his fiery life and ever-growing legacy.
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