FELA ANIKULAPO KUTI'S fearless and indefatigable spirit makes him a true African hero. He was one of the greatest and most influential pop musicians of the 20th century. Born into a middle-class family in 1935, Fela's father was an ultra-conservative reverend, Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, an ordained minister, grammar school headmaster and the first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers. By contrast, Fela's mother, Funmilayo, was something of a political firebrand--an early organiser against British colonialism, the first woman to hold a driver's licence in Nigeria, and a leader of the country's nascent socialist-nationalist and suffragette campaigns. As an activist, she travelled to Russia, and also to China where she met Chairman Mao Zedong.
Fela's parents, wanting what all middle-class Nigerian parents aspired to for their children, no matter what their political inclinations--that they qualify for a professional career--decided to send him to London to study medicine. But he had other plans.
He dropped out of medical school and registered at a college of music, a path more usually associated with pursuing a career in classical music. While in London, he married …