Magazine article New African

Rebel with a Cause: Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (Pictured) Is Acknowledged as a Titan of Music. Few People Knew Him Better Than His Friend and Business Manager Rikki Stein, Who Still Looks after the Affairs of the Musician and His Family. He Spoke to Stephen Williams about the Life and Times, as Well as the Legacy, of the King of Afrobeat

Magazine article New African

Rebel with a Cause: Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (Pictured) Is Acknowledged as a Titan of Music. Few People Knew Him Better Than His Friend and Business Manager Rikki Stein, Who Still Looks after the Affairs of the Musician and His Family. He Spoke to Stephen Williams about the Life and Times, as Well as the Legacy, of the King of Afrobeat

Article excerpt

RIKKI STEIN RECALLS HIS FIRST ENCOUNTER with Fela. Kuti in the late 1970s with a laugh. Stein, who has had a long career managing musicians and dance troupes on tours around the world, was in the back of a Mercedes van with an African dance group called Ekome, "lying in a pile of bodies going home from a show." During the journey, somebody put a cassette in the van's player--it was Fela's 1977 album, Sorrow, Tears and Blood.

Like many people who first hear Fela, Stein was immediately bowled over by what he heard. "Sometimes you just hear something, right?" he explains. "'What the hell was that?' I remember asking. That music just registered with me and after that I did some research and got entranced with this guy called Fela."

But it would be a year or so later that he would actually get to meet the man. Stein was involved in putting on a festival of Rain Forest music. The idea was to invite musicians from all the world's rainforest countries to come to the UK to perform. He'd got the site for the festival and was working with a foundation called Earth Life that had established a huge conservation area in Cameroon of thousands of square miles of forest. Guinness (the brewers) were going to sponsor the event.

Then, Stein heard that Fela was in London. Using a network of friends to find out where he was staying, and putting the Rain Forest Festival's proposal together, he went to see if Fela would agree to join the board of advisors and also take part as a performer.

Stein tells the story this way: "It was a bitterly cold winter's day in London. I went and visited his hotel and knocked on the door. I was wrapped up in a heavy coat, sweater, scarf and hat. When the door opened, the room was so hot I almost fainted. You know, Fela used to travel with electric heaters to supplement hotel heating! And there he was sitting in his Speedos!

"Anyway, I had put the presentation together in a Morocco leather folder and sat next to him while he looked through it. I don't remember what I said but I said something. He just turned around and looked at me and we both started to laugh, and I can't explain it but we just became friends in that instant, and then he called me 'Nature boy'".

"I remember, I said to him, 'I have got to go now', and he walked me to the lift in his five-star hotel.

There was a couple standing by the lift, obviously going out to a reception or something, wearing ball gowns and tuxedos. You can imagine their reaction on seeing Fela wandering up the corridor barefoot and dressed only in his Speedo swim-shorts."

Fela was about to do the last date of his tour in London, and he invited Stein to come along. After that, Fela stayed a few more days in London and Stein got a telephone call every day, inviting him to the hotel. They would have dinner together and chat. "Around two o'clock I'd say, 'OK, Fela, I'm off now'. Fela would reply 'Now Rikki, listen--there's this thing I wanted to tell you', and he would start telling me some story. I would stagger out of there at five o'clock in the morning, go home, shower, change my clothes and go back to work again and this went on for days on end.

"You can imagine, I was working morning, noon and night on the Rain Forest Festival, and spending the rest of my nights with Fela. No sleep!

"So that was the beginning of my relationship. Then unfortunately, at the last minute, Guinness pulled out and the festival didn't happen. Anyway, I had also met Fela's manager, Francis Kertekian, and you know when somebody like me turns up when you are on the road, for a manager this is a danger signal! At first he was alarmed and concerned about how quickly Fela and I had become firm friends. But, anyway, cutting a long story short, Francis and I also became good friends and we are still friends today. He started asking me to do some things and then the next thing that happened was that Fela asked me if I would like to co-manage and things just developed from there. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.