Bordowitz, Hank, American Visions
"With my music," said Nigeria's supreme musician-activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti, "I hold with the entire system of African culture. I want to move people to dance, but also to think." Fela died from AIDS on August 2, 1997, in Lagos. A remarkable and controversial figure, he helped expand the reach of African pop through incendiary records and astonishing performances.
Born Fela Ransome Kuti, his father was a minister; his mother, a leading voice for Nigerian nationalism. Educated in England and America, Fela was familiar with James Brown and John Cohrane, and he sang in high-life bands and learned to play keyboards and saxophone.
On his return to Nigeria, he started the Africa 70 band, combining high life with funk and jazz into Afro-beat. He opened a nightclub called the Shrine, attached to his home compound, which he declared a sovereign zone, the Kalakuta Republic. He took at least 27 wives.
In concert, Fela resembled a cross between a bantam and a bantamweight, pacing the stage in front of his 20-piece band, rarely wearing more than a pair of briefs. …