My Friend Fela and Birth of Afrobeat

A new perspective on the Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, MY FRIEND FELA is told through conversations with his close friend and official biographer, African-Cuban Carlos Moore. The accompanying live-action animated short, BIRTH OF AFROBEAT, tells how Nigerian drummer Tony Allen and his partner Fela Kuti created the Afrobeat genre.

AIRED: January 20, 2020 | 1:27:01

-In "My Friend Fela," Fela Kuti,

the legendary Nigerian musician and pioneer of Afrobeat,

comes to life through the lens of his longtime friend

and biographer, Carlos Moore.

At the height of the black power movement,

Fela was charged to use his music as a tool for revolution.

-Today in Nigeria,

a lot more people are now relating to what Fela said

like 40 years ago, because things are not improving.

So when they listen to Fela's song,

some people wonder, like, "Was this sung this year?"

-Fela was such a potent and vigorous

and extraordinary figure within the Pan-African movement

the Négritude movement, the movement of black rights.

-Brazilian filmmaker Joel Zito Araujo

paints a vivid portrait of the eccentric musical talent.

On this episode of "AfroPop," "My Friend Fela"

followed by "Birth of Afrobeat"

by Nigerian filmmaker Opiyo Okeyo,

which chronicles Fela's drummer

and musical collaborator Tony Allen.

This is "AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange."

From Brazil to Nigeria, Turkey to Senegal,

we're taking you around the world

into the everyday lives of the African diaspora.

-Funding for "AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange,"

is provided in part

by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

-♪ Why Blackman dey suffer today ♪

♪ Why Blackman dey suffer today ♪

♪ Why Blackman no get money today ♪

♪ Why Blackman no get money today ♪

♪ Why Blackman no go for moon today ♪

♪ Why Blackman no go for moon today ♪

♪ This is the reason why ♪

♪ Tell me now ♪

♪ This is the reason why ♪

♪ Tell me again ♪

♪ This is the reason why ♪

♪ We dey sit down for our landi jeje ♪

♪ We dey sit down for our landi jeje ♪

♪ We dey mind our business jeje ♪

♪ Some people come from faraway land ♪

♪ Dem fight us and take our land ♪

♪ Dem take our people and spoil our towns ♪

♪ Na since then trouble starti o ♪

♪ Na since then trouble starti o ♪

♪ One more time ♪

♪ Na since then trouble starti o ♪

-This is one of the main markets in downtown Lagos,

and it was here that I met Fela for the first time.

At that time, they had these big, huge,

human-sized loudspeakers blaring different type of music.

But there was this one music which stood out,

and I asked, "What music is that?"

and he said to me, "That be Fela."

I had never heard a music which was so beautiful.

It was just like the first time I heard jazz

in my life when I was young.

It was the same sensation.

-♪ That is why Blackman dey suffer today ♪

-♪ That is why Blackman dey suffer today ♪

-♪ Tell me again ♪

-♪ That is why Blackman dey suffer today ♪

-♪ They take our land from us ♪

-♪ That is why Blackman dey suffer today ♪

-[ Speaking French ]

[ Indistinct shouting ]

-♪ International thief thief, I.T.T. ♪

-♪ International thief thief ♪

-♪ International rogue ♪

-♪ International thief thief ♪

-♪ International thief ♪

-♪ International thief thief ♪

-♪ International rogue ♪

-♪ International thief thief ♪

-♪ ...dem, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well ♪

-♪ Well, well, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well, well, well ♪

-♪ ...dem, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well ♪

-♪ Well, well, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well, well, well ♪

-♪ Well, well, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well, well, well ♪

-♪ ...dem, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well ♪

-♪ One day, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well, well, well ♪

-♪ ...dem, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well ♪

-♪ One day, we...dem ♪ -♪ Well, well, well, well ♪

-♪ Well, well, one day ♪ -♪ Well, well ♪

-♪ Well, well, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well, well, well ♪

-♪ Well, well, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well, well, well ♪

-♪ Well, well, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well, well, well ♪

-♪ Well, well, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well, well, well ♪

-♪ Well, well, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well, well, well ♪

-♪ Well, well, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well, well, well ♪

-♪ Well, well, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well, well, well ♪

-♪ Well, well, well, well ♪ -♪ Well, well, well, well ♪


-He was sitting down. He looked at me, and he said,

he said, "Welcome, Carlos, to this...called Nigeria."

I said, "That's my man."

[ Both laugh ]

So this was --

-Yeah, well, this I don't know too much about,

but I know that that was Empire.

-But that's where the shrine was.

-Yeah, Afrospot.

-Afrospot first.

It was Afrospot before it became

shrine one. -Before it became the shrine.


-I used to go there all the time.

-Today in Nigeria, a lot more people

are now relating to what Fela said like 40 years ago,

because things are not improving.

So when they listen to Fela's song, some people wonder, like,

"Was this sung this year?" -Yes.

-And even when Fela was singing,

since we are not as bad as this,

and for them to hear the legend of a human being, a man,

one single man standing up against military government.

-♪ Him no know hungry people ♪

♪ Him no know jobless people ♪

♪ Him no know homeless people ♪

♪ Him no know suffering people ♪

♪ Him go dey ride best car ♪

♪ Him go dey chop best food ♪

♪ Him go dey live best house ♪

♪ Him go dey waka for road ♪

♪ You go dey commot for road for am ♪

♪ Him go dey steal money ♪

♪ Him be wrong man ♪

♪ Na "Vagabond in Power" ♪

-♪ Na "Vagabond in Power" ♪

-♪ I say him be wrong man ♪

-♪ Na "Vagabond in Power" ♪

-♪ Na "Vagabond in Power" ♪

-♪ Na "Vagabond in Power" ♪

-♪ I say him be wrong man ♪

-♪ Na "Vagabond in Power" ♪

-♪ Na "Vagabond in Power" ♪

-♪ Na "Vagabond in Power" ♪ -♪ I say ♪

-I lived in America in 1958, in early 1958,

fleeing the civil war in Cuba.

-It was here that I first was in contact with a reality

and a lifestyle that changed my life.

This is the center of Harlem.

This is the heart, 125th and 7th.

I mean, everything was happening here,

and one bookstore was symbolic

of the whole effervescence among blacks.

The Harlem Renaissance was linked to the black Renaissance

in the whole country.

That bookstore was over there.

-♪ Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah ♪

-That place is where Malcolm X used to come

practically every day

because downstairs, he had, like, an office,

a second office to meet politicians, to meet people.

So when I was 17, that was my university,

and that's where one day, I met the woman

who changed my whole vision about the world

and about myself.

It was Maya Angelou.

-Leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I rise.

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the hope and the dream of the slave,

and so naturally, there I go rising.

-Maya was a tremendous woman.

That was the woman who initiated me into black consciousness.

I used to hate myself. I used to --

I used to, you know, like, like, straighten my hair,

whiten my skin, do everything to be white,

and Maya came and stopped that.

She stopped it, and she told me about the beauty of Africans,

their history, and put books in my hand

and put thoughts in my mind.

Patrice Lumumba was killed in early February.

Mid-February, around February 17th,

the news came out.

And when the news came out, it spread like wildfire.

I mean, people, black people were ignited,

and Maya Angelou, who had a group with Abbey Lincoln,

a group of women with Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone,

and I think Miriam Makeba belonged to that group,

to the group of black women.

They met separately, secretly by themselves.

Nobody knew, and they decided they were going to come

and organize a protest inside of the Security Council.

-This was Patrice Lumumba in June 1960,

the premier of the new Congo Republic.

Less than two weeks in the future lay the army mutiny

that would plunge the Congo into near chaos.

As Lumumba's followers raised the threat of civil war,

the news came that he had been slain.

-So on the day appointed,

the Congolese ambassador gave me the passes.

He knew what was going to happen,

so he gave me the official passes.

I think he gave me about 30 or 35 passes

that allowed me to bring people into the Security Council.

So what I did was started to bring in people with the passes,

and all of a sudden, the gallery section

of the Security Council became black.

It became black, something which had never happened before.

It was full of black people in silence.

And Adlai Stevenson for the United States was talking.

They had no involvement in Lumumba's death.

They had no involvement in anything.

It was an incredible, hypocritical speech.

By this time, the guards realized

that something was wrong.

[ Indistinct shouting ]

They threw Maya Angelou against the chairs,

and I rushed to liberate Maya Angelou,

and that's when I was --

I myself was thrown down and hit down.

And Maya was fighting furiously, Maya, Abbey Lincoln.

They were so taken by surprise that when they grabbed us,

instead of detaining us, they started pushing us out

because the police was outside.

The police could not come inside here.

This was the security. This was the U.N. guards.

-Ohh, Sandy.

Wow, wow, wow.

This is -- This is Lebert Bethune,

Malcolm X, Shabazz, Carlos Moore.

This still from film documentary

"Malcolm X: Struggle For Freedom."

-Right. -You know, that film you did

is the only film was done on Malcolm in Paris.

-Yeah, I know. One of the things I remember, you asked him,

"What you think of the role of women in the struggle?"

-I must have asked him something like that.

-Yeah, I remember, yeah.

-And I, frankly, am proud of the contribution

that our women have made in the struggle,

Usually, the degree of progress

can never be separated from the woman.

If you're in a country that's progressive,

the woman is progressive. But in every backward country,

you'll find the women are backward.

And in every country where education is not stressed,

it's because the women don't have education.

Most people, when we say Afro-American,

they think only of the Negroes in the United States,

but they don't realize that 2/3 of Brazil

consists of people of African blood,

which means they're also Afro-American,

because Brazil is in South America.

And then once they're organized in each place,

we have to organize among ourselves,

and in this way, we actually get strength.

-I was actually selected

to be Malcolm's everything man --

translator, you know, security

and everything by Richard Wright's wife...

-Ellen. -...because they were worried

about security, so Ellen,

who knew me well since I have come to Paris,

she got in touch with me

and told me to come over to see her.

And she went and she told me, and she says,

"Listen, I trust you.

I don't know anybody else whom I trust, and you,

you know, you've been with the Cuban revolution and everything,

so you will be able to stand whatever pressure."

-And you understand. -Right, she told me,

"So you understand what is --

So Malcolm is -- The minute he gets here,

he's going to come to the apartment.

You have to stay with him.

Sleep in the hotel with him and everything."

-When he was leaving that day, it was the first trip,

and we were at the airport early,

and we said goodbye to him,

and then you walked off with him.

-I'm going back to the States first

and see how my family is doing, you know?

-Yes. -I've got a family there

and see what develops.

-[ Female voice announcing indistinctly over speakers ]

[ Gunshots ]

-Sunday morning, I heard that Malcolm was shot.

I don't know how it was for you.

I don't know how you reacted.

But there's only one thing that I could do.

You know, I went out walking, just...


-...walking, walking, walking, walking.

I couldn't cry. I couldn't --

If I could have shouted, cried, screamed,

I would have been okay. I would have --

At some point, it would have, you know, sunk in.

I just went out walking,

walking, walking, walking, walking.

Malcolm X fascinated me the same way he fascinated Fela,

so that when I met Fela, there was a commonality

and immediately brought us together.

He loved Miriam Makeba. He loved Miles Davis.

He loved Nina Simone,

and he had a passion for

Cheikh Anta Diop, the Senegalese scientist,

and a passion for Patrice Lumumba

and for Kwame Nkrumah. And all of these people

had been in one way or another in my life,

and I would recount to him, "Tell me, tell me."

He wanted me -- He was avid for the stories

that I would tell him about these people.

And all of that, you know,

did contribute a lot to bring us together

and to cement such a great love.

Fela was such a potent and vigorous

and extraordinary figure

within the Pan-African movement, the Négritude movement,

the movement of black rights, civil rights.

Call it human rights, whatever you want to call it,

that, you know, to reduce him to just, you know, you know --

-Cultural icon. -Yeah, cultural icon,

and you know what I mean.

He's a ghetto hero.

He's a ghetto hero. He's just a ghetto hero.

He's eccentric.

He's just eccentric, and that -- he's, no contest,

this man who challenged the whole moral basis

of the society in which he was involved,

challenged the whole religious base,

the whole moral base.

You know, I'm 75, Sandy, and I said,

"The last thing if I have to do that I will do

is to try to set the record straight."

-Everything was European background,

the upbringing, the teachers in school.

My father was a pastor, you know, a pastor,

and everything had to be English.

We were not even allowed to speak our country's language

in schools, and they called the language --

They called our languages vernacular,

so English was the real language you had to speak in school,

so everything was in English.

I went to London to study music.

In London, I was exposed to jazz --

Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and I found out

that what they were playing was deeply

in the traditional music in the villages of Africa,

but I was never taught this in school.

They told me that church music was the mostest.

♪ It's highlife time ♪

♪ A morning time ♪

♪ And jump for joy ♪

♪ At this swinging club ♪

♪ It's brand-new place ♪

♪ That plays the craze ♪

♪ It's got the beat ♪

♪ It's got the hit ♪

It was in England, I started to feel

the awareness of having to be an African,

because the first time I came to England,

I started to feel, "Oh, wow,

so these white people don't like us too much."

You know, this is my experience from having to arrange rooms,

you know.

I had so much --

a lot of time reading newspapers in England,

house for rent, no coloreds, no dogs,

and that annoyed me a lot.

I never thought about it, being African as such,

so it didn't mean anything to me until much later in my life.

-[ Chanting ] Black is beautiful.

-[ Chanting ] Freedom! -[ Chanting ] Freedom!

-Set our water free. -Set our water free.

-Freedom! -Freedom!

-And revolution has come. -Off the pigs!

-Revolution has come. -Off the pigs!

-True, true, true, true. -He doesn't drink nothing.

-Oh, Carlos!

[ Both laugh ]

-Oh, Sandy.

-Oh, Carlos, you have no idea.

-Oh, Sandy, baby. Oh, Sandy, baby.

-Come on. Let's go up. Let's go up and talk.

Yeah, let's go this way. Come on. Let's go this way.

-I remember one thing is that Fela started

telling me the story,

and the story he told me about you, I mean,

the things he told me about you were incredible.

He said, "This woman made me an African. She Africanized me.

She Africanized me. She told me my music was...

What I was singing and playing was...

and everything," and he says, "And she kicked my..."

-At the time that I met Fela, I had come into

a lot of awareness about our people.

My parents never taught me that people would not like me

because of the color of my skin.

-Yeah, I understand that.

-So when the civil disturbance took place in Los Angeles,

it was around that time.

Well, anyway, my cousin Aubrey was there.

-That was the black power period.

-My cousin Aubrey.

-Malcolm X had been killed.

Martin Luther King had been shot down.

-Whew, right. -It was repression all over.

People were being killed. The Panthers were being killed.

-Yes, and my cousin was the one who introduced me

to the Panther party.

I saw him with his black jacket.

Nobody had taught me anything.


-Who are you?! -Black Panthers!

-What are they?! -The guns!

-You went to a club. It was the Citadelle de Haiti.

-The Citadelle.

-And you went there.

What did you go there for?

Looking for whom or for what?

-No, no, no, no, no, no. You got the story wrong.

The Citadelle came back.

I mean, that was -- Let me get it straight.

So, the day that I met Fela

was at the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard.

-Okay. -It was the NAACP.

They were having an event in the garden.

-There was this band playing, so as I walk in, I look up.

-And you see what? -I see Fela.

-And your eyes went how? -I just looked.

I mean, I was glued to him.

-Okay. -Well, let's put it like this.

We were glued to each other.

-Okay, because he told me, "I looked down," he said...

-And I was looking up. -...and he says,

"I saw this nice-looking black woman,

and I said, 'Oh, my God.'"

-So then I'm saying, "Well, what are you singing about?"

and that's when he told me.

He was singing about his suit.

-His suit.

[ Both laugh ]

-And look.

Can you imagine?

Yeah, his suit.

And then after, you know,

my laughter kind of subsided,

I literally, I said, "You know,

there's so many important things and issues in the world

that we need to sing about.

Why would you sing about a suit?"

-But what happened? What did you say to him?

-Well, at that time, in my room,

I had all the African kings and queens on my wall.

I had Huey Newton.

You know, besides the kings and queens,

there was Huey Newton, Malcolm X, Angela Davis.

I'm trying to think who else was on my wall?

-Marcus Garvey. -Ooh, and Nikki Giovanni.

-Nikki. -You know?

-Yeah. -I mean, I had

some real teachers, you know?

I slept with them, you know, on my wall.

-On your wall. So of course, a African man,

he know all these things, right? Mm.

-He didn't know who these people were.

-He didn't know nothing, and it wasn't

until he made the statement

about how stupid Africans were

that I really had a mental breakdown,

and I went off on him, and I guess I went off on him,

you know, when I reflect back, and I see how animated I was

and how it was like I really literally became the panther,

and I pounced, and I told him

how stupid and ignorant he was

to say such things

and to never speak like that again about black people,

because he didn't know nothing.

Then I started giving him books.

-He told me that he was reading all of these books, you know?

He said he didn't even know that these people existed,

and he said,

"And when I finish reading Malcolm X's autobiography,"

which you gave him, one of the books that you gave him,

which was heavy, and that book impacted on him so heavy,

he told me he started to weep.

He broke down crying. -Mm, the truth.

-He broke down crying.

Sandra turned Fela's head

from being non-African into being African,

from hating Africans into loving Africans passionately,

and that's what Maya did with me.

-A joint? A joint?

-Not the same guy, not the same guy.

-Uh-huh, and then from then --

-♪ La, la, la, la ♪

♪ We fear for the thing we no see ♪

♪ We fear for the air around us ♪

♪ We fear to fight for freedom ♪

♪ We fear to fight for liberty ♪

♪ We fear to fight for justice ♪

♪ We fear to fight for happiness ♪

♪ We always get reason to fear ♪

♪ We no wan die, we no wan wound ♪

♪ We no wan quench, we no wan go ♪

-Yes, if you are in England,

music can be an instrument of enjoyment.

You can sing about love.

You can sing about whom you're going to bed with next.

But in my own environment, my society is under-developing

because of an alien system on our people,

so there's no music for enjoyment.

There's nothing like love.

But it's something like a struggle for people's existence,

so as an artist politically, artistically,

your whole idea about your environment

must be represented in the music, in the arts.

So really art is what is happening at a particular time

of a people's development or underdevelopment,

you see, so I think, as far as Africa is concerned,

music cannot be for enjoyment.

Music has to be for revolution.

Brothers and sisters...

The father of Pan-Africanism,

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah,

says to all black people all over the world

"The secret of life is to have no fear."

1, 2, 3, 4.

-Now we're here at the Afrika Shrine at the shrine number two.

When I see it now, when I compare it to before,

it's almost --

it's almost incomparable,

but it continues having the motifs,

the photographs that Fela used to have --

Thomas Sankara over there, then Nelson Mandela,

his mother, Martin Luther King, Kwame Nkrumah,

who was overthrown in Ghana in 1966.

Now, Kwame Nkrumah was a friend of his mother,

so he adored Nkrumah.

He saw him as the model Pan-Africanist.

This is a grandiose place.

This is a place where history took place every night.

-♪ Yeah, yeah ♪ -♪ Yeah, yeah ♪

-♪ Yeah, yeah ♪ -♪ Yeah, yeah ♪

-♪ Yeah, yeah ♪ -♪ Yeah, yeah ♪

-♪ Yeah, yeah ♪ -♪ Ah, yeah ♪

[ Chanting, singing indistinctly ]

-[ Singing in native language ]

-You know, I grew up in Kalakuta.

You know, I grew up in this house,

and when I was growing up here,

there were like probably 500 people living here

from different parts of the world.

And the only rule in this house

was there's no seniority in Kalakuta,

so expression has always been free to me.

[ Speaks indistinctly ]

-You have people always saying, "Yes, Fela married 27 women.

Fela married 27 women."

You see, that doesn't shock me or anything.

Personally -- -He didn't marry them by force.

-He didn't force them,

and personally I always said to people,

I say, "Hey, listen. Here were 27 women

and 1 man coming together of their own volition,

of their own choice around a project to share life

and to create together, so what's wrong with this?"

Marriage is not a matter of --

-No, the problem is, you know, the world is,

you know, globalization, you know?

We all have to accept one culture.

Polygamy is the African family system,

so for me, I don't think really that any society

has the right formula for human relationships.

[ Indistinct conversations ]

-So that love you have for him

makes you jump across the ocean

to a continent you've never seen in your life.

-Remember, I'm reared in monogamy here in America.


-I don't know nothing about polygamy, okay?

-I didn't say polygamy. I say polyconjugal.

-Well, polyconjugal, political,

I mean, whatever,

but I'm just going to say this.

See, I chose the man,

imprinted upon the man

even before I knew the history of that man.

-So you didn't expect... -A wife.

-...him to have several wives.

-I didn't expect one wife, okay?

♪ Africa man outside don't see ♪

♪ Fillings boku road no dey ♪

♪ Land boku food no dey ♪

♪ Area boku house no dey ♪

♪ People no dey bear African name ♪

♪ People no dey think African style ♪

♪ People no know Africa great ♪

♪ But Africa man outside don't see ♪

I was ready to give up my American citizenship.

I wanted to go live inside of Kalakuta.

Ah, music, good music,

just the sisterhood, everything, just the culture,

I was learning my African culture.

♪ Everything upside down ♪

♪ Everything upside down ♪

-So what happened?

-Okay. Now, remember,

he was going to teach me the African way.

-Uh-huh. -And the African way,

according to Fela, is polygamy.

You accept the man and all of his wives.

-Right. -A real man is going to tell

a woman the truth,

and it's up to the woman

if she chooses to accept it...

-Uh-huh. -...or get away from it.

-Mm-hmm, and what did you choose?


My lesson was very, very hard,

took me 10 years.

-But what did you choose?

-I chose not to be a part of the harem.

-No, polygamy is not a harem,

and that's why I say polyconjugality.


-These are many homes. These are not harems.

So, okay. When you came

and you saw that and everything, you said,

"Okay. I don't want this.

I am going back," and you went back to the U.S.

-Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

-Okay. So tell me.

-Remember, I'm a woman in love,

I mean, in love, seriously.

-Deeply in love. -Thank you,

and I love the man, and I love the culture.

I loved everything about my people.

-So you expected to come,

and then he abandon all of his wives and say,

"Okay. Go away. I divorce you.

And this is the only one in my life."

You expected that to happen?

-Yeah, in my small -- See, that's jealousy.

In my small, narrow-minded way, yes, that's what I wanted.

[ Women chanting in native language ]

-Hey! Carlos, Carlos!

Hey! Long time. -[ Laughs ]

-You were, what, about, what, 14?

-14 going to 15, sure.

-And you started living with Fela.

-Yeah, living with Fela.

[ Indistinct conversations, car horns honking ]

-Fela loved sex.

Fela would sleep -- When I was in that house,

I know that Fela slept with more than three different women

in a day, the wives, okay?

Not only did he sleep with the wives,

but Fela had women outside of the house.


-"Do this! Do that!

[ Shouts indistinctly ]

Come here!"

-Fela is between the two most powerful women in his life --

his mother, Funmilayo, great feminist, organized women,

fought for independence in the 1940s,

and Remi, his first wife.

After he married to 27 wives,

she remained being the center of favor.

She remained being the elder wife,

and she accommodated to it as long as Fela maintained

that privileged relationship with her.

These were the only two women who could really talk to Fela.

-I see Africans today.

What we do --

What we do is just we suffer with smile, you know?

Every African man smiles.

"How are you," you see?

See, we smile because we are good people probably,

but see, people don't have to smile in a bad condition.

That is making the matters worse.

That is going to slavery.

♪ Zombie, oh, zombie ♪

-♪ Zombie, oh, zombie ♪

-♪ Zombie no go go unless you tell them to go ♪

-♪ Zombie ♪ -♪ Zombie no go stop ♪

♪ Unless you tell them to stop ♪

-♪ Zombie ♪ -♪ Zombie no go turn ♪

♪ Unless you tell them to turn ♪

-♪ Zombie ♪ -♪ Zombie no go think ♪

♪ Unless you tell them to think ♪

-♪ Zombie ♪ -♪ Zombie, oh, zombie ♪

-♪ Zombie, oh, zombie ♪

-♪ Zombie, oh, zombie ♪ -♪ Zombie, oh, zombie ♪

-♪ Zombie no go go unless you tell them to go ♪

-♪ Zombie ♪ -♪ Zombie no go stop ♪

♪ Unless you tell them to stop ♪

-♪ Zombie ♪ -♪ Zombie no go turn ♪

♪ Unless you tell them to turn ♪

[ Gunshots, siren wailing ]

-Their female parts.

-♪ Everybody run run run ♪

♪ Everybody scatter scatter ♪

♪ Some people lost some bread ♪

♪ Someone nearly die ♪

♪ Someone just die ♪

♪ Police, they come, army, they come ♪

♪ Confusion everywhere ♪ -♪ Yeah ♪

[ Indistinct shouting ]

-♪ Seven minutes later ♪

♪ All don, cool down, brother ♪

♪ Police don go away ♪

♪ Army don disappear ♪

♪ Them leave sorrow, tears, and blood ♪

-♪ Them regular trademark ♪

-♪ Them leave sorrow, tears, and blood ♪

-♪ Them regular trademark ♪

-♪ Them regular trademark ♪

-♪ Them regular trademark ♪

-♪ La, la, la, la ♪


-Nobody has that guts.

In Nigeria, all just happening

this past 12 months... -Right now.

-...if Fela was alive,

oh, he would be holding press conference.

He would be trying to mobilize people.

Maybe the soldiers would go and beat him up.

That is heavy.

-Yeah. -That is heavy.

-Yeah, for his whole, whole life.


He was incredible. He was incredible.

-Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

-She was sitting.

-This government threw my mother out of window,

Mrs. Funmilayo Anikulapo-Kuti,

who fought her blood for this country.

-In the '40s and '50s, this new woman in the world

that was alive, that was at the forefront

of women empowerment like my grandmother --

I mean, she was even the secretary

to the world feminist movement,

I think, you know, back in the day.

I don't remember the name of the organization.

You know, she was a confidant of Chairman Mao.

People always think, you know, she was killed

when she was thrown out of the window

by the military because of Fela, but I always tell people

that Fela was the excuse to kill Funmilayo...

-Mm-hmm. -...because Funmilayo

was the only socialist force left in Africa

after the death of Patrice Lumumba.

People do not understand

that Funmilayo was the only alternate voice

to a different system other than capitalism in Africa.

My grandmother was big thorn

in the flesh of Western imperialism in Africa.

-So you think actually the attack

on Kalakuta was to kill her? -The attack was to kill her.

-♪ Waka, waka, waka ♪ -♪ They steal all the money ♪

-♪ Waka, waka, waka ♪ -♪ Them kill many students ♪

-♪ Waka, waka, waka ♪ -♪ Them burn many houses ♪

-♪ Waka, waka, waka ♪ -♪ Them burn my house, too ♪

-♪ Waka, waka, waka ♪ -♪ Them kill my mama ♪

-♪ Waka, waka, waka ♪ -♪ So I carry the coffin ♪

-♪ Waka, waka, waka ♪

-♪ I waka, waka, waka ♪

-♪ Waka, waka, waka ♪ -♪ Movement of the people ♪

-♪ Waka, waka, waka ♪ -♪ Them waka, waka, waka ♪

-♪ Waka, waka, waka ♪ -♪ Young African pioneers ♪

-♪ Waka, waka, waka ♪

-I designed this cover.

Ghariokwu Lemi, you might have heard about him.

-Yeah, no, Ghariokwu, I know him.

-Yeah, Ghariokwu Lemi did an issue,

"Sorrow, Tears and Blood."

Fela didn't like that. -But Fela didn't like it.

-Fela didn't like it.

-That was a problem with him.

-Fela, he didn't like it,

so he said,

Ghariokwu Lemi doesn't understood

what he was feeling at that moment in time,

you know, because they burned down his house.

He had no more money.

He was living in a hotel.

He squatted a house.

My art just defined a period in time

where, you know, in Fela's career.

-Because, my brothers, what is happening in Nigerian prisons

is nothing short of Nazism,

what they were doing in the concentration camps

in Germany in 1940.

I saw it with my eyes.

They were flogging boys 8:00 in the morning, 24 strokes.

They put sun on the body before they flogged them,

and this is not from court order.

This just what does enjoyment.

[ Indistinct conversations ]

[ Gunshots, sirens wailing ]

-We not -- What did we do?

-Spray tear gas!

-One thing I want to ensure, though --

If they think I'm going to change

or compromise my attitude

and my way of life and my expression

or in my goal

towards politics,

they're making me stronger,

and I'm much more stronger now.

As a matter of fact, I'm surprised that I'm so well

so quickly, you know, the kind of beating I got.

They want to see the police beating.

It's terrible. I show you.

Come and see it. Look at it.

Look my...Right at my...

See? But all over my body

top to bottom, they beat...out of me,

but I say I didn't die, because my name is Anikulapo.

I have death in my pouch. I can't die.

They can't kill me.

-I grew up faithless. My dad had died,

and I went to school being Fela's son,

and I understood the stigma

that was associated with being Fela's child

and just being close to this house or whatever that was Fela.

The propaganda attack on Fela was massive.

[ Gunshots ]

[ Crowd screaming, sirens wailing ]

So I got out. [ Laughs ]

Tired? -[ Translating into French ]

-No, I'm not tired. [ Laughs ]

-You are the only person I know

who was there when Fela told J.K.

that he wanted me to write the book.

-He knew that you were the appropriate person

because he felt that you were revolutionary.

Sorry using that word.

It was appropriate word to qualify you.

He felt that you were revolutionary

and that you are fast.

-I was his friend since 1974. -Yes, yeah.

-So -- But we had never -- He had never accepted,

talked about a book or anything like that.

That came out of the blue.

-Yeah. -You see? When that call --

And he wanted to see me immediately.

-Right. -Wanted me to come down

and start writing immediately.

-Yeah. It must mean it was --

That was a time in his life he was living through something.


-And mysterious things was happening to him.

-By that, that was when...

-Yeah, yeah. -...the whole magical things

were happening, the mysterious things.

-Yeah, the mysterious things was happening to him.

-Fela had gone through a very traumatic experience,

and that was the destruction of the family home,

the death of his mother. -Yeah.

-He never really fully recovered.

-He never recovered. -Mnh-mnh.

-He never did. -Because he kept trying

to make contact with his mother. -Yes.

-His inspiration was his mother.

Fela would practically never talk about his father.

It was always about his mother.

And after her tragic death,

a year after the attack on Kalakuta One,

Fela started going, closing into his self.

He started becoming sadder and sadder and sadder.

Every time I saw him, he became

more and more introspective,

and that's where the beginning of Fela's problems came,

because he never forgave himself.

He blamed himself for the death of his mother.

-I met you in Paris in '82. -Right.

-And I saw that there was something wrong with Fela,

and you appear, and Fela has this fusion with you.

I just be, "What happened?"

How did you just show up at this moment?

-Fela called me,

and he said his life was in danger.

That's what Fela called me and told me.

He said I needed to come to Paris.

-Immediately. -Yes.

The Fela that I saw there

was not the Fela that I knew in Los Angeles.

This was a different Fela.

He was somewhat rugged, and he had a beard,

and Fela never grew a beard.

-Yeah, and he wasn't shaved.

-He was talking about all the spirits

and the numbers,

the Egyptology thing that was, like --

I mean, it was just way out. -Yeah.

-Good things didn't happen that weekend.

If I had stayed any longer,

I think I would have been committed

to some mental institution.

That weekend,

I think you saved me that weekend.

I think you saved me that weekend, Carlos.

When you took me away, that was the only...

...I think, civil,

something that I could -- tangible, brought me back down,

'cause I went way up here on this head trip.

Fela went so deep into this African --

-Esoteric. -Thank you.

He went in real deep,

and I think he went in too far to come back.

-And I remember there was the people around him.

There were rough people around him.

I mean, there were such...

-I know. -...rough-looking people.

And I find these people on Fela's tour,

bodyguards and everything, fierce-looking,

thuggish-looking, and Fela himself is spaced out.

-Mm-hmm. -Something is wrong.

-Yeah. -In '81, things got bad,

because of one Professor Hindu, because I had told --

-That's when the Hindu... -Yeah.

-...Hindu, the magician... -Yeah, magician.

-...came in, and Fela took him as his guru.

-Yes. Professor Hindu became very --

his counselor.


-You know, he counted on Professor's Hindu's advices

all the time.

Professor Hindu told him

that he's somebody that can slash his own tongue.

-Mm-hmm. -And his tongue will grow back.

-Mm-hmm. And that he could kill people

and bring them back to life. -Yes. Yes.

-The African way of life...

-[ Translating into French ]

-And spiritualism is the essence of human life.

-But I did vocalize that and tell him

that I didn't believe Professor Hindu.

That was a turning point.

Something's very wrong,

and he said, "You want to talk me?

You want to explain those things to me?

And I'll show you that I can get you down."

-That's when he started beating you.

-Yeah. That's when he ordered --

He would never beat you because he has his hands.

He would never beat you, because he doesn't want

to break his fingers, doesn't want to break his hand,

so he called his guards.

That was when the beating started.

-Then he started beating you with what, with wire?

-Start beating me with, you know,

they have cables of wire rolled around together.

It looks like a baton of wire, cable wire.

-Electric wire. -Electric wire.

-Do you think that the fact that at that time,

the army was beating people publicly in the streets --

Because that's when the whipping,

the army was whipping people in the streets.

-Yeah. Yeah.

-Do you think this was influencing Fela

into also using those methods at home?

-One of these fellows that Fela trusted,

one day, he stole the money, and he ran away,

and Fela sent people to catch up.

-Look. I'm not there at that time.

I'm sleeping. When I wake up, them says,

"See what happened. No, Sanwo is not there."

I'm not there.

-So you don't know what happened.

-I don't know what happened.

-No. No, no. I'm not saying that.


-♪ Him say, "This uprising will bring out the beast in us" ♪

-♪ This uprising will bring out the beast in us ♪

-♪ Him say, "This uprising will bring out the beast in us" ♪

-♪ This uprising will bring out the beast in us ♪

-The more I started trying to get close

to helping him in some way,

the more he started becoming aggressive,

and that's when you know he had a lot of informants

and informers and people around him...

-Oh, a bunch of idiots. -...who was just saying,

"Well, he's CIA," so the more --

-Oh, yeah. -Fela was just CIA.

Everybody was CIA.

His first wife was CIA.

One of his wife tried to poison him, was CIA.

The CIA, CIA, CIA planted --

When they arrested him in Italy,

he said it was the CIA through one of an American --

-Well, come on, now. At that particular time,

there was a lot of CIA --

-Oh, no. We know that. We know that. We know that.

We know that. We know that.

There's CIA all over the world. -Right, right.

-But Fela was -- This thing about the CIA was paranoid.

-I hear your side of this story.

Fela is not here to defend himself.

I'm there in the middle.

I know what I saw, so how do you expect --

You know, you got two giants. I mean --

-So -- But we loved each other, and you know we would --

But, you know, I would tell him everything,

you know, to his face. -Of course.

-I said, "Fela, Fela, this is craziness.

You know, what you're saying is crazy, crazy, crazy."

-But, Carlos, how many people?

It wasn't many people around like you

that would tell the truth, speak the truth.

There were you and myself.

Everybody else was scared.

I don't know what -- I don't know why.

-Well, they were scared

because Fela at one point became so violent.

-I never saw that violence.

-You didn't see that part, but, ooh.

-So, in other words, it could've happened to me.

-Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa. He became so -- I mean --

-He would actually put his hands on someone?

-No. He didn't touch people.

-No. -He would have his --

-Bodyguards? -His gang, his --

It was that period when I decided, no, I can't.

I can't go further. -It was a very rough period.

-I can't go any further on this,

and that's when I decided to separate from Fela.

-Femi left. His son left to go his own way,

to do his own band when Fela went into prison after,

and until --

It went all like that. They all left.

[Speaks indistinctly] who left.

Everybody just kind of departed from him,

because it was uncontrollable.

-When did you realize that Fela was really very, very sick?

-So all the time he was in the hospital,

you couldn't go and visit him because you didn't know where?


-Yeah? -Mm-hmm.

-You know? -Yeah.

Yeah. That I can understand.

-So I'm not really fine.

You know? I don't feel fine.

-Fela condition was so serious

that when he finally agreed

to go to a hospital,

that by the time the diagnosis of AIDS arrived

was in no position to comprehend the diagnosis,

so I don't really know that he knew that he had AIDS.

-What was it that Fela brought into this world

which has made -- which was different

and which has made the world change in any way?

-Awareness. I only saw the man

who really wanted to make change for his people,

so much so that he stayed in Nigeria and suffered,

you know, going to jail over 200 times.

He didn't have to do all that.

He could've left Nigeria a long time ago,

but he stayed, and he fought for his people.

And then after staying and fighting for them

and literally dying,

they bring the same corruption over

and recycled, you know, corruption.

I don't understand.

-So you think everything Fela did was for nothing?

-No. I don't think it was for nothing

because there have been many seeds planted,

and I've seen some of those seeds come up.

But for whatever reason, the seeds are there,

but it's like they don't know how to make the change.

It's like they've been trapped.

See, that's the thing that hurts me so much, Carlos.

That's the part that --

I just thought this world would be different.

I just thought it would be different, and I realize

that we are all like ponds being manipulated,

and there's so much information out there.

You know, if we seek it, we find it,

but we must bring positive change in this world.

We have to.

-There is a whole thing about erasing history.

The new generations, you know, are growing up with this idea

that everything has always been cool.

Everything has been funny,

and the 1960s and '70s were the fiercest periods.

I mean, I never saw such fierceness --

people being assassinated, people being killed,

important people who had ideas, coup d'état,

being people who overthrown.

Lumumba was killed.

What? After these 5 decades, what do you think?

What is your assessment?

-[ Speaks native language ] -Hmm.

-"Here I stand." -Mm-hmm.

-[Speaks native language] is the same thing as Paul Robeson said.

"Here I stand." [ Speaks native language ]


-And until breath leaves, there is no alternative.

-Yeah. Okay. Okay.

Okay. So it was worth it.

-Yes. -All of the blood,

all of the sacrifice,

the murders, the killings, the going crazy,

the suicides and everything, you feel that it was worth it?

-There is no alternative to resistance!

-♪ Why Blackman dey suffer today ♪

♪ Why Blackman dey suffer today ♪

♪ Why Blackman no get money today ♪

♪ Why Blackman no get money today ♪

♪ Why Blackman no go for moon today ♪

♪ Why Blackman no go for moon today ♪

♪ This is the reason why ♪

♪ Tell me now ♪

♪ This is the reason why ♪

♪ Tell me again ♪

♪ This is the reason why ♪

♪ We dey sit down for our landi jeje ♪

♪ We dey sit down for our landi jeje ♪

♪ We dey mind our business jeje ♪

♪ Some people come from faraway land ♪

♪ Dem fight us and take our land ♪

♪ Dem take our people and spoil our towns ♪

♪ Na since then trouble starti o ♪

♪ Na since then trouble starti o ♪

♪ One more time ♪

♪ Na since then trouble starti o ♪

♪ Our riches they take away to their land ♪

♪ In return they give us their colony ♪

-The first time I heard the style,

just, I didn't get it.

I just -- I didn't -- Like, I heard it.

I heard about 15 minutes of it, and I'm just like, just,

"I'm not feeling it," and just something didn't click.

And then the second time I heard it, I was like,

"Oh, wait a minute. Now I get it,"

and from that point on, it was just --

It changed who I am as a player.

It changed who I am as a performer.

-His approach to the drums is definitely very cool.

It's very relaxed, controlled energy,

and you just sense it when you're playing.

-I have the privilege of standing next to him,

and I can see everything he's doing, and, you know,

I'm, like, taking it in and making visual notes,

seeing how he hits the kick pedal

and just everything that's going on, so it's great.

-I was listening to salsa music ever since I can remember.

I was born in Puerto Rico, so I always grew up hearing that

which is, you know, very closely tied to Afrobeat

and the music of West Africa.

-10 years ago, our original trombone player brought me in,

and I had no idea what Afrobeat was.

-"Don't call this music high life jazz.

Just name it something else, you know?

It could be Afrorock, Afrofunk, Afro this, Afro that."

-It's good to work with somebody

who has a much deeper history than we do with the music.

The fact we were inspired by music that he played

and now we're collaborating with him is very cool.

-You listen to his albums and particularly "Black Voices"

where he started using a lot of, like, electronics,

and he continues to look at the past

but progress and move forward.

-Funding for "AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange"

is provided in part by...

the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


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