Fela Kuti Biography and Life History

Olufela Anikulapo Ransome-Kuti popularly known as Fela Kuti is a legendary Nigerian musician, songwriter, stage performer, multi-instrumentalist, human right activist and a political activist. He was the founder of Afrobeat music genre in Nigeria. He was born on 15th October 1938, in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria and died on 2nd August 1997 in Lagos, Nigeria. He was 58 years old when he died.

His father’s name is Reverend Israel Ransome-Kuti while his mother’s name is Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. His father was an Anglican minister, a school principal and the first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT).

He has two brothers namely; Beko Ransome-Kuti and Olikoye Ransome Kuti. His two brothers are well known medical doctors in Nigeria. Fela Kuti is also the cousin to famous Nigerian writer and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, the first African to win Nobel Prize for Literature.

He attended Abeokuta Grammar School, where he completed both his primary and secondary school education. Later he was sent to London in 1958 to study medicine and surgery, but he decided to study music instead at the Trinity College of Music in London. While in school, he formed the band Koola Lobitos, playing a fusion of jazz and highlife music.

In 1960, Fela Kuti got married to his first wife, Remi Taylor and the couples were blessed with three children namely: Femi, Yeni and Sola Kuti. In 1963, Fela Kuti moved back to Nigeria and was trained as a radio producer for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC).

In 1967, he went to Ghana to think of a new musical direction. That was when Fela Kuti first called his music Afrobeat in 1969. After naming his music genre Afrobeat, Fela Kuti took his band to the United States of America where they spent 10 months in Los Angeles. While in America, Fela Kuti discovered the Black Power Movement through Sandra Smith, a partisan of the Black Panther Party.

Fela Kuti has won many African Music Awards which include MTV Africa Music Legend Award, Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical. He has been declared as a panafricanist, polygamist, African superstar and legendary singer and musician known worldwide.

During the height of his popularity, he was often hailed as one of Africa’s most challenging and charismatic music performer, due to his ability and courage to use his music to challenge colonial government and the bad military leadership in Nigeria.

Sadly, on 2nd August 1997, Fela Kuti died due to complications related to AIDS at the age of 58 years old. He was one of the richest and most influential musicians in Nigeria before his death with an estimated net worth of $4 million.


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