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17 years after, Fela is still regarded as people’s champion

The enviable place of Fela Anikulakpo Kuti as one
of world’s notable music legends was re-asserted
last Sunday, when Jamaican legendary reggae
star, Don Carlos, leading local and foreign artistes,
closed this year’s edition of the annual musical
concert tagged “Felabration”, writes BENJAMIN
NJOKU
Fela died
seventeen (1997)
years ago. But
every year,
thousands of fun
seekers across the
world throng the
New Africa Shrine,
in Ikeja, Lagos, to
keep his legacies alive. This year was no
exception. Celebrated under the theme, “Who No
Know Go Know” this year’s Felabration re-echoed
the strong belief that Fela never dies but lives on.
The week-long festival climaxed last Sunday, but
not without funfare. At the New Afrika Shrine
venue of the final night of the festival, it was a
celebration of the life and times of Fela. Leading
other notable local and international artistes to
celebrate the man whose impact on the world
music scene lives on, was legendary Don Carlos.
Don was performing for the first time in Nigeria.
However, enticing with its décor, ambiance and
the historical reflection of the legacies of Fela, the
shrine came alive from 9 pm when the Gangbe
Brass Band from Benin Republic opened the
concert.
The eight-man band, which mixes traditional
Benin idioms and invigorates them with jazz
harmonies, performed a number of Afrobeat
songs, with Femi Kuti, son of Fela, joining them on
stage for a short duet.
After their captivating performance, notable
Nigerian artistes including Styl Plus, Olaitan
Adeniji and his Heavywindz Band, Eda O tan Band,
Orezi, Isla Kauche (Olumide Bamigboye), Weird
MC, Oritsefemi, Harrysong, and Kcee (who
stunned the audience as he gave out $1,500 cash
prize to two fun seekers that excelled during a
dance competition) took turns to thrill the
audience.
But the crowd erupted into uncontrollable
excitement at exactly 12.45 am when Don Carlos
came on stage. His stage presence and energetic
performance, even at 62, got him a resounding
ovation from thousands of fun seekers who
waited patiently to behold their the legendary
reggae star perform on stage.
Carlos who had his greatest success singing with
Black Uhuru, the reggae trio he formed in 1974,
with two friends- Rudolph Dennis and Derrick
“Duckie” Simpson- from the “Waterhouse” district
in Kingston, was excited to be in Nigeria and a
part of the celebration of Afrobeat legend.
“It is an honour to be in Lagos Nigeria to celebrate
Fela, a true African champion and Afrobeat King.
Fela was a prophet and a legend of our time. He
was like Bob Marley,” he remarked.
Among Fela’s songs, Carlos picked Water No get
Enemy, as his favourite, adding “The song conveys
a powerful message.”
The legendary reggae star performed alongside
fellow reggae star from Dominica, Raymond
‘Aima’ Moses. The energetic reggae star opened
the gig for legendary artiste,who later launched
into his repertoire. Backed by Femi Kuti’s Positive
Force Band, Carlos reeled out some of his
evergreen songs, leaving fun seekers with
memories of time past.
The legendary reggae star kept the audience on
their feet dancing to his root rock reggae music
for 45 minutes. Rendering songs such as Spread
Out, Harvest Time and Day to Day Living, Carlos
made a triumphant appearance at this year’s
festival. Root reggae with passion and strength
was his gift to the audience.
He was exciting and inspirational, while Femi’s
band kept a steady ‘riddim.’ Interestingly, Femi
Kuti closed the night with an electrifying Afrobeat
session.
Over 100 established and emerging stars
performed at the week-long music festival
organized to celebrate the life and times of the
late Afrobeat King, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. It was a
week of fun at the New Afrika Shrine and the
Freedom Park, another venue of the event in
Lagos. Those who graced the event still believed
that Fela was the true man of the people who
stood for justice and was critical of the ruling
class.
Apart from 1999, Felabration, which idea was
conceived by eldest child of Fela, Yeni in 1998, has
become a yearly ritual. Currently, the festival has
grown into a mega week-long musical event which
attracts thousands of visitors annually to the New
Africa Shrine from all over the world. Over the
years, the festival attracted many heavyweight
musicians from all over the world.
The roll call include Hugh Masakela, Femi Kuti,
Lucky Dube, Awilo, Baba Maal, Les Nubians, King
Sunny Ade, Lagbaja, Asa, TuFace, Seun Kuti and
many others. In 2008, over 50 international
artistes came together from the United States,
Great Britain, France and Senegal to perform at
Felabration under the banner, African Express.
This year’s festival featured exciting line ups of
artistes who truly whetted the appetite of music
lovers.
Why we brought Don Carlos to Nigeria’
Representative of Exodus and Promotions, the
agent that facilitated Don Carlos’ recent visit to
Nigeria, Raheem, narrates how they were able to
bring the legendary reggae star to grace this
year’s festival.
“We have been in Lagos for the past five years
promoting reggae music on radio. We have a
show on top Rhythm F.M 99.9 and on High Groove
radio .com. I have also spent a reasonable period
of time in the Shrine. During that time, Don Carlos
is a name that a lot of people in the Shrine kept
talking about. So, when the plans were laid out
and the theme for this year’s Felabration:
“Legend: Who No Know Go Know” announced, I
couldn’t think of any other person than Don
Carlos. I sold the idea of bringing Don Carlos to
the planning committee and they embraced it.
Don is one reggae legend who supports up and
coming artistes. Reggae star, Raymond ‘Aima’
Moses is today supported by Don Carlos. He
opens shows for Don in the United States. We
were able to negotiate with them, and it was
comfortable to bring the reggae artistes to Nigeria
to grace the Felabration stage. Right now, we
need to start having live music shows in Nigeria;
reggae music as well as Afrobeat music
respectively.

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