“Yoruba is the Secret of Universal Witchcraft”

— Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti_083

In one of the last interviews before his death, Fela Kuti revealed  that on  January 25th, 1981 he was possessed by a spirit. This possession revealed many things to him, one of which was the secret meaning of words. A kind of linguistic magic—what I like to think of as “a science of the secret” of words.

Fela discovered that hidden in certain English words was a darker, more subterranean meaning that revealed itself only in Yoruba. Certain English words, he claimed, would only reveal their true meaning when given a Yoruba pronunciation.

Yoruba is some sort of light that when shone on English exposes all that is dark and devious about a language that, for centuries, has styled itself as the language of truth and enlightenment.

Here is how it works: 

1. English Word: Technology

Meaning: the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, esp. in industry.

Yoruba Pronunciation: Te-ki-ina-lo-ji

Meaning: : Press it so that the fire can go to wake it up

Fela’s Analysis: “Take a word like “technology.” Exposed, it reveals itself as “te-ki-ina-lo-ji” (press it so that the fire can go to wake it up). En hen! If you want to start a plane you must press for the engine, ah hah! For fire to, etc. That is Yoruba.”

2. English Word: Educate:

Meaning: give (someone) training in or information on a particular field.

Yoruba Pronunciation: Edu-ki-e-ti 

Meaning: tie everything up and lock it away

Fela’s Analysis: “Those who first created airplanes weren’t taught how to build one at any school or university, but they “invented” it! They no go school, oh! My brother they no go school! So the word “educate” reveals to us its deeper meaning in Yoruba as edu-ki-e-ti (tie everything up and lock it away). When you come from the spirit world with this knowledge and you start to give your own meaning… somebody will take it off you—take you to school—starting from your parents for that matter!”

3. English Word: Society

Meaning: the community of people living in a particular country or region and having shared customs, laws, and organizations.

Yoruba Pronunciation: So-si-ayiti

Meaning: tie it up in such a way that it seems free

Fela’s Analysis: “Human beings go through what they call “society” revealed as so-si-ayiti (tie it up in such a way that it seems free). You are already locked up within society and you say you are a free man!…Europeans won’t understand it because they don’t speak Yoruba.”

Keziah Jone’s 1996 interview with Fela was published by Chimurenga. You can read the full interview {HERE}

 

 

Tags: , , , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

One Response to “Fela’s Magical Dictionary” Subscribe

  1. Toyin Adepoju 2014/03/03 at 16:42 #

    What!

    Thanks

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

The Three African Books on The NYT 100 Notable Books of 2016 List

ibrahim-abubakar-morland-3

The New York Times has released its prestigious 100 Notable Books of the Year list, and there are only three […]

Adichie Talks Dior, Paris, and Her Fashion Week Experience in New Interview with Elle.com

ibrahim-abubakar-morland-1

In October, Adichie sat front row at a Christian Dior fashion show in Paris and watched models strutting the run way […]

Adichie, Selasi, Teju Cole, and Others Share their Favorite 2016 Books

ibrahim-abubakar-morland-2

2016 is coming to an end and, as is their tradition, The Guardian UK has asked some of the globe’s top […]

The New Yorker Profiles Kenyan Online Bookseller Magunga Williams

magunga-williams-new-yorker

A LITTLE over a week ago, The New Yorker ran a story on Magunga Williams, Kenyan bookstore owner and blogger, […]

Life after Ake Festival Is a Drab Thing | By Ogbu Godwin Ikechukwu | A Memoir

Copy-of-Chinese

…but the powerful memories of Ake Festival, like a good old film, come at me, and I am too weak […]

Shortlist Announced for the 2016 Morland Writing Scholarship

ibrahim-abubakar-morland

Three months ago, we announced that The Miles Morland Foundation was accepting applications for a writer’s scholarship. The shortlist for […]