Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Afrobeat: Music of The City

SHARE THIS

Fela Anikulapo Kuti was James Brown, Huey Newton, Rick James, Bob Marley, Duke Ellington and ODB all rolled up in one black African fist.” Mos Def

Interest in the man and the music as mounted ever since he died. Several biographies.  A  million more to come. Wildly successful Broadway show.  A movie in the works. Newspaper articles uncountable. Blogposts incalculable.

But this is all so paradoxical. The increasingly loud chatter over who Fela is and what his work means will not make Fela any less enigmatic. In fact, the more we pile up commentaries around him and his work, the more he recedes from our view. “The fragmentary light” we continue to throw on his life and work is bound to do no more than distort our vision of him. My guess is that this inexhaustible mystery is what will endlessly draw us to Fela.

Still the question: what is it about Fela that grips our contemporary imagination?–is not banal. The point is not to unveil the secret to a life and how it escaped the political laziness of the Nigerian middle class and became an urban revolutionary. What fascinates most is the extent to which Fela will change the way the world thinks of music and the politics of music. In his death, Fela has become a musical body, whose parts are being chopped up in tiny pieces and carried away to distant corners of the world where they lead a creative life of their own. In North America alone there is what one can legimately call an Afrobeat movement. Antibalas from New York, Mr. Something Something in Canada, and the Chicago Afrobeat Project (CABP). Last week, CABP played a Felabration show in one of the hottest clubs in Chicago called The Shrine, a music venue inspired by the Afro-urban spirit of Fela’s Africa Shrine in Lagos. These are a few of the increasing number of bands around the world moved by Fela, his music, and his message. It blows the mind to think of what these bands are doing with Fela’s Afrobeat, how they are using afrobeat to formulate and articulate a politics that is relevant to their own communities.

Afrobeat is a music form that travels very easily. Fela is the cosmopolite per excellence so it goes without saying that his music feels at home anywhere in the world. Afrobeat is the music of the city. And we know that cities are the future of the world. So I’ll be the first to declare, “Afrobeat no go die!” Still, I know I am not alone when I wonder and get a tad bit anxious that the wandering feet of Afrobeat might transform it into something altogether unrecognizable.  But transformation and survival are not mutually exclusive conditions. There are somethings that can only exist in in mutation. There are somethings that detest purity and the safe, immobile world of the museum display box.  Afrobeat is one of such things.

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.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Chika Unigwe Speaks About Igbo Identity at Centre for Memories Monthly Distinguished Speaker Series

Photo credit: woman.ng

Nigerian author and professor Chika Unigwe recently spoke at the Centre for Memories, Enugu Sports Club, in Old GRA, Enugu […]

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Second Novel Acquired by Booker Prize-Winning Publisher, Oneworld

10288785_10152345455529486_3443296343730493266_n

Oneworld has acquired the rights to Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s second novel. Titled The First Woman, the novel is the third […]

African Literati React to Oscars Disqualification of Nigeria’s First Ever Entry, Lionheart, with Conversation on Language, Colonial Legacy

Photo credit: Lionheart still, Netflix

On November 5, 2019, African Twitter was abuzz with the news that Lionheart (2018), Nigeria’s first ever submission to the Academy […]

Opportunity for African Writers | Submit Your Work for the 2020 K & L Prize

k-l_poster_2020_final

The 2020 K & L Prize is open for submissions. Currently in its second year, the $1000 NZ prize was […]

South African Literary Awards 2019: All the Winners

Photo credit: Litnet

The winners of the 2019 South African Literary Awards (SALA) were announced on Thursday, November 7, at a ceremony held […]

“A Hymen is Where Angels Live”: Chika Unigwe, Molara Wood, Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún, and the Definitions of Hymen You Never Knew Existed

Image credit: William Blake, Jacob's Dream

Yesterday started off as an ordinary day on African literary Twitter. There was the usual announcement of newly published books […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.