Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

 “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.

Monthly Newsletter!

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

Archives

Opportunity for East African Writers | Fellowship for Early Career Writers and Publishers

african writers trust publishing fellowship

In the wake of Nigeria’s Dusty Manuscript Contest, it is encouraging to see Africa Writers Trust rolling out a fellowship […]

Nnedi Okorafor And Marvel Comics Team Up For Yet Another Black Panther Spinoff

african writers trust publishing fellowship (1)

Marvel is expanding its Wankada storyline by adding on yet another spin off. Titled Shuri, the spinoff revolves around T’Challa’s […]

Vote for Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chimamanda Adichie and Nnedi Okorafor on The Alternative Nobel Prize Longlist

Nnedi-Okorafor BELLA NAIJA

Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Nnedi Okorafor have been longlisted for The Alternative Nobel Prize, the only three […]

In Love and Ashes | Writer-Filmmaker Umar Turaki’s Drama Series Stars Patience Ozokwor, with Soundtrack by 2Baba

umar turaki

Nigerian writer and filmmaker Umar Turaki’s new drama series, In Love and Ashes, has premiered. The series stars Nollywood icon […]

Poetry x Fashion | Attend a Class with Brunel Prize Winner Theresa Lola in London

poetry x fashion

Brunel Prize 2018 joint winner Theresa Lola will be teaching a class on poetry and fashion. The class will “explore […]

Tomi Adeyemi Narrates Frightening Encounter with Racist White Policemen

tomi adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi, author of the million-dollar Children of Blood and Bone trilogy, shared to her 43,000 Twitter followers an encounter […]

Thanks for signing up!

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

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.