BURNABOY AND FELA THE DIFFERENCE
Burnaboy and Fela are always in comparison by modern day music lovers, because of his style of music.
Burnaboy to many of his fans is the contemporary Fela. The Afro Beat Music Legend of blessed memory Fela Anikulapo Kuti ( October 15th 1938 – 2nd August 1997 ) born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, is considered by many as the King of Afro Beat because he was the first person to call his music Afro Beat in 1967.
He changed his name to Fela Anikulapo Kuti in 1970 after he was deported alongside his band from United States for not possesing work permit by Immigratiopermi Naturalization Service. The name Anikulapo meaning ‘One Who Carries Death in His Pouch’ is an indication that Fela has taken a decision to cut off the slavery affiliation of his last name Ransome-Kuti and be in control of his destiny. In other words, he will no longer be afraid of death. This reflected in his music as he pinned point issues as they are. Rather than sing about love and celebration which were popular in his time, Fela sang about the problems of the Nigerian society as caused by bad leadership.
Fela is known for using his music as a tool for activism. He spoke about things that were wrong in the military dictatorship rule of the seventies and beyond after Nigeria gained independence from the British government, and the slavery mentality of Africans without holding back the names of those in fault even though he knew his life was in danger. Among those he mentioned in his songs are President Mhammadu Buhari, General Olusegun Obasanjo, and Moshood Abiola. This led to several violent attacks on him by the military government. He lost his mum Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti on one of such attacks in 1977, where some military men attacked his Kalakuta Republic resident he declared free and independent of the military opression. Fela and his fans after giving her the proper burial rites, delivered her coffin to Dodan Barracks Lagos, the then resident of General Olusegun Obasanjo, then Nigerias Military ruler.
He then released two songs ‘Coffin for Head of State’, and ‘Unknown Soldier’, adressing the claims of the government that they had nothing to do with the attack on his resident that led to his mothers death.
Fela formed a political party he called ‘Movement of the People’ MOP through which he intended to MOP Nigeria off corruption and military oppression. He put himself up for election as president in the 1979 election, first election conducted in Nigeria but his candidature was declined.
For a man his calibre that spoke for the people, one wouldnt have expected this to happen.
Until his death in 1997, he never relented in letting out his dissappointment with the Nigerian government and how they are failing the citizens even though it led to his being jailed several times. Music to Fela was a tool for change through unbiased expression of ones views on issues. His music is an history class. It transcends time. Same issues he talked about during his time are what we are still struggling with in Nigera and Africa as a continent. Issues of selfish leaders, and high religious turnups with low impact on character.
In 1998, his family started a yearly event they call ‘Felabration’. A one week event that begins on his birthday ( October 15th ) held at the African shrine, a home for his music, to honour his music and legacy.
Since Burnaboys controversial stage performance at the October 21st 2013 edition of the Felabration event on which he removed his clothes and performed his song ‘Run My Race’ on his un-der-p-ants, entertaining the audience with some popular Fela Dance moves,
he has become a regular feature on the event. His Fans started seeing Burnaboy as the contemporary Fela.
Burnaboy who was already sampling some sounds from Felas songs, took it further by infusing more sounds from Fela songs in his songs. He also does a lot of the popular dance moves that Fela is known for in his videos and live performances. His third studio album ‘African Giant’ saw him treating issues ranging from African Slave Mentality, Mediocrity, failures of African leaders to meet up the expectations of the African people with songs like ‘Another Story’, ‘African Giant’, and ‘Collateral Damage’.
To crown up 2019, Burnaboy released a song titled ‘My Money My Baby’ on which he sampled the beat of Felas 1972 song ‘Shakara’ and sounded exactly like him. The uniqueness of the song got it to be featured as one of the soundtracks of the 2019 remake of the Bonnie and Clyde Movie titled ‘Queen and Slim.’
His 2020 album ‘Twice As Tall’ houses a song ‘Monster you Made’ where he talked about the state of the African youths, how they suffer and smile like Fela once said in his song ‘Suffering and Smiling’, because they are afraid of their leaders, and how our educational systems are failing because they are still using a curriculum handed to them by the Colonial masters.
The video saw him leading some youths in a revolution that saw the youths taking power back from their corrupt leaders.
For someone of Burnaboys background that has a mother ( Bose Ogulu ) that was Felas God daughter, and a grand father ( Benson Idonije ) who once managed Fela, it is quite understandable why he chooses to be poetic in his songs rather than throw direct shots like Fela. They must have adviced him to keep it that way, as the Fela that spoke for the good of the people wasn’t given a chance when he indicated his interest to become president of the Nation and change things for good. He said it himself on the song ‘Ye’, “I nor fit die for nothing.” As much as a lot of Burnaboys fans compare him to Fela, we shouldnt expect him to be Fela.
“With my music, I create change…I am using my music as a weapon”.
This was Felas opinion about his music. Can we say same of Burnaboys music? Let us know your opinion by commenting below.