By Wlliam Ikhianosimhe Orbih.
Baba Fela just won—or is on the route to winning some insignificant music bs. Pardon my not wanting to have anything to do with the details. I would just say it is an induction to some Rock and Roll hall of fame, in case you don’t already know. You can google for details, that is, if you care.
I don’t. Even though I don’t honestly give a damn about what the stuff is all about, I voted. I voted for Fela—twice. By the way, I stumbled on the bs because many Nigerian celebrities tweeted about it as they canvassed for votes for Baba Fela. I voted for Baba Fela because I want him to win at all costs. Whatever it is, I want Fela to win.
I voted for him because he is African. I always want Africa to win. I wanted #Ngoziokonjoiweala Okonji Iweala to become DG, WTO. No one can question her competence. But for me, I don’t even care. I just wanted her to win the seat because she is African.
I was excited that she has. Like my esteemed senior brother and colleague, Emmanuel O Onuma , it will be difficult to forgive those Nigerians who petitioned against her in 2015. I know many of them will run in 2023. We are waiting for them. This is not a threat.
What am I?
I am Africa’s hype-man. Check the bio in all my social media handles, this is the way I describe myself, and I am proud of it. For me, it is always Africa first, and if you like, it is Make Africa Great Again. Of course, if it has to do with music, then the Fela is most deserving.
He is one of the most influential of the past century and one of the most sampled musicians ever! So, if the criterion is music for music’s sake, Fela is top-notch. And even if it is about music for social transformation, Fela still has a bargaining chip.
His music was a mosaic of many voices. He was everything a musician can be and more. He bashed and yab. He gyrated and entertained. He was instrumentally excellent and lyrically profound. Yet, as far as my biased African self is concerned, I voted for him regardless of whether he deserves it or not. He should win it. I don’t give a damn what you all think.
Yes, Fela sang about shit, prick, and nyash. He even chauvinistically called out women who refused the convenient place society carved for them below stupid, timid men. I am no radical feminist, but I cringe whenever I listen to his track Lady.
But he also devoted adequate music time to fearlessly call out corrupt Africa leaders, especially a certain one he called ITT, and another one with a big stomach and another one with his neck as long as Ostrich. Remove the TT and replace it with BlackBerry. Think of Nigeria’s president with the biggest stomach ever and his vice, then you might have a vague clue as to the Nigerian leaders that Fela was bashing in that song.
He did not even spare religion and religious leaders. Of course, for the most part, he saw religion exactly the way Marx and Nietzsche saw it—an opium that can often keep people senselessly grounded. The Latin of the Catholic Church was a joke to Fela, especially when Nigerians mouth it; so also, the Arabic of Islam. The fact that Christians and Muslims in Nigeria go on pilgrimage and pay allegiance to some external authority in a faraway foreign land greatly nauseated Fela.
I spent the month of January listening to Fela whenever I am driving—it was a blessing of unimaginable proportion. This insignificant music bs that surfaced on Twitter trends has just afforded me the to opportunity to briefly reflect on the Fela legacy.
It is a shame that we cannot “canonize” Fela. Larger than life itself, he lacks the humility that will enable him to join any sanctimonious list without upturning and exploding it. We certainly can’t fit him in among the Catholic saints. He is not solemn enough. He married 27 women all at once. Neither can we fit him among Muslim saints. He is not sophisticated enough. Besides, he bashed both religions repeatedly in his songs.
But perhaps, we can fit him in with the biblical prophets.
Yes, we can, and we must declare him a prophet. Like Balaam, the non-Hebrew prophet in the Old Testament, Fela was a man with far-seeing eyes. He saw us suffering and smiling. He saw 49 sitting and 99 standing in our molues. He saw animals in human skin; sad, he could not see humans in animal—cow’s skins, the imperialism of cows as his Fela’s first cousin, Wole Soyinka, recently describes it.
However, what is most special about Fela, in my opinion, is the fact that he was one of Africa’s greatest hype man ever! (Sorry, it took so long to get here). He challenged European hegemony and encouraged Africa’s renaissance. He called for Africa true political independence from European neocolonialism.
He celebrated Africa’s culture and mourned Africa’s lost heritage. While I do not subscribe to a blind glorification and uncritical romanticization of Africa’s past, and while I do not agree with everything in the gospel according to Fela Anikulapo Kuti, I agree that Africa needs to be hyped more by Africans.
I would argue that this is the fastest path to Africa’s emergence. This is what makes America thick. This is why Americans would rather watch their boring NFL, even as the rest of the world is drunk on soccer. Just in case you don’t already know, in America it is hype first before substance. In any case substance abounds! America is truly great
Hyping Africa means a commitment to the project called Africa. It means celebrating Africa with every given opportunity. It means always putting Africa first—she is our spiritual mother. It means patriotism. It means not saying bad things about Mother Africa, except propelled by the zeal to right them.
Above all, it means a sincere love for Africa in spite of her many scars and blemishes. As Foluke Ifejola Adebisi puts it in her blog, “If there were no Africa, I would dream of her!” Let’s be passionate about Africa.
We must bring back the heydays of negritude, the days when Africa’s beauty was the subject of innumerable love poems and songs. There is perhaps no single poem that captures this golden age like David Diop’s “Africa my Africa.”
This poem is a literary masterpiece, a poem that has got everything. I first heard in Secondary School. It was then that I memorized it. May the Lord bless the teacher who assigned it and may the soul of David Diop rest in peace. He was 33 years old when he died in a plane crash.
But his poems, this one in particular, like well rooted tree, lives on. It is both a vision of Africa blossoming glory as well as a war song calling Africans to arms. It is a song of praise. It is also a dirge. It is everything.
Africa’s beautiful women. The strong warriors of the savannah. Glorious plains, diverse flora and fauna. Mystical past. Inglorious dents. Hopeful future. All singled out for honorable mention in a one stanza poem of 23 magical lines.
If there ever would be an official hype anthem for Africa, I am nominating this poem. And I am nominating Fela posthumously as one of Africa’s brand ambassadors. Fela should be taught in schools and pointed out as an example of what Africa men and women must become. However, when teaching him, care must be taken not to “gentlemanize” him in any way. I don’t want him turning in his grave. Him no be gentleman at all…😀
*I am writing about Baba Fela; so excuse my rawness and brutalness…even though me na gentleman 🤣
Disclaimer: “The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of William Ikhianosimhe Orbih and do not necessarily reflect those of The World Satellite. The World Satellite will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.”