Dec 9, 2010

Fela And The Pan Africanism Dream

Fela And The Pan Africanism Dream

LATE music icon and Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti literally resurrected last week in Lagos as scholars, culture administrators, activists, music enthusiasts among others, ex-rayed his contributions to Pan-Africanism and the enthronement of democracy and good governance in Nigeria and in Africa.

Fela has been described as a committed proponent of the Pan Africanism who used his music to promote African integration and fight against neocolonialism and injustice. The event was a lecture organised by the Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos (UNILAG) in collaboration with Centre for Black and African Art and Civilisation (CBAAC) and Cassava Republic, and held at the Faculty of Arts Boardroom, UNILAG on Wednesday October 13.

The lecture which was on the theme Fela Kuti and the Re-Shaping of the Pan-African Dream was delivered by Carlos Moore. The lecture brought together scholars, culture administrators, the media and others. Dean of the Faculty of Arts, UNILAG, Professor Duro Oni, Director General of CBAAC, Professor Tunde Babawale, the guest lecturer, Moore and his wife, Dr. Bibi Bakare of Cassava Republic, several scholars, were at the event.

Moore, a renowned scholar, activist, an honorary Research Fellow in the School for Graduate Studies and Research of the University of West Indies, (UWI), Kingston, Jamaica, and author Fela’s biography titled, Fela: This Bitch of a Life, in his lecture described Fela as an anthropologist, a linguist, a voracious reader and an extremely cultured person. According to the lecturer, Fela was interested in African.

“Fela re-elaborated, revisited the Pan-Africanism dream. His dream was for a United States of Africa. His love for the common man was so profound. Fela was an extremely cultured person. Behind the chaotic image, he was an extremely disciplined man. For him, independence does not mean decolonisation; independence was an indirect rule by another name. What we have in Africa is not a nation State, but a nation prison,” he said.

Moore who will also be visiting Ghana and South Africa on a promotional tour of the book and to give the yearly Felabration lecture, also disclosed that because of Fela’s criticism of the government due to their bad policies, he was hated by them. He narrated this and Fela’s experiences in the 70s during FESTAC.

“Fela’s assassination was being asked for. I don’t want to mention names. He was in an environment of terrorism. It was terrific. Because he was denouncing FESTAC and quoting figures being spent, detectives were everywhere trailing him. He was a voracious reader and committed to standard. He worked on his music eight to 10 hours a day. What Fela said in the lyrics of his songs, and his yabis, define his vision for Africa.”

According to him, Fela was committed to the reconstruction of the dreams of the Pan-Africanists – Edward Wilmot Blyden, W. E. B. Du Bois who hosted the highly influential fifth Pan-African Conference in Manchester, UK, Marcus Garvey, and others.

The erudite scholar and renowned activist whose biography Fela: This Bitch of a Life, kicked against Nigeria’s reliance on oil for her economy. “Exporting your natural resources is suicide. Oil will be over in the next 40 or 50 years. For 50 years we have not been able to define our existence,” he posited.

Earlier, Babawale in his remark described Fela as very unique individual. “We know that in every record that he released there is always information, and activism for the unification of the continent. Fela was against imperialism. He was against few people amassing wealth; he was pro-people and anti imperialist,” he said.

The need for the use of indigenous languages in schools was also brought to the fore. Moore called for the protection and promotion of African indigenous languages, adding that Fela promoted pidgin and his language Yoruba. He noted that other countries have adapted their languages into their school curriculum.

In the book, Fela: This Bitch of a Life, Moore chronicles the life of the Afrobeat legend, Fela, his triumphs and travails, and his dreams and vision for a united Africa. It has been described as a “moving journey into the soul of a brave Pan-Africanist who confronted multiple forces of oppression with the forces of impeccable music”.

Source: Nigerian Music Movement

How Fela Music Redefined Pan Africanism

Renowned writer and civil rights activist, Carlos Moore, has given a fresh insight into the concept of Pan-Africanism. The respected Cuban scholar at a recent public lecture on reshaping pan Africanism organized by CBAAC at the University of Lagos explained how music raised advocacy for Pan-Africanism.

In a lecture entitled: What is Africa to Me, Moore broadened the concept of Pan-Africanism, using the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulpo-Kuti as the springboard of Pan-Africanism through his radical critique of Africa’s socio-political challenges.

Starting on a note of sourcing for the true meaning of Africa, Moore revealed his encounter with Fela when he had asked him the same question and he (Fela) had replied that his music answers the question. Moore therefore, quoted Fela’s reply: ‘‘Man, that’s what my music is all about. About Africa. About my love for Africa.

About how Africa was messed up by the Arabs and the Europeans before, and about how our rulers today continue to mess up Africa.’’ Noting specifically that Fela had given two perspectives to the understanding of Pan-Africanism, vis –a-vis Africa’s socio-political challenges, Moore said : ‘So, the essence of what Africa was to Fela, and what he felt that Africa should become, is indeed contained in that séminal book, This Bitch of a Life, together with all of his musical compositions.’

Addressing the topic from the standpoints of colonial legacy and political elite, Moore gave a complete view of Fela’s intimate thoughts and feelings. He drew copious references from Fela’s music to expatiate on these standpoints. And his biography on Fela, entitled This bitch of a life readily became a reference point in this regard.

Blaming Africa’s backwardness on over reliance on Western ways, Moore cited the examples of Fela’s songs such as Teacher, Don’t teach me nonsense, I no be gentleman, among others, to drive home his point. His words, ‘‘Independence did not mean decolonization to Fela. To the contrary, it meant to him a modern version of ‘Indirect Rule’. In Colonial Mentality , Gentleman, Lady and Teacher, Don’t Teach Me Nonsense, Fela chronicles how the so-called post-colonial Africa is a prostrate continent that apes the very world that conquered it.

It is a Christian and Muslim dominated Africa ruled by the préjudices of the Middle Eastern Arabs, through their religion, Islam, and the préjudices of the Western Europeans, through their Judeo-Christian religions and mores. Africa had lost her own way and therefore her authenticity. The ruling élite, therefore, are not capable of directing the peoples over whom they ruled in the direction of a true African self-emancipation.

As a result, African men were obssessed with becoming Europeans and Arabs, and African women were obssessed with redefining themselves in Eurocentric terms, even to the point of doing violence to the colour of their skins, their facial features, the texture of their haïr and their very idea of womanhood.

However, Moore restated Fela’s critique of the evils committed by the ruling elite of Africa, describing them as being constantly responsible for Africa’s woes. His words, ‘‘Africa was being ruled not by the peoples, but by comprador classes whose interests were contrary to the interests of the people and the nation as a whole. He made no distinction between Marxist and non-Marxist leaderships ; both were a reflection of and subservient to interests that were external.

Their rôle was to deliver the natural riches contained in the underground of African countries to the dominant industrial and military centers of the world. That was how thèse élites earned their living and sustained their lavish lifestyles : through the kick backs derived from such a wholesale delivery of the continent ‘s natural resources.’’

And while proffering an elixir to the problems of Africans, Moore made a strong case for a continental space of Africa that would be called United States of Africa with a special consideration for the dynamics of her diverse cultural heritage of which indigenous languages are paramount.

Source: Nigerian Music Movement

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