There is a reason why the world celebrates Fela Kuti. He wasn’t just the King of Afrobeats. His influence transcended beyond music into politics and societal issues.
Today, many artists both home abroad honour the late legend in their music and never fail to acknowledge him as the man who inspired them.
In Nigeria alone, there have been many Nigerians who have paid homage to him on several occasions in their careers. These contemporary artists have channeled Fela so well that one would think they knew the legend personally when he was alive.
Here are 5 contemporary Nigerian artists who have been influenced by Fela:
If there’s one musician who has basked in Fela’s glory throughout his career, it is no other than Burna Boy. From his stage performances to his songs and even his fashion style, Burna Boy has never shied away from channeling ‘Abami Eda’ through his music. As a testament of his admiration for the legend, he once corrected an interviewer who hailed him as “King of Afrobeats” saying, “As far as I’m concerned, only Fela Kuti did Afrobeat”. In fact, Burna Boy is the artist who has the closest ties to Fela Kuti as his grandfather was once the legend’s manager.
While Wizkid was more of a hip hop artist in the early stage of his career, it didn’t take him long to embrace the Afrobeat sound for which he is now known for around the world. With the success of his two most popular Afrobeat songs”Jaiye Jaiye” which features Femi Kuti and “Ojuelegba”, he proved to the world that his music was indeed impacted by Fela. On several occasions in his career, the Star Boy boss has dressed like the legend, paying homage to Fela at every opportunity he finds. According to him, he planned his 2017 Royal Albert Hall Concert performance based off Fela’s influence.
From his contagious stage presence to his signature harmonica, D’banj embodies the total package of an entertainer who has the Fela aura. During his Mo’Hits days, D’banj wowed the world with anthems that made many wonder if he was a reincarnation of Fela. His fashion style was not left out as he would wear Fela styled attires for his performances. Although D’banj moved on from Mo’Hits a long time ago, he has still maintained many aspects of the legend’s influence in his musicality.
Falz is known for using his platform as a musician to draw attention to social ills in the society. In his 2019 album Moral Instruction, Falz sampled plenty of Fela’s songs. The album touched on various issues including police brutality, corruption, and religious intolerance. If there is one thing Falz has in common with Fela, it is his passion for social activism.
Arguably the Nigerian artist with the most distinctive sound, Asa has carved out a niche for herself establishing a strong fanbase within and outside Nigeria. From Fire on the Mountain to Jailer, many of her songs have the undertones of the messages Fela passed in his own music. As a result, it didn’t come as a surprise when the “Eyo” crooner revealed that Fela was one of her biggest influences.
When many people think of Eedris Abdulkareem, what comes to their mind is his 2004 hit Jaga Jaga. Throughout his career, Eedris has paid tribute to Fela on several occasions. In 2013, he featured Femi Kuti on his tribute song to Fela titled after the legend. The now defunct group The Remedies which Eedris was a member of sampled Fela’s music in their breakout song Judile. Like Fela, Eedris has used his platform to speak out against the ills in the society.