Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/500/3100

From The Socialist newspaper, 6 September 2007

The socialist review

Fela Kuti- for the masses

Ten years after the death of Fela Kuti, the resonating messages of a revolutionary musician are still all too relevant.

Lanre Arogundade & Segun Sango

"If something good I go sing about
Nothing good self to sing about
If I sing say water no dey
Na old news be that
If I sing say light no dey
Na old news be that
If I sing say stealing by government
Na old news be dat"

From Confusion-Break-Bone

Characteristic of Fela's Afrobeat which he perfected from African highlife, rhythm, percussion and jazz these lyrics connect with contemporary events in Nigeria. Ten years after his death working-class people still love his music, laced with political messages.

Despite a middle-class background he opted for political activism and called his un-registered political party Movement of the People (MOP), showing he understood the necessity of mass action.

Today the vast majority of the working masses, and some middle-class people, see privatisation as fundamentally incompatible with general wellbeing. Significantly, Fela had, about twenty years ago in his unreleased album, 'Government of Crooks', denounced privatisation as stealing by another name.

So if NITEL (Nigerian Telecoms) Nigerian Airways, refineries, the Daily Times etc are being sold for peanuts to prominent politicians in power and their cronies, it confirms the "stealing by another name".

Fela sang about a typical worker who wanted to buy an electric fan, and continuously saved for that purpose:

"He saved and saved everywhere
Under pillow
Under cooking pot
Inside socks
Inside cupboard"

He never made it because the price kept rising due to the unruly 'forces of the market'. In exasperation, Fela concluded:

"Na now him come understand his life
Enjoyment can never come him way
His life just dey go reverse"

Fela warned against stealing presidents. In Nigeria today, such are the corruption levels, there are also stealing governors and indeed stealing Inspectors General of Police (IG). In 'Overtake Don Overtake Overtake' he sang:

"Police station don turn to bank
IG na Managing Director"

The on-going trials and convictions of prominent members of past administrations have only confirmed Fela's proposition that it is the system that is rotten, not just individuals.

Unlike liberal critics who blame corruption and social decay on individual leaders, Fela went to the heart of the system. Capitalist intellectuals are only now arriving at some of the conclusions drawn by Fela a long time ago.

In the Nigerian Guardian of 29 July 2007, Jean Herskovits said that "Electricity is scarce and clean water is rare. Despite vast sums supposedly spent on Federal roads, those roads have continued to deteriorate. 70% of Nigerians must get by on $1 a day.

"In the course of Obasanjo's eight-year tenure, Nigeria earned $233 billion, two and half times the amount earned over the previous eight years. But thanks to kleptocracy and rampant graft, much of the money has not gone where it should have..."

Fela had a larger than life image and meant different things to different people. He was abused by many governments for supposedly being a deviant. For many however, one of Fela's major sources of attraction was and is the rhythmic, melodious and danceable form of his renditions. Inks will run dry on reliving his different dimensions - women, marijuana, orthodox religions etc. But no serious critic could deny his constant and consistent quest for a better life for the masses, hence his sobriquet 'Eleniyan' (for the masses).

For us, the greatest monument to his memory is for the present generation of youth and working-class activists to draw the necessary political and organisational conclusions from Fela's inexhaustible armoury of revolutionarily inspired lyrics.

Lanre Arogundade is Coordinator, International Press Centre and Segun Sango, General Secretary of the Democratic Socialist Movement in Nigeria

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 6 September 2007:

Strike against public sector pay cap

Prison officers defy government's pay cap

Prison Officers' strike reports


Socialist Party workplace news

Strikers solid in London tubes stoppage

Swansea: Visteon strike threat brings concessions


Socialist Party NHS campaign

Defend Newcastle General Hospital

Sheffield Northern General Hospital bulk stores strike


Trades Union Congress

TUC conference resolutions need to lead to action

TUC conference fringe meeting


Socialist Party events

Socialism 2007 - a weekend of discussion and debate, hosted by the Socialist Party


Socialist Party news and analysis

Horror and heartbreak in Croxteth - What is the cause? What is the answer?

Massive deprivation in Norris Green, Liverpool


Socialist Party policy

The growing wealth gap


Education

Cardiff: More schools fight closures programme


Socialist Party Marxist analysis

'Agitate, educate, organise': the role of the workers' press


International socialist news and analysis

Greece is burning


Workplace news and analysis

Belfast Airport workers score a victory

Unison witch-hunt

Plymouth dockyard


Socialist Party reviews

Fela Kuti, revolutionary musician

'Holding Fire' by Jack Shepherd

Save the 'Westie' in Aldershot


 

Home   |   The Socialist 6 September 2007   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments

19/2/20

Film

Brilliant Korean film exposes class inequality

12/2/20

BBC

New BBC series - Insight or whitewash?

5/2/20

Liverpool

Liverpool council: "No more cuts" - Is Joe Anderson serious?

5/2/20

Socialist

Socialist Inbox

29/1/20

Socialist

The Socialist Inbox

29/1/20

Review

TV review: The Trial of Christine Keeler

22/1/20

Revolution

Robert Burns: of the people, for the people

22/1/20

Letters

The Socialist inbox

15/1/20

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

15/1/20

George Monbiot

TV Review: Apocalypse Cow

15/1/20

Food

Sustainable food production and the need for socialism

8/1/20

Letters

The Socialist Inbox

4/12/19

Socialist Party

The Great Big Socialist Party Quiz 2019

27/11/19

Plymouth

Plymouth Blairites side with anti-tenant landlords

27/11/19

Minimum wage

Minimum wage debate

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999