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One Day Go Be One Day: Exploring Fela Kuti’s spiritual roots

To accompany the Carhartt WIP capsule collection, which pays tribute to legendary Nigerian musician and political agitator Fela Anikulapo Kuti, we have once again collaborated with Dazed and NTS Radio.

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The short film, titled One Day Go Be One Day, sees artist and filmmaker Akinola Davies Jr. travel to the Nigerian capital of Lagos together with London rapper Obongjayar. The result is the experimental short, which takes cues from Fela Kuti’s spiritual roots. Read the full Dazed article here and check the film out below.

To escort the launch, we aksed NTS founder Femi Adeyemi to prepare us a Fela Kuti Carhartt WIP Radio show and also spoke to some of our friends and collaborators within the world of music, including the film’s leading figure, Obongjayar, Ruby Savage of Brownswood Recordings, British trumpet player Sheila Maurice-Grey, who is part of the young, London-based Afrobeat 8-Piece band Kokoroko, contemporary Jazz musician Henry Wu, a.k.a. Kamaal Williams, and one of Germany’s finest underground MCs, Retrogott.

We asked them to sum up what the work of Fela Kuti meant to them, and how his legacy has inspired their own work.

 

 

Do you have a favorite Fela Kuti track?

Obongjayar: Beast of No Nation is my favorite Fela tune. For one that was my first encounter with Fela‘s music and also my earliest memory of any music. As I grew older and rediscovered his work, that song has always found me. It's bravery, it's gravity."

 

Has Fela Kuti inspired your own work?

Ruby Savage: Fela showed me that being of African descent is powerful. He made me feel confident about my blackness and inspired me to speak truthfully always. Also, that there is no right or wrong, good or bad – screw the rules basically.

Sheila Maurice-Grey: 100%. Even before I started Kokoroko I was deeply into Fela and listened to his music. All my bandmates are into him too. I did my musical schooling with him, and I must say the whole contemporary UK jazz scene is influenced by his work.

 

Fela Kuti was famed for creating music imbued with the spirit of protest. What should we be protesting in 2019?

Henry Wu: Liberating our minds from consumerist society and being grateful for what we have and not what he haven't.

Retrogott: We should probably be protesting against the same things that Fela protested against: corruption, repression, symbolic and cultural violence, racism. Many artists don’t want to speak about everyday or historically political topics – maybe because it’s not of aesthetic value to them. Fela challenged that with his L’art pour L’art approach to music and culture and showed us that everything is political.

 

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To soundtrack this collaboration we asked NTS Radio founder Femi Adeyemi to prepare a Carhartt WIP Radio show featuring his favorite Fela Kuti tunes. As usual, we also sat down to chat with the London-born, LA-based creative about his relation to the Nigerian icon. For those seeking a deeper insight into the life and work of Fela Kuti, we thoroughly deeply recommend the documentary Music Is The Weapon which explores his lively Kalakuta Republic, his political struggle with British-colonizers and the local government, his musical outlook and his love of table tennis.

 

Hello Femi, hat was your first encounter with the music of Fela Kuti?

Femi Adeyemi: My first encounter with Fela’s music was through my uncle. My grandma used to live in Ikeja, Nigeria, near the Shrine and apparently my uncle would sneak out of the house and go to the Shrine to party. He was so popular there that Fela, his son Femi and the dancers all had a nickname for him – "Action Time". I have vivid memories of being taken there by my uncle any time we'd go back to Lagos to visit my grandma. The last time I went to the Shrine was in maybe 2000, my uncle took me again... they still call him “Action Time”.

Has his work inspired your own creative output? If so, how?

Femi Adeyemi: It's hard to say his work inspires my creative output but his rebellious approach to life and music definitely resonates with me when it comes to my work. I can definitely relate to him going against the grain as a young west African man especially in the 60/70s when things were probably a little more conservative.

Fela Kuti was famed for creating music imbued with the spirit of protest. What should we be protesting in 2019?

Femi Adeyemi: Man, where do I even start… I think most pressing for me personally is the damage that’s happening to the planet. Everything else doesn't count for much if the planet ceases to exist.

Is there a track or album which stands out as your favourite? Why?

Femi Adeyemi: Zombie – because my uncle played that all the time.

 

Fela sang a lot against the colonialism, exploitation of Africa and the disappearance of local African culture for a one-dimensional global one. How would you sum up the political influence of his work?

Femi Adeyemi: I think we're definitely seeing some of the dangers he spoke about in his music coming to the forefront. However, the message in his music still resonates not only in Nigeria but runs through Africa and the world which makes me believe that the better times are yet to come.

 

 

 

What tunes did you choose for the Carhartt WIP Fela Kuti mix and why did you choose them? What makes them special to you?

Femi Adeyemi: Most of the tunes I selected where the songs I grew up listening to. I actually really enjoyed doing this mix because of its feelings of nostalgia and I also got to revisit all this music and appreciate it all over again.

 

Do you think the world needs more musicians with a political vision to change some of the problems the human race is facing? Or do we have enough Bonos?

Femi Adeyemi: I think generally my generation are all a little apathetic. However, there does seem to be a new wave of younger music and musicians that are starting to speak up and that’s a good thing – kind of perfect timing especially in our current climate. I'm down for more Bono’s as long as they aren't making Bono type music.

If you could be part of Fela’s band, what instrument would you like to play and why?

Femi Adeyemi: I've tried playing instruments before – it wasn't pleasant. I think I would have preferred to be one of the dancers… dancing I can definitely do.

 

Fela Kuti discography

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