I saw Femi Kuti open for String Cheese in Council Bluffs a few summers ago. At the time I knew nothing about Nigerian sensation Fela Kuti, nor his son, Femi. Later I learned about Fela, or “The Black President” as he was known to his fans. I learned that he was in the middle of a political war that simultaneously fueled his music and quite literally, arrested it.
Tonight we’re watching Femi Kuti: Live at the Shrine on DVD and learning more about Femi.
I found this article on Femi, which is a few years old, but lucid nevertheless:
You have just released a new album and launched the political movement MASS, “Movement Against Second Slavery”. Are you trying to prove that you are Fela’s heir?
I launched the MASS in Lagos last October at a huge concert celebrating Fela’s sixtieth birthday. I had already released my album a short time before in Nigeria. It is true that I am determined to carry on my father’s struggle. The MASS pays homage to him, but it is not a remake of his party, the Movement of the People, which he set up at the end of the Seventies. The MASS is not a political party. It aims to support and relay the population’s demands to the authorities.
What is the “second slavery” you are fighting against?
Slavery is not over yet, it has taken new forms, that’s all. France celebrated the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery this year, but it’s a total hypocrisy! Over the last five centuries, Africa has never been given the chance to rule itself. During the independence era, Europe and the United States set up and supported the governments who respected their interests. The external attributes of slavery have gone: the capturing of slaves, their forced exile…. But Africans continue to work in offices for the West today. The American and European multinationals help themselves to our natural resources as and when it suits them. They pump our oil and enrich a handful of individuals who enslave their people. That’s what I mean by second slavery.
Do you think you can change things?
I’m going to try. N’Krumah tried, Marcus Garvey, Malcom X, my father all tried. I am going to try too. Will I succeed? Who knows, but in any case I will try to! And my son will do the same. And his son too… Lots of people will keep on trying until the day when… and that day will end up coming.