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This Is What Lagos' Felabration Looked Like

Since 1998, Felabration has congregated Fela Kuti fans at the New Afrika Shrine in Ikeja. Here's what went down this year.

Since 1998, Felabration has congregated afrobeat enthusiasts, social justice advocates, and most importantly Fela fans, at the New Afrika Shrine in Ikeja, to celebrate the life of the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti.


In its 18th year, the weeklong event, which ran from October 10th to October 16th, seems more timely than ever given Nigeria's current political and economic climate. Concert attendees mused at the premonition of Fela's lyrics and the eerie way in which they are currently playing out in Nigerian politics.

"To me, Fela is a prophet," said Felabration attendee, Adeyemi Awotilu. “All that he said in the past is happening now."

Femi Kuti, who took the stage at the Felabration finale was a crowd favorite. Although the eldest Kuti offspring is a regular at the New Afrika Shrine, the crowd marveled at his performance, which depicted the politically charged essence of his father, but stayed true to his unique musical style.

Flanked by dancers clad in flamingo pink costumes and his band, Kuti played multiple instruments, sang, danced and still found time to join other acts like Nneka and his brother, Seun Kuti on stage.

Regardless of how well his performance was received, Kuti emphasizes that Felabration is not about him or Seun.

“Anyone can see us during the week at the Shrine," said Kuti. “Felabration is more about us welcoming the artists that come to pay their own respects to Fela."

Artists like Nneka, Waje, Jesse Jagz, and Patoranking, who individually graced the stage to honor the legend and invoke his spirit. On the Felabration stage, artists seemed to channel whatever Fela-like energy they could by gyrating to the piercing sounds of the saxophone or engaging in Fela's infamous call and response with the crowd.

For Adetola Gbogboade, Felabration is a place to learn about Fela. Surrounded by posters, t-shirts, CDs and other promotional material immortalizing Fela, millennials are still unravelling his music and his message nineteen years after his passing.

“From Fela's music and being at Felabration, I've learned to believe in myself, in what I think, in what I believe is true and positive about the world," said Gbogboade. "I've also learned that just because the world is following this path, doesn't mean that I should follow the same path. Believe in yourself, believe in what you feel is right."

A fan basks in the moment. Photography by OkayAfrica.

When asked if he was a Fela fan, Felabration attendee, Hamid Ayodeji noted that Fela's music raised him.“The fact that he saw the future before everyone else and he fought for something is inspiring."

Young artists like Akorede Sax use Felabration as an opportunity to pay tribute to the legend. Sax whose performance was modeled after Fela, echoed both Gbogboade and Ayodeji's comments, “His music inspires people to do great things and that's what Afrobeats is all about, inspiring people to do great things."

During his performance, which closed the event on Saturday night, Seun Kuti explained to the crowd that the history of afrobeat is rooted in struggle, resistance, and hope.

“They think say Afrobeat na only for dance, Afrobeat na for struggle," mused Kuti before launching into a song from his recently released EP. “Afrobeat gives people the hope and the resistance they need to defeat the elitist ideology in our society."

Seun Kuti and the Egypt 80 perform songs of the new EP, Struggle Sounds. Photography by OkayAfrica.

For other attendees, Felabration serves as a place of fellowship. Many noted that in spite of the economic hardships facing Nigeria, Felabration is a place where “everyone can come the way they are," said Helen Ajomole.

According to Felabration attendee, Austin Imonlaime, “Fela's kind of music, isn't music, it's a message"

“Even when the prophet dies," continues Imonlaime, “the message remains, and I think it's the message that brings everyone together. It's the message that unifies people."

All photographs by OkayAfrica.

A fan relaxes. Photography by OkayAfrica.

Suya at the Shrine. Photography by OkayAfrica.

A young fan. Photography by OkayAfrica.

A young fan. Photography by OkayAfrica.

Waje speaks of Fela under a watchful eye. Photography by OkayAfrica.

A fan overlooks the stage. Photography by OkayAfrica.

Nneka at the Shrine. Photography by OkayAfrica.

Jesse Jagz at the Shrine. Photography by OkayAfrica.

New acts also took the stage. Photography by OkayAfrica.

Seun Kuti. Photography by OkayAfrica.

Femi Kuti and his dancers. Photography by OkayAfrica.

Inside Fela's home, several pictures of Fela and his heroes hang on the walls. Photography by OkayAfrica.

Dancer at the Shrine. Photography by OkayAfrica.

Patoranking. Photography by OkayAfrica.

A fan basks in the moment. Photography by OkayAfrica.

A fan overlooks the stage. Photography by OkayAfrica.

Interview
Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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