News

Kalakuta Museum Honors Fela Kuti

Architect Theo Lawson converted Fela house into a legitimate Fela museum.


We recently celebrated what would have been Fela's 74th birthday with an original Thom Lessner designed tee — and I’m about to spend my rent money on the Ginger Baker compiled vinyl box set that came out last week — but architect Theo Lawson just one-upped all of us by converting Fela’s old house into a legitimate museum of the afrobeat legend. The government-subsidized project isn’t just about revering Kuti’s life however, it’s also about enjoyment. The building will double as a small hotel with a bar and stage since, as Lawson tells it, "we didn't want a museum that closes at night and the life source leaves the building.” The interior is full of African art installations and Kuti memorabilia — such as a wall displaying some of his extensive shoe collection. Kuti’s bedroom, in particular, has been largely maintained in the state he left it at the time of his death in 1997.

The museum opened this past Monday with Kuti’s sons Femi and Seun in attendance. "This [museum] is a chance for everyone to see for themselves, not follow the myths that being in Fela's house meant you're a hooligan, or a prostitute or all we do is smoke weed," Seun told Reuters in an interview before the opening. "I grew up here. This house was a house of education."

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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