Summer 1985

Radical Musician Framed
By Paul DeRienzo

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, one of Africa’s most popular musicians, was sentenced to five years by a Nigerian court last December on trumped up currency smuggling charges. Fela was carrying $2,000 when he was picked up in the Lagos, Nigeria airport, as he and his band were embarking on their first U.S. tour in fifteen years.

While the military government of Nigeria, a continuation of British and U.S. colonialism, has plenty of hatred for Fela’s Pan Africanist view, it is believed that the U.S. CIA took part in Fela’s frameup. It wouldn’t be the first time that the CIA has tried to remove Fela and his radical anticorporation music from the world scene. Once, during Fela’s 1981 tour of Italy, his entire entourage was nearly busted at the border when five of their suitcases were found to be stuffed with pot. An American woman travelling with the group admitted planting the weed and she was later revealed to be an employee of ITT.

Fela’s fame has spread with the afrobeat rhythm he developed and promotes through his music. Settling his scene in the poorest section of Lagos he formed a nightclub and studio called the shrine. Here they formed a cooperative radical "government" as well as doing shows. The shows would attract hundreds night after night. Soon the Nigerian authorities were on his case using the fact that reefer was smoked regularly and in large quantities there as an excuse to launch attacks. However, these attempts failed to silence Fela’s message.

In songs like ITT-international Thief Thief and Sorrow, Tears and Blood Fela attacks the corporate imperialists who stand behind the facade of Nigerian "democracy" and now a fascist military dictatorship. He tells the story of how 1,000 police attacked his compound hospitalizing everyone and killing Fela’s 76-year old mother, by dropping her out of a window. Fela himself has been arrested over 400 times, although never convicted-until now.

Fela’s mother was a powerful organizer of the market women in the 1 940s and 50s, founding the Nigerian Women’s Union and leading massive protests against British colonial rule. At one protest, his mother led 50,000 women to camp at the home of the local British ruler, until he fled in panic. Unfortunately, one major blemish in Fela’s political ideology is his pre-feudal view of women as African "queens" in tow. A tradition which many people in Africa were happy to see die away.

However, while criticizing Fela for his fundamental sexism we should overall support him against the corporate giants and petty dictators who want to silence Fela’s attacks on their bloody system.

In light of these attacks on Fela and the mounting pressure on the racist government of South Africa and the growing struggle throughout the whole of Africa we of Rock Against Racism call on the Nigerian government to release Fela immediately. RAR also welcomes Fela to the U.S. when he achieves his freedom and offer our support in any tour of the U.S. he may plan.

In the spirit of RAR we demand: FREE FELA NOW!

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