The famous Felabration festival is a music and arts event celebrated yearly to remember the life and times of the late Fela Anikulapo. The late singer who was also called “Abami Eda” was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, composer, political activist, and Pan-Africanist. He is also regarded as one of the pioneers of Afro-beat; a term used to describe a genre of music majorly from West Africa.
The Felabration festival is always a time to reflect on the lifestyle and achievements of the late singer. The idea of the festival was conceived by Yeni Anikulapo Kuti who happens to be his first child and daughter. This was in 1998 and it held every year except for 1999. The event is held for a week which always includes Fela’s birthday.
Felabration always involves several activities which include; music, an exhibition of arts and photos, dance contests, and debates amongst others. Since its inception, Felabration has always been full of color, life, fun, and grandeur. The funny fact about the festival from the findings is that it is free; there is no ticket fee for the event.
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According to the CEO of Oldnaija.com, Teslim Opemipo Omipidan, “Felabration is not just a music festival; the same goes for Fela Kuti who pioneered Afrobeats, he was more than a musician..” From the look of things, the Felabration festival is not complete if only the musical part of Fela is remembered. Fela was known to have stood for a better future for Nigeria, he was known to have fought for a Nigeria without political knavery.
The festival is held at the New Afrika Shrine located at Ikeja which replaced the Old Afrika Shrine that was invaded by the military because Fela stood against the activities of the military government. Fela loved to call his performance grounds a shrine, hence the name New Afrika Shrine.
Each year Felabration is celebrated, the theme is coined from Fela’s words of wisdom and perception about life, ranging from his lyrics to his speeches. For example, the theme for the 2016 edition was “Everybody Say Yeah Yeah” coined from one of the sayings the legendary used to entertain guests during his performances.
There is no way Felabration will be discussed without mentioning “Freedom” because this was always on the lips of Fela. Now the question is, is Felabration channeled towards societal freedom?
Music was Fela’s way of preaching freedom while he was alive. This same tool has been very effective in keeping up with his freedom advocacy legacy after his death through musical performances by various artists during Felabration. As much as people merry during this event, artists are also allowed to air their opinions about the country. For instance, in 2020, Femi Anikulapo Kuti called out the names of some notable Nigerian politicians to answer where the nation’s treasures are.
Felabration focuses on maintaining the legend’s legacy, supporting the masses, and enlightening people about their rights and how to build a better society.
The hope is to see more artists who speak wisdom and intelligence to the mind of the people as they celebrate.
Can we then say Felabration has achieved its set out goals? To a great extent, it has. However, there are still milestones to be covered.