International Event Felabration Festival

By Tsadenna G. Assefa, November 01, 2019

It is the time of the year when the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti, a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre and human rights activist, is celebrated in the annual music festival of Felabration. Held annually in the week of Fela’s birthday, the festival is a cultural phenomenon that incorporates, art, politics, and education in its array of programs. This year’s edition took place between October 14 and 20 but had some events happen earlier on the 9th and 12th of October.

The festival which was conceived in 1998 by Fela Kuti’s daughter, Yeni Kuti, continued this year with ‘From Lagos, with love’ as the theme of this year. The event saw a multitude of talents from across the world coming together at the New Africa Shrine in Ikeja, Nigeria.

It kicked off on the 9 October with a students’ debate themed “No person above 70 should be allowed to contest political office”. The debate involved ten schools through a strict selection process of participants invited by the organizing committee.

Felabration also hosted the much anticipated Afrobics dance competition on 09 October for its third edition, where contestants showcased afrobeat dance moves with any song of their choice from the afrobeat icon’s extensive body of work. The year saw eighteen impressive talents, a growth from last year’s sixteen, and saw ‘Art Castle Academy’ as the victors, with their dance interpretation of Fela’s critically acclaimed ‘Zombie’ album which criticized the Nigerian military and cost him his mother’s life.

The festival also incorporated a symposium that brought up timely societal issues. The symposium included a star-studded panel, themed ‘teacher don’t teach me nonsense’, featuring Ugandan artist and activist Bobby Wine, world-renowned Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie, Professor Akin Oyebode, British journalist and artist Akala and was moderated by Nigerian author Sefi Atta. The symposium highlighted the need for a deeper understanding of African values by looking and researching further than mainstream education. Bobby wine’s speech which drew deafening applause at conclusion emphasized Fela Kuti’s activism through art and warned fellow artists not to forget the power their voice has in educating the audience and using the power to stand up for the voiceless. The other panelists echoed his ideas and Chimamanda recommended an overhaul of the existing education system.

Through all this, the music festival was going on with an unmatched caliber. It headlined the African giant, Burna Boy, playing on 15 October, on Fela’s birthday. Burna boy’s performance, which was also the highlight of the music festival, was supported by Nigerian sensations like CDQ, Efe, and a Pan African Orchestra from Ghana as well as Fela Kuti’s sons Femi and Seun.

The other event that graced the festival was the artwork competition. The event which sought to honor the legacy of Fela Kuti through art succeeded in doing so by incorporating the activism, music, and conviction the icon had into a visual art form. The competition opened on 01 May 2019 and ended on 15 September 2019. The top three artworks were unveiled on the Felabration opening day, with all the presented works displayed in the Kalakuta Museum.

The fundamental purpose of Felabration, since its conception, has been to celebrate and spread everything Fela stood for. The venue of the event ‘New Afrika Shrine’ is an entertainment center that replaced the old ‘Afrika Shrine’ which was burnt down in 1977 in response to his Zombie album.

From his political commentary to his undeniable musical genius, Fela Kuti remains one of the most influential people in history. He criticized the Nigerian government and was a Pan African who preached African unity and was an ardent supporter of Kwame Nkrumah’s and Thomas Sankara’s ideologies. The Herald Sun magazine called him ‘… Che Guevara and Bob Marley rolled into one person…’. Fela Kuti passed away on 03 August 1997.