Recently, an argument popped up online about the place of Wizkid in the pantheon of Nigerian music. A general consensus that many reached was that Wizkid is a legend. But that was not all. Not content with conferring god-status to the man, they decided to come closer to someone untouchable: Fela
Many of the arguments that were had, compared Wizkid to the creator of Afrobeat. They believe with his deal with RCA Records and collaborations with Drake, he has transcended mortality and stands tall, perhaps taller than the king of Nigerian music. The comparisons these people make on social media aren’t just faulty, they are dumb. Wizkid cannot touch the helm of Fela’s garment, musically, and in impact.
But you have to understand why this argument exists in the first place. Instead of dismissing these people who propagate this blasphemy as dumb, we have to take a step back to gain perspective and find out why they are proudly chasing a narrative that is essentially flawed. I did that, and I have discovered why.
These people don’t know Fela Kuti. They have never studied his life, experienced his art, and properly brought into the enduring legacy of the icon. Many of these people pushing this narrative are young, 90s babies who barely experienced a world in which Fela Kuti existed. And so, all of what he did, is and stands for is likened to myth. A young man who never visited the Afrikan Shrine, in the 70s, but saw Wizkid and Drake in a music video would have a skewed narrative that favours what he is experiencing. Old gods die with time, and new gods take over.
That’s why things events like Felabration are important. An annual music festival, the event aims at celebrating the legacy of the man who created the foundations of pop music. The idea and concept of Felabration as an annual celebration of Fela’s music, life and times, originated from his eldest child Yeni who conceived it in 1998. With the exception of 1999, Felabration has taken place yearly.
Over the years Felabration has attracted many high-class musical acts from all over the world. The roll call includes Hugh Masekela, Femi Kuti, Lucky Dube, Awilo, Baba Maal, Les Nubians, King Sunny Ade, Lagbaja, Asa, TuFace, Seun Kuti and many others. In 2008, over 50 international artists came together from the United States, Great Britain, France and Senegal to perform at Felabration under the banner, African Express. Every year Felabration features exciting lineups of artistes designed to whet the appetite of music lovers.
The 2017 edition had Wizkid come on stage to honour Fela Kuti with a breath-taking performance. And thereby acknowledged the superiority of Fela. Much of his work references the production and lyrical dexterity of the icon.
Events like Felabration which hold all over the world package the Fela experience to a younger crowd. It brings them a taste of what Fela Kuti is, and how inclusive his legacy is. No one who attends the week-long festival and gets an experience of it all can honestly make an argument for Wizkid over Fela and sleep well.
And if they do, and still hold such an opinion, then they are incapable of critical reasoning and empirical evaluation. What’s their excuse?