he died in 1997 at the age of 59, leaving behind an imperishable work of musical genius, more modern than ever. He developed his own style which evolved over the years into a separate genre of music, Afro-beat.
Through his music, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, unanimously recognized as king of Afro-beat, was renown to pass messages through his music that were both spiritual and anti-government.
Overcoming the countless brutality he was subjected to during his life, Fela was unquestionably the voice the most famous and most effective of the African cause around the world. The many tours that he undertook in Europe and the United States have contributed crucially to know, recognize and appreciate the music and culture of Africa and Nigeria in particular.
In a sarcastic style that belongs only to him, Fela condemned Africans unable to fight for their rights as men in that typical mix of Yoruba and Pidgin English.
some Africans use all sorts of chemicals to lighten their skin, so it is the closest possible to the skin color of a white person and this practice is called ‘yellow fever’.
Fela condemns this practice in the song ‘ Yellow Fever’ first and foremost to demonstrate a denial of the pride of being Black and second because it is like a disease such as jaundice or malaria.
lyrics ‘Yellow Fever’
Different different fever na him dey
Malaria fever nko?
Hay fever nko?
Inflation fever nko?
Jundis fever nko?
Freedom fever nko?
Yellow fever nko?
na him dey bring the matter now he dey
I say tell dem make dem hear you say
all fever na sickness -original sickness
malaria na sickness -original sickness
hay fever na sickness -original sickness
inflation na sickness -original sickness
influenza na sickness -original sickness
jundis na sickness -original sickness
freedom na sickness -original sickness
yellow fever nko? say original and artificial he dey
Original catch you, your eyes go yellow, your face go go yellow, your body go weak.
But later if you no die inside, the yellow fever go fade away
Artificial catch you, you be man or woman na you go catch am yourself.
Na your money go do am for you.
You go yellow pass yellow. You go get moustache for face.
You go get your double colour. Your yansh go black like coal.
You self go think say you dey fine. Who say you fine?
Na lie you no fine at all at all na lie
my sister who say you fine?
yellow fever you dey bleach you dey bleach
Sisi wey dey go you dey bleach you dey bleach
stupid thing, yeye thing, ugly thing, fucking thing
now let’s get down to the on the ground spiritual game
from the album Yellow Fever -Fela Anikulapo Kuti & The Afrika 70 -Decca Afrodisia 1976 (DWAPS 2004)
All pictures by Bernard Matussiere taken in Amsterdam November 28th 1983