Starting in the 1960s, Kuti initiated his own unique type of music called “Afrobeat.” Rebelling against oppressive regimes through his music came in a significant price. Kuti was detained 200 times and put numerous beatings, but continued to write political lyrics, creating 50 records before he died on August 2, 1997, in Lagos, Nigeria. Kuti was the son of a Protestant minister, Reverend Ransome Kuti. As a kid, Kuti learned piano and drums, and directed his school choir. While at Trinity, Kuti studied classical music and acquired an awareness of American jazz.
In 1963, Kuti formed a group called Koola Lobitos. He’d later switch the group’s name to Afrika 70, and again to Egypt 80. Starting in the 1960s, Kuti initiated and popularized his own unique type of music called “Afrobeat.” Afrobeat is a mix of funk, jazz, salsa, Calypso and conventional Nigerian Yoruba music. In addition to their own distinguishing mixed-genre design, Kuti’s tunes were considered exceptional in comparison to more commercially popular tunes because of the span—ranging anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour long. Kuti sang in a mixture of Pidgin English and Yoruba.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Kuti’s rebellious song lyrics created him as political dissident. Because of this, Afrobeat has come to be connected with making political, societal and ethnic statements about greed and corruption. Among Kuti’s tunes, “Zombie,” questions Nigerian soldiers’ blind compliance to carrying out orders.
In 1989, three years after touring the Usa, Kuti released an album called Beasts of No Nation. The album cover depicts world leaders Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan (among others) as animation vampires baring bloody fangs. As an alternative to abandon his cause, yet, Kuti used these experiences as inspiration to write more lyrics. He made about 50 records on the span of his musical career, including tunes for Les Negresses below the pseudonym Sodi in 1992.
A girl named Remi was the first of Kuti’s wives. In 1978, Kuti wed 27 more girls within a wedding ceremony. He’d eventually divorce them all. Kuti’s kids with Remi contained a son, Femi, and daughters Yeni and Sola. Sola died of cancer not long after her dad’s passing in 1997. All three offspring were members of the Positive Force, a group they founded in the 1980s. Fela Kuti died of AIDS-associated complications on August 2, 1997, in the age of 58, in Lagos, Nigeria.