‘Fela remains an enigma’
Afrobeat progenitor, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, foremost friend, confidant and manager, Rikki Stein has said that the I.T.T singer remains an enigma, adding that at 58, the late Afrobeat icon had been arrested 200 times.
Stein in an interview with Pulse said that Fela was first and foremost a friend whose bravery and resolve for change remains unrivaled. He stated that Abami Eda as the Afrobeat legend was fondly called was a president Nigeria never had as he contested for the post, adding that he married 27 women on the same day.
It will be recalled that for 15 years, Stein was Fela’s manager and during the period, he dedicated his life towards working with a man whose ghost and message continued to haunt the walls of Nigeria’s corridor of power.
According to Stein, he can’t forget some of his unforgettable moments with Fela and how he came to respect the musical brand and person that he stood for, stressing that this year marks 19 years since the death of Fela, but late icon still keep him busy.
He said, “It’s because we put up his music worldwide, the catalogue of 50 albums, plus compilations, plus Vinyls. We have a series of Vinyl box sets that we put out, that we invite respected artistes to curate. The first was Questlove from The Roots; the second was Ginger Baker, and the third was Brian Eno, and we are just in the process of asking Erykah Badu to do box 4.”
In an emotional revelation Stein detailed his first encounter with Fela in London, and how they were brought together via chance. The duo hit it off at the first meeting, which was the start of a great relationship that last over a decade.
“I met Fela first in the back of a Mercedes van, on the M4 Motorway in the UK, lying in the heap of African dancers on our way back from a show. Some boy put on a cassette, and it was sorrow, tears and blood. I had never heard Fela before,” he added.
He continued; “I went away and did some research and I found out some more. Then I met somebody, who knew one of the people that was working with him when he was in London on tour. At the time I was working on a rainforest festival, and I wanted to invite artistes from all the rainforest countries of the world to come together, plus people that could talk about the issues of deforestation.
“So I put together a proposal because I wanted Fela to join my board of advisers, and also to come play at the festival. I put a leather-bound proposal together. It was in the winter, and I had a hat, a coat and a scarf, and I knocked on the door, and he said ‘come in’…The room was filled with pretty girls, and Fela and his speedos as usual.
“I sat down next to him, and I gave him this proposal and he was leaving through the thing, and I was talking into his ear. I can’t remember what I said, but I said something, he spun around and looked at me, and we both started laughing, and we just became friends in that instant.”
Stein also shared details about his work with Fela, recounting how much of a visionary he was, and the influence he wielded around the country as a man who fought for the people. He also spoke of Fela’s burial, detailing scenes from the burial day and post-death global status; talked about detractors who credit his death for the growth of his music, and his influence. “That’s a wicked thing to say,’ Stein said.
He further talked about Fela’s message and how much of it still remains relevant today, due to the unending ills of the society.