Kingston, Jamaica has the Bob Marley Museum. Memphis, Tennessee has Elvis Presley’s Graceland. For the first time ever, fans of the Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti can visit the Kalakuta Museum in Lagos, Nigeria.
If the music icon Fela Kuti were alive today, he would have celebrated his 74th birthday. In his honor, enthusiasts and reporters gathered in the Ikeja area of the commercial hub of Lagos for the inauguration of the Kalakuta Museum this week. The museum, which offers visitors a look into the life of the creator of afrobeat music, is expected to attract tourists and fans worldwide.
“Everybody has a piece of Fela in him. He touched everybody,” museum architect Theo Lawson told Reuters.
The remains of the highly acclaimed musician remain in the family’s former house, which was converted for the museum. The Lagos State Government reportedly funded the remodeling project with $250,000. It is decorated with Fela’s shoes, family photographs and art.
For many, the new Kalakuta Museum is a long-awaited treasure and an assurance that Fela remains relevant.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti, born October 15, 1938, is widely regarded as the most controversial, the most intriguing, the most radical music artist to have emerged from Africa. Fifteen years after his premature death in 1997 to AIDS-related complications, his story is still being told.
The pan-Africanist, marijuana smoking polygamist is still controversial. But his profound impact on pop culture, especially on hip hop, is unmistakable.
“Fela is the one African figure whose story resonates with modern American hip hop culture,” Questlove, music producer and drummer for the Grammy-winning band The Roots, said in an on-camera interview.
“The trials and tribulations that he went through politically, socially, creatively, it’s the story of hip hop. It’s the story of taking nothing and making it into something.”
Artists from D’Angelo, Nas, Kanye West to Macy Gray, Jay-Z, Hugh Masekela to Common, Beyonce, Kelis, Stevie Wonder and Santigold have expressed their admiration of Fela’s infectious beats and multi-layered music compositions.