In 1996, Keziah Jones visited Kalakuta Republic every day for a week to interview Fela Anikulapo Kuti. On the fifth day, after waiting six hours, Keziah got to speak with Fela, who he remarked kept you in “constant and direct eye contact” and spoke “in short bursts of baritone.”
He added, “In the three hours or so that we spoke, I eventually submitted to this flow, I realized that my questions interrupted trains of thought so I just chilled, listened and replied with my ideas when necessary”.
Fela passed away in August 1997.
In 3Bute’s condensed comic version hover your cursor over the images for the interactivity. Scroll down for full transcript…
(Chimurenga) I had planned to visit the Shrine  the night I arrived in Lagos but never made it. My sister Dupe, who knew some of the band Egypt 80, then took me to the Kalakuta Republic . But each time we got there, every day for a week, we were told Fela is sleeping. On the fifth day, Sunday June 11, 1996, we decided to wait. We waited six hours. By that time he had stopped giving conventional interviews and was not talking with journalists. I sensed someone who truly loved himself and all peoples, but who has been persecuted for speaking truth, by the very same people it was designed to uplift. In the middle of our conversation there was an electricity failure and the second half of our talk took place in the dark. In Yoruba cosmology, some things happen outside of the logic of time and space. This felt like one of those moments. When I left he came out to greet me from his balcony—an unusually polite gesture from the Chief. It’s under that very balcony that over a million people gathered, around a year later, to wish a safe passage to the Black President.
Boto: Fela's assistant
Seun: Fela's youngest son
Dupe: My sister
Femi: Olufemi Sanyaolu aka Keziah Jones representing The African Anarchist Corp.
In Fela's Living Room
I hang with the various people coming in and out of the main living room—beautiful women, tough area boys, businessmen in smart suits, the curious, — everybody united by His music, N.N.G.  and the possibility of revolution. Waiting to Exhale  is on the TV (by satellite). He walks in wearing only a towel, excuses himself, reappears in his underpants, explains that he has just woken up and lights up a large spliff. With eyebrows arched, he slowly surveys the room and dismisses several people. He is a little bit skinny and graying at the temples, keeps you in constant and direct eye contact, speaks in short bursts of baritone. His speech is embedded between long pauses and punctuated with a deep resounding laughter. In the three hours or so that we spoke I eventually submitted to this flow, I realized that my questions interrupted trains of thought so I just chilled, listened and replied with my ideas when necessary.
Femi: Fela, I’m glad to be interviewing you. This is quite an opportunity for those of us outside Nigeria, cuz we don’t really know what’s going on.
Fela: About me?
Femi: Yeah, so I thought it would be a good opportunity cuz many young blacks read Chimurenga and they know about you, so I thought it would be good to come back with some news, you know what I mean, to tell them that things are cool.
Femi: After 20 years of essentially political music do you still believe music to still be an effective way to change a political system?
Fela: [long pause] Oh wow! That’s a very good question [laughs] . . . music. Do I still think music is the best way to change a political system? You have to give me time to think about the question. Pause the tape so that I can understand what I want to talk.
[Personal assistant-type character, Boto pauses the DAT while Fela sits still for about twenty minutes in silence. No one in the room moves. Then with a smile he speaks.]
Fela: If one actually believes that he still wants to go into politics… [notices me adjusting the DAT] ah you see? It’s not loud enough. Are you sure? Please… it’s okay? [asks Boto] Wetin I first say?
Boto: …if one still believes…
Fela: If one believes that politics is still the best way to enhance a human life then music is a good medium for spreading message. I think it’s only one of the ways and with music it’s not so important who is playing the music. Or is the person who is playing the music going to get involved in politics? Or is he playing it just for people to listen? Those are the two points. If you are playing it just for people to participate its okay but it is best if you yourself are willing to participate within the music itself. But then again I don’t think politics is the best avenue for developing human life. Don’t ask me obvious question. [General laughter.] Continue, you can ask me that later on.
Femi: Okay. I found that—not only me, many many young people, Nigerians lets say—many of the social and political issues that you were talking about since the early 1970’s proved themselves true. The present political crisis in Nigeria and the revealed long term collusion between our military dictators and western powers came true. What next?
Fela: What next? [Long pause.] You see Femi [laughs to himself], for me to talk about “what next” can take days . . . but then I have to answer the question as soon as possible. I will first of all ask people what has the human being gained from all these years of so-called government, so called development of civilization. There has not been little gain anywhere. The black people in England are still having the same experiences, same in America, Africa is worse. The experiences are worse in Africa because of the conspiracy of the white people against the Africans, you see? The American government will shout to us from America that “democracy is the right thing to do!” but they in themselves are not democratic—at all! The UN is not democratic. You have five countries with vetoes there, China, Britain, France, America, Russia. They can just veto anything the passes through there! How can America, Britain or basically “white people” tell us that in Africa about democracy? Without the army behind their governments there cannot be any democracy [laughs], you see? That is why Bill Clinton himself is the commander of the armed forces—so can we say it is a military government? Well, if the president is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces as it is in the U.S., then it is a military government! It’s just that they are covering up with poli-tricks. I call it DEMOCRAZY. Now this democrazy that people are talking about in America and England, in order to participate in it, the population of the country has to be literate to fully understand what they’re voting for. If you come to Nigeria man, only 20% of people are educated—all the people who are supposedly going to vote can’t even write! They don’t even know what they’re reading—so this voting democrazy cannot be the system to develop the human race. Something is wrong somewhere but the whole system keeps going round and round and round. And with all the going round it knocks some people down. Gbam! Like it knocked Africa down you see . . .? There was a war in the gulf and oil prices were going down when they should be going up! Damn! Do you know an American can just walk into Lagos and watch my show for a dollar and fucking fifty cents, man?
Fela: An American can walk into Lagos and watch my show for a dollar fifty cents man.
Femi: What?! The dollar equivalent of the same amount in Naira?
Fela: What’s he going to do? English man will come in and watch me for one pound! One pound and two pence equals 150 Naira! [Femi laughs.] Ah ha! [Smiling.]
Fela: Ah ha! [smiling]
Femi: En hen?
Fela: Can I go on?
Femi: Yes go on please
Fela: I was talking to one of my friends today and he said the French government wants me to play at the French cultural centre and they’re going to pay me 45,000 Naira. Do you know that 45,000 is not even up to 500 Dollars, man? Could the French government pay any musician with a 16 piece band in France 500 Dollars? For a whole show? See the whole game, man? And here Africans are rushing for this bread . . . because to us one Naira seems like its equal to one Dollar. Do you know that for a Nigerian to watch my show for 150 Naira then I’ve killed him? Ah ha! You see now. It’s a lot of bread! Yeah this is what is called the Whiteman’s conspiracy—called the devaluation of currency.
Femi: So that westerners can buy our resources cheaper . . .
Fela: Thank you. Then I ask them, I am the one with the oil. They say, no your money is not one Dollar, your money is one eightieth of a Dollar. I say, but my oil has not devalued has it? .You see their fucking cheating man? All the heavy slapping, boxing, kicking, karate, leg kicking . . . My brother anything, they’re just giving it to us here in Africa. They are now telling me that our currency is of low value, but our crude oil is still considered as one of the highest qualities in the world. The validity of the oil remains the same.
Femi: So I mean…
Fela: You see now that’s democrazy. These same people come and tell us that democrazy is the best thing to do. We have our own commander of armed forces here who also happens to be a president. What’s the difference?
Fela: It’s just that one is wearing uniform and the other is not because without the soldiers, the guns and the violence they cannot keep it going. It’s no fucking democracy! NOW when you have calculated all these things in your mind and you have been at the forefront of politics something just happens that opens your eyes and says “Look Fela, look at this, it can’t be right.” Then you see the whole picture—all the time I was fighting for the struggle of the people I was only fighting for the Whiteman’s democrazy! [Laughs.] That’s what it all amounts to!
Femi: That’s your conclusion . . .
Fela: No, it’s fact. If it’s MY conclusion then tell me who’s talking revolution in this world today? Tell me, give me one name. Is there a black person in world politics now talking revolution? Give me one name! [Pauses whilst he watches me thinking.] There is no one—don’t waste your fucking time man.
Femi: No, not really
Fela: None, nowhere . . . Africa no! England no! America no! Before, there was Malcolm X.
Femi: En hen, you see, now that was the time! In the 1960s and 1970s that was the last time black people spoke seriously of revolution in any shape or form.
Fela: Oh—so you mean now we must just suffer?
Femi: But since then things are so much more sophisticated. Governments have become so sophisticated in their methods of pacification that people can’t even locate or keep the desire within themselves to revolt. In the 1960s and 1970s the government hadn’t completed the whole thang . . .
Fela: Oh you mean they hadn’t locked us up finish?
Femi: Not completely.
Fela: Oh ho, fair enough, oh they had not finished twisting up the mind?
Femi: Not really . . .
Fela: Ah! So I might have been twisted? So there is no cause to fight?
Femi: It’s harder to fight. It will be more difficult cuz . . .
Fela: Why is it more difficult—tell me why? There is the press . . .
Femi: Yeah, I mean we are talking about global government . . . Whilst I was sitting here waiting we were all watching an American film on satellite.
Fela: En you sef, you can go on television and proclaim the revolution.
Femi: It’s got to be a different tactic.
Fela: No! Whether it’s tactics or not the fact is no one is thinking of doing anything. Who is thinking of doing anything? Who is doing anything?
Everybody in the room: Nobody!
Fela: Thank you. That’s the point. Nobody! So does that mean we have been defeated or what? I don’t believe so. Our world is not an accident, our world is not science either. En hen. We now have to find out for ourselves what is our world otherwise negative and evil forces will dominate the human mind to a standstill. Next question.
Femi: Hmmm, I will go into music generally or we can stay on the political tip.
Fela: Any one you prefer—the one that hurts you the most.
Femi: We were talking about finding out for ourselves what this world was . . . I don’t think that things are completely defeated either… in your music I find there’s always a pointer towards something else… like you say political is not the only way to human evolution…
Femi: I mean you were saying that politics is not the only way to human evolution… that if one believe politics to be the only way to human evolution… one will miss all the other ways and avenues… other than democrazy…
Fela: I have not said so
Femi: No you haven’t said so but I kind of presumed that that was what you meant… that there are many other ways aside from democrazy.
Fela: Yeah, you could presume that our world is not an ancient… yes go on…
Femi: Okay. I have a question because in your music you also talk about Africa pre the European experience. That we had our own laws, our own organization of life, but how come that grounding that we call African religion, even though it has been spread all over the world by slavery, how come it is so despised by non-Africans and feared by Africans themselves? you know if there is to be a way…
Fela: [starts to look annoyed] . . . because that way is finished. My brother let me tell you something man, this interview sef wey I dey give you sef. I don’t want to because I wonder is it time to say some things, you see? But then our world like I said is not no accident, you see? Whiteman will bring some science and will tell us about the age of the dinosaurs, right? Then they will tell us about the age of some apes they found digging somewhere in Kenya…. or some fucking place… all this science… then we’ll tell them… I will now tell them they are all… what do you call them?… no… when they’ve gone out of the land?…
Seun (Fela’s youngest son): Extinct…
Fela: Before the Whiteman’s age there was no fucking zoo in Africa. It’s Whiteman that wanted to see animals so they made a zoo and now it’s they themselves saying that animals don’t like to be locked up. But then, you see, these animals that they are afraid of getting extinct actually have almost the same reproductive pattern as the common cow. But the cow that we eat every fucking day doesn’t go extinct! In Lagos alone, we must eat about 1.500 cows every day! What about Ibadan? Nigeria? Sierra Leone? England? America? Everybody is eating cow every day, and the cows don’t get extinct?
[At this point the whole room erupts into laughter that seems to last for ages.]
[Later on I found that in the West, cows are modified to produce “quality” meat, which creates increased consumer demand, which means to increase production to lower the production cost per cow. I theorize, AFRANARCHISTICALLY, that the reason cows haven’t gone extinct is simply because we eat them. Thus paradoxically animals of the wild would also benefit from being eaten.]
Fela: Something is wrong somewhere, man. . . . you see my point my brother?
Fela: At different stages animals have been coming and going. No problem… but now they are going around looking for the bones of things that have since gone extinct… I have never seen an African team of archaeologists setting off to find the bones of some dinosaur in the desert… we can’t afford that man! … So our world is not an accident, science forced us to believe that. It is science that is scattering the world from what it’s supposed to be. It’s all the other way round.
Fela: Can someone get me an orange? Pause this one first.
[I pause the DAT and Fela proceeds to demonstrate his theory about the reason for the luminescence of the moon.]
Fela: When you show this to somebody it will be round, understand? If you paint one side white and you only show that side it will be a round white disc from a distance. Then let us say something begins to turn the orange slowly. If it turns halfway it will look like half moon, right? How are you to be sure that that isn’t all there is to the moon’s luminescence, that the moon has its own light. But you know what science taught me in school, that it’s the reflected light of the sun that allows us to see the moon from earth etc. But one day I saw the moon in the afternoon.
[The whole room collapses into laughter.]
Fela: My brother… half moon for that matter! you dey hear my point? We see half moon in daylight many times for Lagos don’t we?
Fela: Then I saw it one day in America on a tour, on this white tour bus. I said to the tour manager: “Hey Jack, look at that moon man . . . Science tells us that when the shadow of the earth is over the moon etc. Well, look at the half moon up there. What’s happening there?” He said: “Hey man, I’ll have to think about that.” So what is really true about these “speculative scientific proofs?” Cuz the moon is a speculative proof. They are the ones who say they have gone there. I’m saying that they didn’t go nowhere! Look, if you dominate the TV, the media, and the government wants to impress upon people that they have gone there, they can do it! Look. You’re watching a film right? Then it gets to a point in which you are following the plot intently right? Dig this shit man, this is the heaviest of all, then it gets to a point in the movie where the actor or the actress or the star is thinking about something, and because you have been following the plot, you will now be thinking the same thing as the actors in order to follow the next stage [laughs] of the film, but the time they were acting that film itself, at the time it was being shot, the actors were not “thinking,” they already knew what they were to do next. Do you understand what I’m saying?
Everybody in the room: It’s all been scripted!
Fela: Thank you! So, really, you are the only one who doesn’t know the story. It’s you, it’s the people who are watching the film that are doing any “thinking.” It’s serious because the human mind is energy. So when you are “watching” that film, it means that you are passing your energy into that film—passing it to those who already know the path that your thoughts could take. So films is where I now bring my last point. To be able to now buttress that thing you asked me “what next” . . . so Jesus Christ came and Jesus Christ is a white man . . . Don’t allow people to confuse you into thinking he was a black man, you know all these revolutionary legions [laughs], if white man tells you he’s white, why do you want to argue with him about his god? I believe he’s white! When he was coming to die he went to god and begged him “please don’t let me die, but he already knew that he was coming to die. He said somebody would betray him when the cock crowed three times or so and he was caught. Then they took him to a public platform, and there was Barrabas with him. The soldiers asked the public which one of the condemned men they would like to see spared and the people said: “Barrabas!!!” If you would take me and a thief to Racecourse in Lagos and ask people to pick one of us to be spared, I’m sure they will pick me. I can boast of that, today in Nigeria!
Someone in room: Under a military regime!
Fela: Any regime! In Nigeria, oh! I don’t know about London or America. They would probably pick the thief [laughs]—if he is a white thief. But here, Jesus Christ, as popular as he was, the people picked Barrabas! So one thief said to him: “You have power, you have done many many great things. Look all of us are hanging in this fucking place, make us leave this place man . . .” Jesus did not answer. The other thief said: “Jesus Christ, anywhere you go just take me with you!” Now, the Yoruba have a proverb, “It is thieves that know thieves!” [Room laughter.] So what did Jesus Christ come to steal? They say that he came to take away the sins of all human beings, but see all of us are still suffering, from here to America. Even the white man and his god himself they themselves are still suffering along with the black people. So what did Jesus Christ come to take? Sins or scenes? Human beings have their own scenes, their own films (in their minds). I saw this when I was possessed by a spirit back in January 25, 1981. Truly. But some people can take your film off you when you are being “educated.” So now, the reason why democracy and politics isn’t suffice today is because human beings have lost their S.C.E.N.E.S. [Laughs.] Ha! Look, there is no evening I don’t see a UFO pass this window. No sound at all, just light going past—schwoom!!
Femi: So UFOs come to Africa as well . . .
Fela: [astonished] I say I see them everyday! Every night. [To Boto] I showed you one last time? No sound. Now. So what are we hiding in this world that is making this world so confused? This is why I have the Shrine. You see, if I wasn’t possessed by a spirit 15 years ago I would have been a confused man. But after I had this experience I knew this world was not what it seems to be. Black peoples will begin to have new SCENES. It’s going to cause a lot of people to start questioning, “What’s happening?” “I’m confused!” And that is what people call the “Age of Aquarius,” it’s going to set all those things correct. Now, because Nigeria is, spiritually, one of the most powerful countries in the world, this is where the truth must show first. Some say that Nigeria is the most corrupt, has the most thieves, Nigeria is this, Nigeria is that . . . Ha! If Nigeria is spiritually the most powerful country in the world then it goes to say that corruption and deception by international financial and cultural systems must also be one of the most prevalent things here—seeing as it is their blatant corruption that rules this world. But these things are bound to change. People will start to see a new light, probably when they sleep, or even when they walk along the street. It’s a film. I see a film in my head, man! And that is what I know as “WHAT NEXT.”
Fela: There is no coincidence in this world. Superstition? Doesn’t exist in my language. It was the Whiteman that brought all these things. Superstition—if human beings believe that trees can talk, then trees can talk! This is a fact that would need no other proof than the belief in it and in its consequences. But then when human beings know that trees can talk and begin to argue amongst themselves about the objective and scientific proof, the tree will be annoyed! It won’t even bother to talk again! It will think, “Look at those useless people!” So you see my brother, that is what I know “What Next” is… That what is ruling this world today is what people call “evil.” Look, Reagan ruled America for eight years. After he retired they said that he’s got a disease, he’s forgetting things. How long has he been forgetting things? I beg, maybe he was forgetting things the time that he said that marijuana was a drug, maybe he was forgetting things when he went and arrested the President of another country in his own palace, in his own country! My brother, that is madness. If the President of that country says he wants drugs in his palace, wetin concern anybody? So America suddenly forgot the sovereignty of a country? And they can just go and arrest the President of Panama now, in his own house, in his country? That is what is called forgetfulness my brother, and yet America and the rest of the world accepted it as doing the right thing because the reason was drugs. Has the drugs stopped? No! He went to attack Libya and they say that man was well? When now he has a disease which makes him unable to remember his wife, so what else has he been forgetting? I cannot say much more to explain myself. You see, I don’t even go out I only come out to play music at the Shrine. I don’t go out because when archaeologists go to Egypt and start to dig up the tombs of ancient gods I believe those were gods for that era. I think that now this particular period of time is different. The gods are now down on earth walking on two or four legs just like everybody else. And these things will start to show in a very funny way. In Europe some time ago they were burning the witches and if you really know what is called mysticism to burn a witch is to give her more power. In Nigeria now, the center of spiritual power, we have people called “BORN AGAIN.” Are you sure it’s not “B.U.R.N. AGAIN?”
Fela: Sometimes I look at my son Femi, he’s called Femi like you, and I think of the word they use in the bible to describe when someone speaks against god, what’s that word?
Femi: Blaspheme? [At this point the laughter and noise in the room seems to indicate that everyone knows the answer apart from me.]
Fela: See he doesn’t want to say it, because his name is Femi, too!
Fela: Thank you! Blast-Femi, blast-Femi! Why didn’t they say “blast-Jesus?” What’s Femi got to do with the matter? En hen! That one should make you go and think back small! [Giggles.] Because everybody is in Nigeria, all the gods and goddesses that have ruled the world. I followed Kwame Nkrumah  all my life in politics, in ideology, and in one of my scenes they showed me who Nkrumah actually was. Do you know who he was? Whilst he was in this world he was Buddha, the god of the orient and he’s in Ghana. That is how this world is made to confuse human beings. He died in Budapest, the military coup caught him in Peking, the coup caught him in China and that is one of the places Buddha visited. Then when he was ill, do you know where he went to die? He didn’t go to London, he went to die in Budapest ! Buddha-pest. When I saw this in my film I thought goodness gracious I’ve wasted all my life talking about the oriental god… that’s very serious… that’s Africa…
Femi: I found that there are similarities between Zen and eastern religions and…
Fela: Say again?
Femi: I found that there are similarities between eastern mysticism and the Yoruba religion. In Zen Buddhism there are certain laws… things are like this… truth is dependent upon your position in space. What is true to you in one place will be different to the next person looking at the same thing from a slightly different angle and this is similar to Yoruba proverbs.
Fela: Last European tour when I got to Birmingham the show was not even planned, they did not even know I was coming to play there. Can you imagine that shit man? I came all the way from Nigeria then I started to ask myself what the hill I was doing there . . . Anyway I managed to play to some few people… You know what I said to them that night? I told them what was shown to me in my trance of 1981, that Mungo Park  came to take the power from Africa in the guise of exploration.
He arrived at Ilé-Ifè through the river Niger in 1470 and one night one of the wives of the king of Ifè showed him the power pot—and he stole it to England. That was the beginning of technology in Europe. That is why they call it Eng-land. “Engine-land,” you see? You know where he took it? To Windsor Castle. So that night in Birmingham I was saying that the pot was in Windsor Castle right now but that it has since dried up. Next morning, man, Windsor Castle was on fire! That was in 1992. 125 fire engines couldn’t put the fire out. I was watching it on CNN whilst waiting for a boat to Paris. When people say “Wind-sor,” it’s actually a Yoruba word: iwin so (the witch is speaking) because that is the headquarters of the witches; that was where Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth belong. And now they have reincarnated in Margaret Thatcher and Elizabeth II. Thatcher seems more like a man to me. And Nigeria is under their control. That’s why Nigeria had to end in “ria” like Victo-ria, just like the other countries controlled by their Empire. You know, my brother, I have to say these things to you because people have to know what this world is really about. But everyone learns at their own pace man! So many things have disrupted, the counting of the date of the beginning of the universe, what we have now is fake…. Julius and Augustus Caesar adding a month each for themselves… my brother this is what I know of what this world is about and it’s what the world is going to start to understand…
Fela: I don’t talk to the Nigerian press, I don’t talk to any press at all. I have been instructed not to talk to press by my spirits. I am a very firm man about my spirits and I don’t jive with the fact that that is what really exists, you know, I’m not a speculative religionist. I am a realist—and a realist is somebody who believes in the spirits. The other realist is a fake one. He lives in science.
Fela: Motown came here some time ago to sign me up. In the first place the deal they were offering me was so ridiculous. These bastards came all the way from America to come and talk this shit? I said to people: “Look at this name ‘Motown.’ That word is Yoruba: mo-ta-ohun, it literally means ‘I sell my voice.’” [Laughter.] I said: “Anybody who goes with these people will be finished.” Then later Motown collapsed or the head was sacked or something like that. They had been found out!
Yoruba is the secret of universal witchcraft. I was born here to understand that language, see? Take another word like “technology.” Exposed, it reveals itself as te-ki-ina-lo-ji (press it so that the fire can go to wake it up). En hen! If you want to start a plane you must press for the engine, ah hah! For fire to, etc. That is Yoruba. Science evolved from the pot they took from Ifè. Those who first created airplanes weren’t taught how to build one at any school or university, but they “invented” it! They no go school, oh! My brother they no go school! So the word “educate” reveals to us its deeper meaning in Yoruba as edu-ki-e-ti (tie everything up and lock it away). When you come from the spirit world with this knowledge and you start to give your own meaning and “film” of life, somebody will take it off you, take you to school starting from your parents for that matter! But you don’t see dem things. Human beings go through what they call “society” revealed as so-si-ayiti (tie it up in such a way that it seems free). You are already locked up within society and you say you are a free man! I can’t sit down now and explain a lot of things to you if you write it down. Europeans won’t understand it because they don’t speak Yoruba. . . . Prince Charles had to come to Nigeria before he could even handle what it means to be a future king… when he came to Nigeria he was staying on the sea… in a boat… you knew that he came to Nigeria for a visit?
Femi: Yeah… around 1980-something?
Fela: 90s something… with Diana. His boat was moored on the lagoon at Marina… he came from the sea to the land to talk and then he went back to the sea… You see a lot of truth will show in this world in time, a very short time. Every year you’ll see America full of water, rainwater, floods. Last year it was all flood in Germany, Cologne was under water, Paris was flooded. And I said to my friend: “Didn’t we learn in geography that the only areas prone to frequent flooding are in Africa and Asia?” Now in Europe they have floods and we don’t even see the rain here. Changes. Inevitably change must come . . . How come England has floods? Abeg cool down! When I was a student there it barely rained throughout the summer sef! But now when it starts to rain you’ll think that you are in the middle of Africa [laughs]. In America alone the number of tornadoes they’ve had. America was trying to fight a war in the gulf and homes were being destroyed in their own backyard by ordinary weather! You know my brother when I started the Shrine it was an experiment and I had not really understood what the spirit world was about. My friend advised me to call it “the Shrine” because you need to have something solid and I liked it, and he was simply the one supposed to pass on the information to me, you know, like you coming here now for this interview. Femi Sanyaolu our world [long pause]—people will see things they don’t expect to see. I don’t know exactly what they are, but you see when there was a war that the people called World War II—Japan and Germany versus the world—the world gave them a thorough beating. Bombed the whole of Germany and Japan, two atomic bombs on Japan alone! But today those countries are the richest countries in the world! How managed? Japan now controls the world with technology and Germany controls Europe with industry. When you write this, help me ask these white people: How come that the countries that were the losers are now the winners? So what exactly is war about? So the Japanese knew that if they themselves died, if they sacrificed themselves they would back to rule? Ah ha! When you kill us we will rule. That’s war man! [Laughs.] Ha ha he
Fela: [notices me smiling], you just saw it! En hen! You see! Femi Sanyaolu, write that for me: “When you kill us, we rule!” Nkon ti a ma fi ju Oyinbo li ni ote yi ni yen . . . nkon ti a ma so fun yin . . . e jo ma ro . . . e ma fi mu won . . . awon wa ija kpa ni . . . won wa ja kpa … “Germany” . . . ja ma ni . . . se o wa ri Yoruba nisinyin . . . See the endless possibilities of Yoruba? So China now when they come, that “before you make money you have to kill yourselves.” So they killed 7,000 students for the whole world to see. Now today nko? Everybody is getting China cuz if Chinaman copy your article, when they begin to make their own products . . . no be students’ power China man get? The students learn by copying their masters. That is the power of the 7,000 students that they killed in Tiananmen square.
Fela: [To Dupe] I see you are listening to me very intently, Madam, yes its very important . . . when you don’t hear this kind of thing everyday in your life, you turn on the television, someone talking about Jesus Christ, telling you the same old story everyday. And somebody can tell it today and make it sound like new to you because he’s found a new side to it cuz that’s what this world is about . . . [notices the DAT machine clicking off] It don finish?
1. Fela Kuti’s nightclub in the Empire Hotel in Lagos, where he performed regularly.
2. Fela Kuti’s house in Lagos, also a commune, recording studio, and home for many people.
3. Abbreviation for Nigerian National Grass.
4. A film by Forest Whitaker (based on a novel by Terry McMillan, USA 1995) about four African-American women acted by Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Whitney Houston, and Lela Rochon.
5. Kwame Nkrumah (1909–1972) was the founder and first president of modern Ghana and an influential Pan-Africanist.
6. In reality Nkrumah died in Bucharest.
7. Mungo Park (1771–1806) was a Scottish explorer of the African continent.