Fela arrived in 1958 to study composition and trumpet performance at Trinity College of Music, having been sent to London to study medicine by his parents. Influenced by James Brown, Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra, he formed his first band the Koola Lobitos in 1961 and became a regular feature on the London music scene before travelling to America.
In the US, Fela was introduced to the Black Power movement which deeply affected his music and political motivation. His songs began to describe racial and economic disenfranchisement, and focused on prominent social issues. He then moved back to Africa and formed a commune called Kalakuta Republic, complete with music venue 'Africa Shrine', which he declared independent from Nigeria. After releasing a song which heavily criticised the government, the commune experienced a military attack in which Fela witnessed the brutal murder of his mother.
Following arrests and military onslaughts, Fela's album output slowed and he died of AIDS in 1997. More than a million people attended his funeral in Nigeria. His son, Femi Kuti, now oversees a restored 'Africa Shrine' in his memory.
Fela was an unforgettable figure in African history who vehemently opposed the military government in Nigeria and inspired the world with his music. Leaving behind an incredible seventy albums, Trinity Laban is proud to have graduate who left such a lasting impression, both musically and politically, across the globe.
The National Theatre is now presenting the award-winning Broadway musical FELA! documenting his larger than life story. The triumphant tale, choreographed by Bill T. Jones, tells of Fela's relentless fight against oppressive regimes and his devotion to music in the struggle for freedom. The production will also be broadcast live from the National Theatre on 13 January 2011 at 18.45h.