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Trinity Laban Alum Fela Kuti Honoured with Plaque at Greenwich Site

Fri 20 November 2020

The Afrobeat pioneer and political activist was honoured as part of Black Plaque Project and TL’s Black Culture 365 programme.

Trinity Laban alum, political activist and pioneer of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti (1938-1997), was honoured today with a commemorative plaque installed at the conservatoire’s Faculty of Music in Greenwich.

At the installation were Dele Sosimi, musician and Musical Director for Fela Kuti’s Eypt 80, Trinity Laban’s Director of Music Havilland Willshire, Founder and Producer of Black Culture 365 Juliet Jackman, and Nubian Jak Founder Dr Jak Beula.

Kuti’s son Femi and grandson Made sent a message of thanks and support from Nigeria. Like his grandfather, Made Kuti is a Trinity Laban alum, having graduated in 2018.

Fela Kuti studied composition and trumpet performance at Trinity Laban (then Trinity College of Music), arriving in 1958. He went on to become one of the World’s best-loved performers, pioneering the Afrobeat sound which continues to be a major influence on today’s charts. Through his music and his activism, Kuti also became a leading figure within Nigerian and pan-African politics.

The commemorative plaque is part of the Black Plaque Project. A partnership between Nubian Jak Community Trust and Havas London, the project aims to redress the balance of commemorative blue plaques in London, of which only 1.6% currently represent Black people. It sees the temporary installation of 30 plaques remembering key Black figures, their contribution to history and connection to the capital. The public is invited to visit the plaques and find out more using an interactive map.

Speaking at the installation, Dele Sosimi said –

“Words fail me. I am buzzing, I am glowing, I am so proud. It’s a lovely thing… I feel like the plaque represents my joy and pride. Fela was a live and let live guy, he had so much love and respect for art. He was a true artist. He always said to me ‘it’s all about holding down the groove’ so as his rhythm pianist, I always held the groove. Right from day one, I was hooked. I teach afrobeat here at Trinity Laban, so to see this here, now – hopefully it will encourage more students to participate in afrobeat and spread the horizon of up and coming musicians.”

Trinity Laban’s Director of Music Havilland Willshire said –

“At Trinity Laban, we are enormously proud that Fela Kuti, who made such great achievements in music and in politics, is one of our own. It is fantastic to be able to honour him in this way: it is recognition that is overdue and well deserved. The timing is synergistic, as we recently launched Trinity Laban’s year-round commitment to celebrating Black history and art, Black Culture 365. It is a pleasure to celebrate Fela, and all of the inspirational figures that the Black Plaque Project honours.”

The Fela Kuti plaque will be on site at Trinity Laban’s King Charles Court for three weeks.

Image L-R: Dele Sosimi, Juliet Jackman, Dr Jak Beula