My Heart Skips for Fela and Ilhan

At the start of this year, I visited the capital city of Ethiopia – that is Addis Ababa, where I encountered one of the most amazing musical beats of my life: traditional, spiritual and fascinating at the same time. It was actually the first time I had come in contact with Ethiopian music and I enjoyed it so much, I crashed a few weddings in order to learn and dance to those beats. I realized then that I knew so little about the rest of Africa and I began to wonder about all the others out there who do not know that we have amazing places they can visit and share in the history and traditions of this wonderful continent. For instance I did not know Ethiopia was the second most populated country in Africa with over a hundred million people. Then when I saw the injera plant, I thought it was hay for animals. For most of us far away in Central Africa, we still know it as the land of famine, yet it is among the fastest growing economies in the world.

Back to the issue of music; while I was following up with some academic pursuits, my brothers from Naija used our spare time to play some of their music.  One of them, a young man, Wale was so taken with Fela, he almost sang all his songs word for word.

So, let me start with the legend called Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. My Naija family, forgive me if I don’t pronounce it so well – still working on my languages.  Fela is known and celebrated world-wide for his music Afrobeats. You can find more about him on the internet. What fascinates me with him however is his activism. Fela was nothing if not an activist and a protagonist for Africa: his way of life (he married 27 women) – we still have Fons today who are married to over 30 women and as long as those communities do not condemn them, no one else has the right to. He sang in pidgin – and one of the songs that immediately comes to mind is the song called Lady – if you call’am woman, African woman no go gree, she go say eeh, she go say I be lady oh.

Amazing, that women refused to be called woman, yet today we talk of womanism and not Ladyism. Trump has said nothing about Africa that Fela had not said it. He fought against the Nigerian Military governments referring to them as Zombies. Yet, Fela loved Africa and if I may quote him, ‘I must identify myself with Africa. Then I will have an identity’. He also said that 99.9% of the information we get about Africa is wrong. Thanks to Fact Checking, we can always confirm most of the information we get today. Then he said something else ‘The secret to life is to have no fear’. I don’t know much about having no fear. I bet you if I were to find myself in front of an angry lion, the lack of fear would do me no good. I wonder how four progressive democratic women are coping with that angry lion they are faced with in America. Actually, a little bit of fear (his utterances are so ferocious) could pump the much needed adrenaline to produce a much more powerful roar.

Let me shout out to IIhan Omar, my Somalian sister. She is intelligent and strong and I celebrate all women. After Trump said she should be sent back, she did come back, for a visit, not to stay. But this is what she said on Twitter “So grateful for the honour to return to mother Africa with the @BlackCaucus and commemorate The Year of Return”. For those who are yet to find out, Ghana has opened its doors this 2019 to all Africans in the diaspora, particularly those whose descendants were forcefully taken away. President Akufo-Addo has pledged his government’s total and complete assistance to all who believe they can make Africa their home.

Let us caution however that this is not a new scramble for Africa. Rather, I see it as an opportunity to regain the lost affection that slavery took away. And talking about slavery, if you haven’t read Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher, do find time to do so. It is an amazing piece of writing on slavery.


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