“Music remains one of the most powerful tools of communication” – Felabration 2019
Over the years, beyond time and defying distance, Felabration has stood as the biggest annual festival of music and arts that brings the world to one place – Lagos, Nigeria, Africa.
Yeni Kuti AKA YK Power
The one-week-long event was conceived in 1998 by Yeni Anikula-Kuti, in honor and celebration of her father, Fela Kuti the Afrobeat King and music legend in entirety. Gradually, the festival has moved from being just an event to becoming an experience, and this year’s Felabration 2019 spelt this out in capital letters.
Pioneering the festival for this year was a symposium graced by four exceptional speakers: The veteran Prof. Akin Oyebode, The award-winning writer Chimamanda Adichie and two ace musicians, Bobi Wine from Uganda and Akala from the United Kingdom.
Using one of Fela’s ever impactful songs “Teacher Don’t Me Nonsense” as a theme for the conference, the various speakers explained the topic of discourse from an indepth perspective.
The lead speaker, Prof Oyebode emphasized on how music could be used beyond entertainment, highlighting the various capacities embedded in music as a tool for effective communication. To this end, musicians were urged to flag the dusty mantle of Fela, whose songs were enveloped in conscious lyrics with didactic messages.
Bobi Wine & Akala at Felabration 2019
In support of this, Akala, a British rapper, political activist and poet further emphasized on the need for Africans to retell their stories to the world. He buttressed on this by revealing his childhood experience as a schoolboy in London, where Africa was falsely portrayed to him. This and many more examples stand as the reason for the damaging image perceived of Africa by not just Westerners but even Africans in diaspora.
Bobi Wine delivering his keynote address
Moving on to the Ugandan Musician, Bobi Wine, who describes himself as “one ghetto child who has something to say through music”. In the course of his speech, Bobi shared some of the issues that led him to changing his music from entertainment to edutainment. These underlying issues include the growing need to use music as an instrument for positive influence, to stand as a voice and to tell the African stories in a more balanced and positive light.
“Where I come from, children are told that a man from England discovered the river right behind our house.” -Bobi Wine
This and more reflects the need for the caution that comes with the song “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense.”
The final speech was by the outstanding writer, Chimamanda Adichie. She emphasized heavily on the importance of us learning our history as a county and the need to channel our energy to the right things, in order to create a better image of who we are.
“They think China will matter. They think India will matter, not really us. But it’s up to us to make that change. We can react to this, and it starts with self confidence. It’s the most we can do. Self confidence comes with you knowing who you are.”-Adichie
Knowing who we are and telling our stories bring us back to our roots and history. What better way can be used to communicate these at all levels, if not music. Music remains a universal language that cuts across all forms of boundaries.
No doubt this is a reflection of Fela’s songs with powerful messages that spread across various geographical spheres. With over 30 years of its releases in 1986, the song “Teacher Don’t Teach me Nonsense” still has its impact long after the demise of the iconic Fela Kuti.
Therefore, while celebrating the inspiring personality Fela portrayed, it is also important that musicians tap into what led to his greatness- using music as a powerful tool for COMMUNICATION.