February 18: See What Today Means In Nigerian History


On February 18 1977, the communal compound of World acclaimed afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti, known as Kalakuta Republic was set ablaze and burnt to ashes by members of the Nigerian military. About 1,000 members of the military went to Kalakuta Republic, blazed through the electric fence, set fires, brutally beat everyone in sight, and raped a number women who lived there. This same day of attack marked the event that led to the death of Fela’s mother, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti. The 77-year old woman was thrown out of a first floor window by the attackers. Two months after, she died.

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The razing of Kalakuta was a backlash from Fela’s record, Zombie which criticized Nigeria’s military government and aggravated the wrath of the then Military Head of State, General Olusegun ObasanjoFela also wrote the song: “Coffin for Head of State” to describe how he and his followers carried his mother’s coffin to General Obasanjo at Dodan barracks following his mother’s funeral.

The multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, human rights activist, and political maverick, whose music spoke volume, established the recording studio in form of a republic at 14 Agege Motor Road, Idi-Oro Lagos. Kalakuta Republic was a community of it’s own, and a home for people who were connected to the band independent from the Nigerian state.

The name “Kalakuta” was derived from the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta dungeon in India. Kalakuta Republic had been Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s residence for almost a decade before its run down. Fela chose Kalakuta, calling it a caricature of a prison cell named he inhabited. This republic of a Record label produced most of Fela’s songs that are still being enjoyed up till date and is one of the oldest record labels in Nigeria with a legacy of Nigerian Afro-beat/High life music.

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Fela and his legacy will continue to live on in the history of Nigeria as his seeds are scattered everywhere. In 1978, one year after the attack on the Kalakuta Republic, Fela married 27 women, most of which were his dancers, composers, and singers. Later, he adopted a rotation system of keeping only 12 wives at a time, but after he was released from prison for excess marijuana possession and usage, he divorced all his remaining wives.

On 3 August 1997, Fela’s elder brother, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, who was a Minister of Health and HIV/AIDS activist at the time, announced the death of Fela. He was said to have died of an AIDS-related heart failure. After Fela’s death, a new Africa Shrine was established by his son Femi Kuti, and the shrine is home to the African International annual Festival – Felebration, in honor of the Afrobeat music Icon.


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