Fela Did Not Want Me To Have Education Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, who turned 49 last Thursday, spoke about his life, music, the divorce suit against his wife, Funke and other issues
Femi, you are 49, how do you feel?
I feel normal. It is like an ordinary day for me and quite stressful because at times, you have to smile by force, it is no big deal, anyway.
You are approaching 50, do you have any plan for an elaborate celebration next year because this one is held in the Shrine?
I am sure people will make it a very big thing for me because there are some things I cannot control any more.
What are the things?
You know that people will want to celebrate with me. Even if I decide to hold a quiet party, people will not agree with me and I have to oblige. It will get to a stage in one’s life that things will go beyond control.
Do you know that you are getting old?
Yes, I am delighted. I don’t want to stay forever in this life, I am cool with getting old and also death. I have no problem with life and death because I don’t want to stay forever on this planet.
You dissipate so much energy on stage, do you still have much energy at 49?
No, unlike when I was in my 20s. I am sure I cannot go for another 10 years like this, but I am determined and determination has always been my focal point and no matter what, I give my best on stage. I dedicate all my life to music as a performer and like I told you, I am cool with my age at 49. If you told me 20 years ago that I will be so active at 49, I will not believe you because being an entertainer, I have lived a very rugged life. At 49, I still have my base and also able to play my instruments, keeping my band, with my handsome son, have beautiful children and all people that love me for which I am extremely grateful. A performer is not allowed to complain, no matter how. I couldn’t rmer sacrifices his joy for other people’s happiness and this is my role.
How do you feel at this age being celebrated all over the world?
I am looking forward to my 50th birthday. For the past 10 years, I have been very grateful because most musicians die very young. I am quite fortunate to be 49 and when I look at the kind of life I have lived, I count myself as being quite fortunate. I am fortunate to have a wonderful son, beautiful children and a sister that loves me. I am also fortunate to have people that care for me, no matter how, maybe they want to make me happy, I have no complaints at all.
Do you have any regrets at 49?
None at all, but I wish I had more children when I was much younger.
So you want to have more kids?
Maybe two more, I love children and at this stage, what do I want to live for than to be with my family and bring up children that will be useful in this world. If you don’t have children who will continue your legacy? All your hard work will go into wrong hands. But if you have children and train them well, they will sustain your heritage and that of Anikulapo-Kuti. Not just Fela, we are talking from our grand parents, it is a heritage we cannot toy with.
Is that why you adopted some of your children’s friends?
I adopted four children because I was making some money and saw poverty around me. I said to myself, what do I do with money than to help people around me more so that they are my children’s friends, who did not have what they have in terms of clothes, better opportunities and better education, among other things and I could see that they envy them, yet they are friends and I don’t want the children to grow up in a society where they will believe that they are better than other people. I did not want them to live on their father’s wealth, so I put them in the same school and I have been taking care of them for about eight years now.
You make more money from shows abroad, what happened to proceeds from your albums?
My albums are doing well and I make enough money to survive but as you know, everybody is downloading to sell one thousand copies. These days, it is very difficult. As a person, I rely on performing than album sales. If people download, pirates will take over, so I am not an artiste that relies on the sales of albums since the beginning of my career.
Can we then say that you are rich?
I am okay, although I am not rich. What do you call rich? I am very rich with love and all the good things money can’t buy, all that I have at my disposal and the many good people around me. I have been managing my band despite the global economic trend; it is the best band that came out from Nigeria ever globally, why then should I complain?.
What is the secret?
Hard work and dedication.
As the man at the forefront, what is the future of Afro beat music?
It will always be, whether we like it or not; technology will preserve it.
What are your plans for your son who is a multi-instrumentalist like you are?
He will go to the university to study Music and Engineering. He has played in my band when he was aged between nine and 12 years and knows what it is to perform, so what he needs now is education because in this world, if you cannot read and write and work with technology as a musician, you will fall by the way side. So I will give him everything he needs to survive.
What if he decides that he wants to stop schooling like you did years back when you abandoned schooling for music?
It can’t happen, he will go to school. My upbringing was different, totally different, my father didn’t want me to go to school, but his own father, that is me, wants him to go to school unlike my father because he thought I could make it without good education. I don’t need to prove that with my son, I know what I have suffered before getting to where I am today. I also know how many mountains I had to climb to maintain the sincerity of my father’s love for me. My father did not want me to go to school not because he hated me and as such, I don’t want my son to go through the same mental torture; he will go to the best university I can afford so that he could look down on anybody that looks down on him.
At 49, what have you gained and lost?
I have not lost anything.
Why did you decide to divorce Funke?
Because I don’t believe in marriage. If a woman loves me, she will stay. What is love if there is no complete understanding? The two of you will stay because families will get in your way and other people will come. It is not marriage that will keep the two of you together, it is complete understanding. If we have not married, maybe we would have resolved our differences, but I never regretted marrying her because she gave me Made, who is my bundle of joy and I am very happy that Made too loves his other siblings from other women. Do you realise that it is not easy to marry a musician? Maybe the mistake we made then was that both of us were in the limelight. I was singing while she was dancing and whatever we did became a story. If it were other people, they would have divorced unnoticed. Marriage is a complex thing where you speak too many grammar, so I never regretted marrying her