just came back from vacation and realized that new england did not receive the memo that spring started days ago....well that is by the way.
while on vacation, a friend pointed me to idols west africa clips on youtube (since youtube, these days, seems to be my main source of free entertainment). these clips are most likely quite old (wikipedia says the show aired two years ago)....but as usual, I am late with everything. i apologize for those who have already laid this show to rest.
amongst these clips was one of a fela kuti imitator who shows up to audition in his undies (pants, tighty whities, briefs, what-have-you). i admit, i laughed hysterically at the clip....
however, i found the comments by judge dede mabiaku to be more than aggravating. about 50seconds into the clip, dede asks the contestant if he had ever seen fela on stage dressed similarly. the contestant answers yes - only to be rebutted by dede accusation that he, the contestant - is a liar. dede later goes on to express how the fela's memory is being insulted by this guy's penchant to appear before the camera in his underpants.
well, dede, apparently, you are not aware that imitation is the the best form of flattery. while dede feigns appreciation toward the legend that was fela, he forgets that fela "death is in his pocket"** kuti was known to dress similarly on stage.
many commenters on that youtube clip expressed their outrage at dede's denigration of the poor guy - outrage that is justifiable. but what i find more aggravating is dede's blatant ignorance of a man he claims to worship. a nigerian man dede's age, especially one judging a musical contest should be at least half-way competent enough to know that fela kuti was on different wavelength from the rest of the country in mannerisms, politics, and music. in fact when dede says that the contestant is on some wrong pills, i couldn't help but think of how dede would have responded if the contestant rolled up into the auditions smoking a marijuana joint in keeping with the fela imitation.
in a show about west african music, none of the judges knew fela kuti (or maybe they confused him with someone else - femi, perhaps?). and i have a feeling that alot of nigerians and lovers of nigerian music (me, included) are quick to idolize fela without really knowing what he was about. when people mention great african musicians, fela is one of the first to come to mind. to think otherwise would be blasphemy. in fact, when i was a bit younger, i was absolutely shocked when i found that my father, who's taste in music i respect, expressed his revulsion at fela kuti. initially i found this unforgiveable - but later realised that my dad's preference was an informed one. he did not care much for his politics and found his lifestyle undesirable.
this post is in no way meant to be a bash on fela kuti. rather, i personally wanted ask us why we respect the fela kutis of the world who have long passed on. i cant help but think that if such people lived amongst us today, they would most likely be shunned by many of the likes of dede and i. our idolatry is, at times, misguided.
**learned from a good source....(cough...atupa....cough) that anikulapo means death is in his pocket....most likely an allusion to his HIV/AIDS diagnosis
oh, in regards to the picture above...i do not endorse smoking of any kind - particularly of joints nearly as large as my arm...
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