Not World Music: Fela Kuti Immortalized in Alex Gibney's Upcoming Documentary 'Finding Fela' and Finds Mainstream Success
Fela Kuti seems to be on the upend of a resurgence, his name seemingly popping up everywhere recently. With a play, Fela!, under his belt, the late-artist has been cited as an influence to many mainstream successes, including Jay Z and Vampire Weekend.
And still, he continues to be brought out to the forefront some 17 years after his death.
The upcoming documentary, Finding Fela, directed by Alex Gibney, paints "The Black President" in a very progressive light. Being compared to Bob Marley (or even, more boldly, Nelson Mandela) his outspokenness to African injustice marked him a musical prophet as well as a visionary.
He even turned down Paul McCartney's invitation to be on Band on the Run, the top-selling album in 1973, because he felt that the "white man" had again come to steal his music. He felt similar anxieties when trying to sign record deals with Western companies (like trying to sign with Motown but having to consult his voodoo doctor Professor Hindu and other spirits before signing).
He may have been very calculated in how he approached Western society (seeming to be very provocative for precise reasons) but his music had large overtones of revolution, in a music sense.
Certainly not irreproachable, his lifestyle may have perpetuated the AIDS epidemic, his inability to reach mainstream success has probably kept him in obscurity for the last few years. But now, he's coming back with the same incendiary force.
And at the very least, as Peter Culshaw over at Noisey writes, don't call him "world music."
Keep an eye out for his upcoming feature (Finding Fela) and get down with some serious tunes in the meantime. Even Brian Eno thought he was "the music of the future."