Fela Kuti is a legend.
The inventor of Afrobeat has a life story that is unimaginable. He rose to fame in Nigeria only to be harassed and harmed by the government for his subversive songs. His mother was killed at the hands of the military. Unimaginable.
Yet, his family continues to thrive in music despite the fact that many in power wish the Kuti name to vanish.
For a family to have such solid branches means the roots, too, must be sound. So, in Kuti’s case, what does that mean? What did the big thinker have to say about music, his craft, his life, and love?
That’s the subject of this inquiry here today. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the best 17 quotes from Fela Kuti.
1. “The human spirit is stronger than any government or institution.”
2. “A police uniform is just a piece of clothing sewn by the same tailors who sew your clothes.”
3. “When you start to think of revenge, you start to think of hate. I don’t believe in hating people. It’s a retrogressive thing.”
4. “When I was young we weren’t even allowed to speak our own languages in school. They called it ‘vernacular,’ as if only English was the real tongue.”
5. “Spiritually speaking, every human being has a destiny and a duty to perform.”
6. “The African mind has a lot to contribute, not only to world understanding of the arts but to an understanding of spiritualism. That is the contribution Africa will make to the world of the future—an injection of sanity into the environment of the universe itself.”
7. “I realized that you cannot think European and want to write or create something African. You have to think African in everything.”
8. “It is a false belief to think you can own somebody, I’m out of that now. The man should understand he does not own the woman, and the woman should understand she does not own the man.”
9. “Music must awaken people to do their duty as citizens and act.”
10. “I’ve studied my culture deeply and I’m very aware of my tradition.”
11. “In America we talk about South Africa, but I tell people that apartheid is nothing compared to what is happening in my country where black oppresses black.”
12. “I believe in pan-Africanism. This means that in many things – the judiciary, sports, economics, and trade—we want Africanism to be involved, which is basically more freedom for the people.”
13. “I’ve suffered quite a lot, to the point where I’ve experienced death. Years before I wasn’t fit to die, but I understand life better now. Death is nice, death is beauty.”
14. “The rhythm, the sounds, the tonality, the chord sequences, the individual effect of each instrument and each section of the band—I’m talking about a whole continent in my music.”
15. “Art itself is knowledge of the spiritual world. Art is information from higher forces, by those who are talented. I’m not jiving.”
16. “Jazz was the beginning of rhythm music, which developed into rock and roll. But what the jazz musicians lost because they were so far from their homeland was the intricate rhythms of African music.”
17. “I would never run away from my country. Even at the point of death, I doubt I would move out, because what is the point of leaving your own country?”