Boluwatife Adedugbe was a show-stopper that no one saw coming. With her Erica Badu-styled head wrap, she moved majestically to the fully-lit Felabration stage which had paraded on its last day headliners such as May D, Bella Schmurda, Kayefi, Femi and Seun Anikulapo-Kuti, Made Kuti, Kafi the dancer who accompanied the Koko master, D’Banj in his two-hour long performance.
But Adedugbe wasn’t there to sing. She is the brand manager for Rite Foods Ltd, one of the sponsors of Felabration. Her poetic lines to eulogise the Afrobeat pioneer, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti also set the mood for what was coming next. She held the centre stage down like a true performer as she presented the Fearless post-humous Award, by Fearless Energy drink, from the stable of Rite foods to the late Afrobeat King. It was received by Fela’s eldest child, Yeni Anikulapo-Kuti and her younger brother Kunle Anikulapo-Kuti, during the grand finale of the 2021 edition of Felabration at the famous African Shrine in Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos.
The Fela’s posthumous award by Fearless Energy drink is hinged on the story of courage through the life and times of the legendary musician. The brand seeks to celebrate people of uncommon courage people in all spheres, and Fela has been acknowledged as a most fearless man, in ideology, performance as well as leadership and continues to influence generations long after his death in 1997.
Felabration has institutionalised the celebration of Fela across the world and in Lagos where it all started, more clusters of the seven-day concert had emerged: one at Broad Street (Freedom Park), another in Lekki (various venues) and a new one at Victoria Island. The Afrikan Shrine still remains the most energetic venue where the street credibility of individual artist is tested. As usual, many wannabe singers flooded the Afrikan Shrine, defying the heavy downpour to watch and perform their songs. A handful of them experimented with remixes to Fela’s popular classics such as “Zombie” and “Lady” using other genres to accentuate the beauty of the Afrobeat originals.
But the sound seems to be better at other venues where there is less crowd. A case in point is Kayefi who struggled to be heard while performing the “Ghetto” song at the shrine. She had performed the same song on the previous night at Freedom Park during the Amazons; Night of Felabration to a rapturous applause. But at the grand finale, her beautiful voice was masked by the sound of vuvuzela and the DJ who was acting as the self-appointed gatekeeper on the stage. The Afrikan Shrine is more than just a concert venue during Felabration. It is a cultural picnic where food and craft vendors blend with audience and foreign visitors reconnect with old friends and associates. Just adjacent to the main stage, one would find a massive photography flat screen projector where pictures are edited using the various Felabration templates as background. And the puffs kept wafting through the air as though paying homage to the legend himself.
Arguably, the best performance of the night is Femi Anikulapo-Kuti- a two-time Grammy Award nominee who gave a good account of his name and legacy in music. Expectedly, his show was well-timed, well-paced as the whole ensemble reflected class and professionalism. Reeling out hits like “Wonder Wonder”, “Dem Bobo”, “Truth Don Die” and “Sorry Sorry O”, he finished off with the signature double black power fist salute which was replicated across the venue irrespectively of the seating area.
At a time when many of Nigerian leading music stars are touring the world, music fans in Nigeria were left in anticipation of the surprise package that the seven-day concert would offer on its grand finale. Fearless did that honour to Fela and that was the true vibe of the Felabration.
In retrospect, Fela fearlessly composed songs like “Suffering and Smiling”, “Sorrow”, “Tears and Blood”, and “Unknown Soldier” as a form of political resistance against oppressive and dictatorial rule. Songs such as “Colonial Mentality”, “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense” and “Mr. Follow Follow”, among others were also composed to propagate his Pan-African identity while rejecting the harmful effect of post-colonial influences in Africa. Through his music, he created a cultural crossroad that other parts of the world could connect with, against tyranny, for a better society.
Against this backdrop, the Managing Director of Rite Foods, Seleem Adegunwa, remarked that Fela deserves such honour for the impact he made in music, having fought a good cause for the people through his songs. Fela, according to him, resonates with Fearless brand’s drive for positive energy, courage, leadership and can-do spirit.