By the age of eight, he began playing the piano and organ. He became his school's pianist, playing at morning assemblies. As a young teen, he played in a band called Cool Cats. His rebellious side was also beginning to emerge; at age sixteen he formed a club called 'The Planless Society', with just seven members. Its sole aim was to violate all school rules. Fela also edited the journal of the club; 'The Planless Times Publication'. This was swiftly banned by the school authorities.
His political side was nurtured by his activist mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. She was a key figure in the nationalist struggle, and took Fela to political rallies. When Fela was 18, she introduced him to Kwame Nkrumah, a meeting Fela recalls as having 'changed his life'.
In 1958, at the age of nineteen, Fela went to
By 1961, he had met and married his first wife Remi Taylor and by 1963, he was back in
A brief stint in the
Fela’s affection for polygamy, condom-free sex, his advocacy of marijuana use and his penchant for performing in only his underwear provided the Nigerian government with the opportunity to repeatedly harass him, with the hope of suppressing his vocal political protests. Fela was arrested numerous times, mostly on unfounded charges, and was imprisoned four times.
"It is very important for a man to marry many women because a man goes for many women in the first place. Like in Europe,when a man is married he goes out when the wife is sleeping...he should bring the women to the house to live with him, and stop running around the streets. That is what a man is supposed to do...a man is not supposed to run around the streets after women...women should be in his home."
The year 1997 marked the beginning of the end for Fela. He played his last public paying show in March at the
One of his defining characteristics was his view on death. He told biographer Carlos Moore: "Death doesn't worry me man. When my mother died it was because she finished her time on earth. I know that when I die I'll see her again, so how can I fear death? . . . So what is this **** world about? . . . I believe there is a plan . . . I believe there is no accident in our lives. What I am experiencing today completely vindicates the African religions. . . I will do my part . . . then I'll just go, man. . . Just go!"
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