Music And Revolution: A Study Of Fela Anikulapo Kuti

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What is music? Music a general melody   of sounds that unify the mind and soul,not even language differencescan’t  stop music fromreaching out to her selected audience, even before recorded history, people created music, whether through drumming, singing or chanting. Some of our strongest emotions may be brought on by listening to a piece of music. In this modern age, we hear music around us almost all of our waking hours, in one form or another: radio, television or film music and our personal music (iPods, MP3 players, etc.) is with us throughout the day. Most of us listen to recorded music or go to performances regularly, and some of us play a musical instrument. Prior to modern audio recording technology, music was available only in the presence of a musician, or to those who played an instrument or sang. Music varies in genres, pop, rock, R’n’B etc.

A basic definition of music (in the Western World) is the chronological organisation of sounds; that is, making certain sounds at certain times, which make melodic, rhythmic and harmonic sense.The first, most basic concept, is keeping the sounds “in time”. This leads us to some of the first few musical concepts: beat, rhythm and duration.Beat is the regular pulse which provides a `timeline` for the rhythm to anchor itself to.Rhythm is essentially repeated patterns of long or short, stressed or unstressed sounds or silences which fit into the main beat.Duration is the length of notes or sounds or silences which facilitate the rhythm.

Music is also the relationship between sound and silence. Duration and rhythm apply to silence in the same manner as they apply to sound.One way to look at how we perceive music is as horizontal and vertical patterns. We hear melodies as a horizontal pattern. The notes (and silences) are heard one after the other over a period of time.We hear chords (groups of notes played simultaneously) in a vertical pattern. A mixture of one or all of these: melody, rhythm, chords, and silence form musical patterns.Rhythm is the most basic concept of music. In all cultures worldwide, the most simple and basic forms of music are purely rhythms. A rhythm is a pulse; a repetition of sounds in a pattern. Simple rhythms can be recognized straight away.
Tapping rhythmically at a drum constitutes tapping it at timed intervals in a pattern. The most common rhythmic pattern in modern-day Western music is  four-four time. This is where four pulses come one after the other, with thefirst of each four being given emphasis (known as an accent). In music, pitch is used to describe how high or low a note sounds. Anyone would know the difference between a high-pitched scratching of fingernails across a blackboard, and the low, rumbling growl of thunder. When Maria tells the children in The Sound of Music that “the first few notes just happen to be…do re mi”, she was referring to pitch. Using pitch, together with rhythm, we can start to construct melodies.
Without rhythm, notes would just be long, sustained sounds. Without pitch, each sound would be the same (for example, the beating of a single drum).In music, we use the word dynamics to describe how loudly or softly a note is played. Dynamics falls under the wider category of expressive techniques, which are instructions for the performer to play loudly or softly, smoothly or detached, and many other effects.In music, the “color” of a sound being produced is referred to as timbre, or tone colour. Timbre is the difference between the harsh, scratchy sound of an electric guitar with distortion; the glassy, rounded sound of a piano; and the bird-like whispering sound of a flute. All these instruments could play exactly the same note, yet anyone would be able to recognise instantly an electric guitar from a piano from a flute.Recapitulation – Returns to the tonic key and states the main theme and subordinate theme. The subordinate theme is often reworked to stay in the tonic.Coda – Concludes the pieceTexture in music refers to the layering of sounds on top of each other. It describes the depth, nature, and relationship of those layers of sound, or voices. It can describe the vertical and horizontal relationship between the voices. Some common textures are:

Monophonic texture: A melody by itself, without harmony, and without another melody. Forexample, singing in the shower, monks chanting, or a fife and drum corps.Polyphonic texture:Two or more melodies, heard at the same time. For example of singing “Row, row, row your boat” as a round, or a Bach Fugue.Music we all knowentertains, it gives pleasuretohumanity and it expresses ideas and,emotions in significant form through the Elementof rhythm, harmony and colorMusic isfound inevery known culture all over the world in past and present varying widely between times and places most people in the world includingthe tribal groups who has been existing in the ancestral   population   prior to the dispersal of the human race.

Music have been in existence over 55,000 years ago .Music was first invented in Africa and its fundamental consistent has played a major role in human life. Music can also be seen as an influential part of culture andaccess to technology. The motion ad ideas that music expresses the situation which is been played and listened to. The history of music can be viewed from the prehistoric music andBiblicalperiod, the prehistorical music is commonly called the primitive music.

This name is given to all music produced in preliterate cultures. This type of music also is followed by the ancient music mostly in Europe which existed in isolated areas. The origin of music is unknown as it is, occurred prior to the recorded of some scholar’ssuggestions According to Geberth’sGlaindo’s view 2003 clearly state that “Music can change dramatically over a short period”. However music stirs the natural occurrence of sound and rhythmic nature that suit the human mind using,the patterns of repetitionand tonality. Even today some cultures have certain instances that may serve as entertainment to theirsociety.The history of music needs rewriting because the greatest source available has been rejected which is recognizing the creator of the universe (God) as the origin of music.According to the Easton Bible dictionary Jubal was recorded as the inventor of musical instrument also the Bible also indicate that the first man (Adam) knew and practice music.

Considering how existed in the spirit realm, the book of revelation records the lyrics of the Angels shouting and dancing around God’s heavenly throne. Also the bible reveals that God sings (zephaniah3: 17) this clearly stated that God is a lover of music just has human beings love music.Throughout the history of music colorful tones pulsating rhythm and meaningful lyrics have been a catalyst or sound track for movement of change.

A major usage of music is to portray ideas such as in politics, spirituality or philosophical way, but however, it can be used to show the meaning like people expressing their love for loved once, to show boredom and to show creativity. Music can also be used to liven up, it may not have specific idea or meaning but it can be used to make things look better and more complete.  Many people depend on it as it has become relevant source of lively hood.  Music also can be used to voice the plight of the repressed. In America, the sixties saw the coining of the phrase “protest songs” as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and a plethora of author artist were protesting the Vietnam War.  “A hard rain is gonna fall “they said and it did. Woodstock wasn’t far away neither was Jim Hendrix warped rendition of the US national anthem reflecting what he thought of his country then.

Just about the same time, a dilettante John Lennon was singing “Happiness is a warm gun.‘Little did he know that on a cold December night, the warmth of a gun would take his life In the Caribbean,drenched in sun and music, the Jamaican reggae cum Rasta phenomenon propelled Michael Manley to power he was replaced a while but not before Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley had time to spread the “stand up for your right “philosophy(Jean Pierre Cloutier 1987). others include Denver john , luigiNono (   1924-1990)  an  Italian composer , Quaker , Bonnie Ratite who championed social  causes and has worked for victims of political persecution In the American countries , U2 , an Irish rock music band which achieved worldwide popularity during the 1980s and 1990s . The subsequently grew famous for commitment to political causes including prominent support for international human rights.Music also can connect the written word to social rights issues, conveying a message of hope to the society also portrayed as freedom and expression often used to evoke politics and some aspect of the society. It is often used as a form of propaganda and thus can be used to subtly influence popular conception or mood. Lastly music connect people around the world.Another key to the order in music is the music being the same and different. The brain works by looking at different pieces of information and deciding if they are different or the same. This is done in music of the baroque and classical periods by playing a theme and then repeating or changing the theme. Furthermore excessive repetition causes people to lose control of their thought and expression. While rhythmic repetition is used by people who are trying to push ethics in their music (O’Donnell, 1999)


The key to approaching the music of Fela and it change contexts of revolution, circular and consumption reveals the peculiar character of the relationship between art specifically oppositional music and post-colonial African state. Fela‘sAfro beat occupies a pivotal position in Nigeria musical continuum and socio political discourse, throughFela a new medium of social and political criticism was Unearthed for the critical mass of Nigeria in the 1970. Although Nigeria was experiencing what would turn out to been a brief respite of oil boom prosperity after the biter Biafra civil war. Fela used his music to remind the society to be critical and cautions about the military, dictatorship and the impact of neocolonialism on the psyche of the Nigeria people.

In other words fela is seen as an activist all over Africa. A true activist first of all must acknowledge the power of the mind. There is no road to healing;consciousness must be fundamental in the process of doing this he or she realizes that the root cause of the ecological destruction of the world and social injustice are not “out there “but in here”- in our own mind (Andrew 2003) this where the music of fela comes to play, his emotions towards the oppressed and the creation of mental image of societies who were used by their dictators describing them as been constantly responsible for Africa’s woes.

His words, Africa was been ruled not by people, but by comprador classes nations as a whole.In conclusion Fela’s music through his famous songs tittleTeacher as his focus letting people see that the white man knows everything we know but one of the important thing they thought us was politics so he used that to compare the situation of issues we are facing in NigeriaFela’s ideology is a matrix of radical Black Nationalism which opened out to a much expansive Pan Africanism and Afro centrism and a sturdy partisanship for the oppressed lower classes that could be described as socialist in orientation and an irrepressible libertarianism that frequently tries to anchor the articulator of the other two. Fela’s solidarity with the oppressed lower classes was a complete. He lived in their midst, trumpeted their sounds to national attention,experienced their brutalitalization at the hands of official lawlessness and even shared their poverty(Olaniyan, 1977). Recalling for AlbertMemmi‘s notion of class suicide. Olaniyan also offers this aspect of Fela who is not born into the oppressed lower classes as consummate an example of class suicide as we can get to in the world of actual struggle.


The study is designed to embrace revolution tune in the music of Fela and his relation topolitical activism especially in Nigeria. it is also designed to embraced the teachings of Fela’smusic and recognizing FelaAnikulapoKuti as the number one musical icon an activist in Nigeria even when his dead his music lives on.The purpose the of a particular study or research is embed in the intension to resolve a problem.

 1.4           PURPOSE OF STUDY

Consequently the study is aim at;

1.                  Establishing the fact that music is a critical and       essential instrument of change making.

2.      To demonstrate how Fela’s music has been use as instrument of change making in time past.


The research makes use of both primary and secondary sources in order to obtain primary data,research questionnaires were developed personally administered by the researcher to studentsof university of Abuja. Primary data obtained from respondents has been classified into sampling proportions using single percentage. This would allow for easy interpretations and detailed discussion. Data has been presented in tables with descriptions. The sample size will be determined by means of convenience sampling techniqueThe secondary data will be gotten from specifically internet materials, general discussion with people inclusive of class lectures, newspaper and magazines


The significance of any research lies in its contribution to the improvement of life by

way of possessing the potential or application to problems. In doing so, this study

proposes a knowledge and a better understanding of music and its relationship with

literature.  The form of activism proposes intellectual approach (dealing with the brain

andmind) to solving both political and social problem faced in the modern day Nigeria

Most researcher’s topics in the English department would focus on feminism,stylistics,

phoneticsetc. but this research with its new dimension is made in attempt to just know

more about music and the revolutionary tune in the music of Fela and also to impact the

study of revolution or change making in the department of English


2.1                                           LITERATURE REVIEW

Music and its relationship with change making was an area that had attracted attention from a

fewscholars, but in recent times the need becomes inherent has contemporary exposure to

music and change making. The Nigerian music industry has produced and its still producing a lot

of great celebrities that play a major role in the political development of a country portraying

music as a revolution or change makingamongst these musicians includeTu face ldibia with

“for instance or ebi like say “, sound sultan with”jagbanjantis and light up Niger area “Black

face with “hard life”, Eedris with “jagajaga“, AfricanChina with “Mr. president “, p square with”

oga police”. Just to mention a few in the contemporary Nigeria. However it was Olufela

Olusegun OludotunRansomeKuti(laterFelaAnikulapokuti which translate to he who carries

death or he who holds death in his pocket “ that was the symbolic representation of rthymic

opposition as the impact  and importance of felaAnikulapokuti to the global musical village ,

producer, political radical outlaw , which comes to bear with the creation of Afro beat which is

popularize in Africa in the 1970s that came to gain international recognition and its relevance to

change making arises with not just creation of his Afro beat but what its stands for in the

revolutionary  Tune in his music.  Fela’s musical life spanned through the periods of almost four

decades from 1960s through to the 1990s. When he first in the 1960s. His brand of music was

the high life which he performed with other artist in many night clubs in Lagos. Political

activism through music has over the years been a common factor such as rap music in the early

1980’s became highly politicized in the united states. Jaclyn Nardone (2009)  drawing largely

from the works  and life of John Lennon (1940-1980), world renowned musician (former

‘Beatle’ until 1969) and peace activist, asserts that Lennon used his music to fight unjust politics,

promote his opposition to the Vietnam war, and express his love for the human race. As such, He

understood that people could be changed. By changing the system, (the Irish, Russians and

French did it but got them nowhere.) it is the same old game. Thus, Lennon was inspired to adapt

new measures and change people and politics through his music. In other words, moving to

change the system first without changing the people that comprise the society would be a

fruitless endeavor. Music thus come to play the primary role of changing the people from their

minds so further changes to the system could be fruitful. Jaclyn Nardone further asserts that

culture is music, thus politicizing music is a means of arousing political culture.

Paul Buzenski (2008) in his own view asserts that music plays a critical role in the electioneering

process of a country. He supports his points by asserting that musicians such as Bob Dylan, Billy

Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Dixie Chicks, Elton John, Grateful Dead, Madonna, Ne-Yo, The

Decemberists, The Goo-Goo Dolls among a host of others have held concerts, primarily for

Barack Obama, as a way of influencing America. These icons of popular culture can have a

profound influence on potential voters.  An example of this influence was the concert held in

Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen. This Bruce Springsteen’s concert in Philadelphia was to act

as “…a catalyst for the disengaged to register to vote”. Plenty of people heard the call and

according to the Obama campaign, some 21,000 new voters were registered as a result of the

event. This also helped Clinton to win his presidency by mobilizing the young people. Likewise,

in 2008, Rock Activists such as Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen held concerts to support and

gather votes for the candidates and they registered almost 2.3 million young people who by and

large support Obama and probably facilitated Obama’s victory over McCain. The outcome of

this election was heavily influenced by a process of political Activism through music which have

a potent effect on the political processes of The United States of America.

This is also evident in the Nigerian political system as evident in songs used as political jingles

and musicians playing an important role during political campaigns

Austin ‘MaroEmielu  (2008) asserts that political activism through music is most evident in the

role music plays in youth empowerment. He supports this assertion on the basis that “a

professionalized music industry will midwife institutionalization of  specialized sectors, which

will become the engine for growth, development and empowerment for youths with interest in

the  music industry”. Drawing examples from Nigeria, he lays emphasis on the importance of the

Nigerian music industry which if fully tapped into, can replace crude oil as the mainstay of

Nigeria’s economy. He  further asserts that “popular music can be used as a veritable instrument

for ideological change and mass re-orientation. Popular music can also be put to a variety of

uses, in product advertisement, promoting government programs and policies and also in

becoming a social voice for the ‘voiceless’, oppressed and deprived masses as we can find in the

case of Fela’s Afro-Beat. Finally, the massive entry of the feminine folk into popular music in

contemporary times represent another form of women empowerment which has been a major

pre-occupation of women and feminist activist in government, the academia and other women

rights organization in recent history”.

Barrer, (2009) opines that rap’s improvement in the society are peculiar and notable. He studied

how rap improved the social conditions of the people in Slovak. Giving  illustrations on how rap

provides a vector of advantaged admission to discourses within Slovak society. Aside from that

his essay also demonstrates an approach into how a global music phrase has been accustomed

and re-modeled with local meanings. “A key part of rap’s appeal and capacity to provoke

audiences lies in its lyrical content, which  aggressively counters official standards in language

and the thematic norms of other styles of contemporary popular music.”

Alex Ross (1995) places his argument on the role of composers in the society. He believes that

the morale is that the composers who begin with writing for the man on the street often end up

writing for an elite audience drawing examples from Feldman a German musician and political

activist who later started singing solidarity melodies to the elites. That is musicians could first

accept to use their music for political activism but after a while, they divert solidarity melodies to

the elites for economical, political or social gains. However, tobioshodi (2010) tends to

contradict this view in his analysis of Nigeria that “there is a movement from the hitherto largely

musical silence or solidarity of musicians in the First era (1960-1979) towards rhythmic

opposition in the current era” with his thesis that the military regimes in Nigeria played a role in

limiting freedom of speech as such, limiting political activism through music.

However, in the late 1960s to 1970s he went to the United States where he came in contact

with the black panthers and the ideas of Malcom X and co. by the time he came back his

musical orientation had started to have pan Africanist context.

In the vein of his political activity, his parent had an effect in shaping his political outlook later

in life. His father late Rev RansomeKuti was the acknowledged first Nigerian union of teachers

while his mother was a renounced women’s right activist, who once led the protest of Egba

women against excessive taxation by the British colonialist.

Fela’sMusic and change making also has played an important role in which has raised eyes

browse through the music of FelaAnikulapo. The aspect of political activism that comes to the

lime light with impact on music.

As political issues begin to seep into the lives of people and also need to be changing to

altercate to this shift in culture.

Revolution through change making has over the years been a common factors drawing from

the works and life of  Fela , the legendary musician of Africa .since 1990 there have been

revitalization of Fela’s influence on music and popular culture culminating in another release of

hiscatalog controlled by universal music , Broadway and off Broadway biographically basically

shows and new bands such as Antibalas who carry the Afro beat banner to a new generations

of listeners .Felas focus was to change the mindset of the masses through his music by exposing

the corrupt leaders who claim to have the interest of the nations at hand rather  for their selfish

desires .

However music have come to play an important role in the lives of people around the world

changing people from their mind to further changes around them. This is where the change

making came into existence in Fela’s music.  In the United States Jaclyn Nardone 2009 was a

renowned musicians (former Beatle) and peace activist, he used his music to fight unjust

politics, promote his opposition to the VietnamWar and also express his love for human race.

As such he understood that people could be changed by changing the system. He shared the

same view with Fela who suffers brutality for the sake of the masses in other to stand up for

the truth through his music. The musical style performed by Fela is called afro beat which is

essentially a fusion of jazz,funk, psychedelic rock, and traditional West African chants and

rhythms. As lwediOjinmah points out in his article “baba is dead – long live baba “. Afro Beat

also borrows heavily from the native “tinker pan “African – style percussion that fela acquired

while studying in Ghana with Hugh Masaketa, under the uncanny hedzoleh sounds. Afro beat is

also characterized by having vocals and musical structure along with jazzy, funky horn sections.

The endless groove is also used in which a base rhythm of drums, shekere, muted gutter and

bass guitar are repeated throughout the songs.

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