Fela Anikulapo Kuti (15 October 1938 – 2 August 1997), also professionally known as Fela Kuti, or simply Fela, was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre and human rights activist.
At the height of his popularity, he was referred to as one of Africa’s most “challenging and charismatic music performers.
The musical style of Fela is called Afrobeat, a style he largely created, which is a complex fusion of jazz, funk, Ghanaian/Nigerian highlife, psychedelic rock and traditional West African chants and rhythms.
Afrobeat also borrows heavily from the native “tinker pan”. Tony Allen (Fela’s drummer of twenty years) was instrumental in the creation of Afrobeat. Fela once stated that “without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat”.
Afrobeat is characterized by a fairly large band with many instruments, vocals and a musical structure featuring jazzy, funky horn sections.
A riff-based “endless groove” is used, in which a base rhythm of drums, shekere, muted West African-style guitar and melodic bass guitar riffs are repeated throughout the song.
Commonly, interlocking melodic riffs and rhythms are introduced one by one, building the groove bit-by-bit and layer-by-layer.
The horn section then becomes prominent, introducing other riffs and main melodic themes.