Tag Archives: Africa

How I shot Fela Anikulapo-Kuti


In my youth sometime around 1990, I heard that the great Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and his mythical, Egypt 80 band was coming to Paris where I lived at the time. I purchased a ticket and decided right there and then to shoot the show. It was 1990, hip-hop was in it’s golden era, baggie jeans and all. I could not get a press pass from my usual connect and needed to shoot the show. My gear then was a Nikon FM2 with a series of lenses (Ilford HP5 Plus film). I decided on a 50mm prime lens and headed out, when I got out of the Metro station I put the camera in my briefs and walked up to the concert hall looking confident and metallically endowed. The bouncer padded me down.


I saw him look at my privates with envy, “don’t even think about it..”, he gave me the nod and I went in, for once being black played in my favour (I got the benefit of the doubt). Scoping the zone in front of the stage for the best position, I chose a spot that gave me a clear line of sight on the stage but kept me from the bouncer’s eyes.

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The concert started, I pulled out my camera. Seun Kuti who must have been seven or eight at the time, took to the stage. He opened for his dad. The master came on and started his yabbies… someone yelled out, “Zombie!”, another, “Roforofo”.. The master smiled…”go and buy the record”…


The master was in majestic form, “Just like that”, “Movement of The People Political Statement Number 1″, “Big Blind Country”, and maybe “Condom, Scallywag and Scatter”…one after the other, symphonies of percussion, woodwind, guitars and horns. An onslaught of sound, bassline you could hang your clothes on, an invitation to dance…


Hugh Masekela wrote a song titled Fela, “If you ever go to Lagos Nigeria and you wanna go dancing go and see Fela..”

Dancing in the mind of a master composer. Prophecies and resistance, stance and swag, swagger never stagger… never relent..


The orchestra was majestic and epic and the king was regal, taking time out to monologue about the barbaric system that governed us and why we should never relent… and never allow them to dictate who we were.. they are not us and we are not them…

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