Fela was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti on 15th October 1938 in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria, to a middle-class family. His mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement and his father, Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, a Protestant minister and school Principal, was the first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers.
While studying in London, he formed the band Koola Lobitos and created the Afro Beat. Afro beat is a fusion of jazz, funk, highlife and traditional Yoruba chants and rhythms. . His marriage to his wife Remi was in 1961. Fela reformed his Koola Lobitos when he came back to Nigeria and took them to the United States. There he renamed them Nigeria ’70 soon after he renamed again to Africa ’70 and returned to Nigeria.
He formed the Kalakuta Republic and declared it Independent from the state of Nigeria. He set up a night club (Afrika shrine) where he performed regularly. Femi changed his middle name from Ransome to Anikulapo (He who carries death in his pouch).
In 1974 the police arrived with a search warrant and a cannabis joint, which they had intended to plant on Fela. He became wise to this and swallowed the joint. In response, the police took him into custody and waited to examine his feces. Fela enlisted the help of his prison mates and gave the police someone else’s feces, and Fela was freed. He then recounted this tale in his release Expensive Shit (now released together with “He Miss Road” as Expensive Shit/He Miss Road).
A new Africa Shrine has opened since Fela’s death in a different section of Lagos under the supervision of his son Femi Kuti.
MTV Africa Music Legend Award -2008
Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical-2009
On 3 August 1997, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, already a prominent AIDS activist and former Minister of Health, announced his younger brother’s death a day earlier from complications related to AIDS. However, there has been no definitive proof that Kuti died from complications related to HIV/AIDS, and much skepticism surrounds this alleged cause of death and the sources that have popularized this claim. More than one million people attended Fela’s funeral at the site of the old Shrine compound.