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Friday, 23 December 2011
I’m Not Extravagant - Femi Anikulapo-Kuti
hree-time Grammys Award nominee, Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, who returned from a musical tour of Europe early this week, spoke about the trip, expectations and other issues
How was your trip?
The trip was great but as you know, there is crisis in Europe. Life is a lot more difficult in Europe now but it went well, we still managed to have a good show. The trip was great.
How did you receive the cheers of your nomination?
I was shocked. Words cannot describe my happiness. I was so happy because it was least expected. I did not believe I will be nominated and I got the news at 6 a.m. on that day when I was at the airport leaving Paris for London and my recording company in America sent a congratulatory message to me. I called to ask why and I was told that I have been nominated for the Grammy. I was dumbfounded and said what a relief? I was very happy.
This is the third time you will be nominated, what are your expectations?
Well, the award is in February. When one is nominated, it’s so hard to start thinking of winning. The first time, I wanted to win badly but after the second time, I now understood the joy of being nominated. The joy of one’s music being appreciated, you know, as a musician, one has to learn various lessons and first of all, I never expected my career to be where it is today. When I started, I just wanted to play good music and when I won the first Kora Award, it was Nigerians that made me realise it’s importance. You know, when people appreciate your music, you will feel great. I wanted to keep on winning awards, but it wasn’t about that, it was about the music. I wanted to maintain the integrity of the music. Integrity is when we are fighting for a good life for the people. I’m fighting that everybody in this continent can have good life. I want to be able to drive my car from Lagos to Johannesburg as I do in America or Europe. I want Nigerians to have everything, there’s no reason for our people to be poor. That is the integrity of the music. Now, if the Grammy appreciated it and nominates the words and power of the music, I am delighted. If I win, well, if not, to God be the glory. So, let me just be enjoying. When you’re fighting and someone says I love what you’re doing and you all know the Grammy is the biggest and most powerful organisation in the world and when they say your work is good and you are nominated out of hundreds of other works, you need to first appreciate that before thinking of winning.
Did you submit your work to the organisers?
No, I think the recording company did that.
What was on your mind when you were recording the album that gave you the nomination?
Remember, the album was recorded here in Lagos at Decca Studio and we had problems with electricity and recording the album was such a difficult task that I could not believe we could produce a work that could be as good as Shokishoki, Day by day; those were technically sound album. See what Shokishoki did; it was so explosive I didn’t even know it could match Wonder Wonder. So, when we got to the studio and my producer went back to France and said the recording was great, I couldn’t believe it when the album came out and we started getting big shows in Europe. All the musical artistes in Europe are saying wow, this is my best work and I’m still enjoying those comments because I never knew it could produce good works under such stress and terrible conditions.
Apart from you, Sunny Ade was nominated from Nigeria. Is it a good omen for Nigerian artistes that only two of you have been nominated so far?
It’s a good omen. You see, I don’t want to talk of Nigeria because I understand that Nigeria is a colonial structure and I’m not fighting for Nigeria alone, I’m fighting for Africa. I’m fighting for good life for humanity. When you see what is going on in the rest of the world, you have to be concerned. When you see millions of children suffering, when you see Sudan, Somalia, even in my area of Lagos State, when you see how people are suffering, you can’t think of Nigeria you have to understand the history of this country. Look, I have gone through many books and I understand that Nigeria is a British colony which I don’t want to be identified with. I want to be identified with my people, my culture, my tradition and so, when I built the Shrine, I decided yo maintain its integrity. We are not doing it for Nigeria, we are doing it for the African man, we are doing it for humanity where the integrity of mankind can be respected. So, if you understand where I’m coming from, you will know that many people will think along the line of colonial structure of Nigeria, but I will want them to see beyond those things I have to understand. If we had to listen and act according to the words of Fela, probably we wouldn’t have problem of electricity in Nigeria. We will be able afford good education for our children. To give your child a quality education in this country now, we are talking of not less than N600,000 in a year at secondary level. Where do people want to get this type of education? That means 90 per cent of our people are going to be uneducated and if you are not computer literate, how do you want to rank or compete with American children in ten years? These are important issues that if we don’t quickly address, we will create problems for our children in future and who is going to look after us when we are old? I’ll be 50 next year and whether we like it or not,we are getting old, so who is going to look after us when are old? When we know pension does not even work or exist in Africa. So, it’s important. I don’t want to say the Grammy is irrelevant, but what I’m fighting for is so important, but for the Grammy to acknowledge it, then the work is good; it brings joy to my fears. I’m not doing this job to be famous, I’ve been doing it for 30 years and have been paying for it because multinationals are not inviting me for their shows and I am not complaining; this will not shake my views, I’ve remained steadfast and everybody knows that.
Then, how do you make money?
I’m not materialistic, I have a bungalow and not a 30-bedroom flat. I have a Shrine that is open to everybody and it is free. I don’t have 20 pairs of shoes, I have two pairs of shoes and still wear my cheap materials. I’m probably one of the cheapest because I don’t buy gold or diamond and even my girlfriends know that and I try to bring to their knowledge that if they are going to be materialistic, our children will suffer, so let’s give our children good education that we can benefit from. I am a very moderate person, I have only one car.
How many concubines?
I don’t have concubines.
In terms of children, you are not moderate?
People are complaining because Femi has six children, but I know people in this country that have 90. I don’t want to call names, even when you go to police barracks, some police men who are not as rich as Femi Anikulapo-Kuti have six and people are still castigating me. They should be careful and respect themselves.