Shrine: “a place regarded as holy because of its associations with a divinity or a sacred person or relic, typically marked by a building or other construction”
I get asked a lot about where my name is derived from and usually people assume I was named after Fela’s son — Femi Kuti. I wasn’t. However, being associated with a name like Fela Kuti is always a great feeling. In my opinion there is no greater rebel in the history of music than Fela Kuti. Through his music, interviews and lifestyle, he defied the traditional and cultural norms of his time. I remember first hearing about his music as a young boy, which was met with negative propaganda against him. When I got older, I found a bunch of CDs with his music and I would play it on the weekends and I learned about social justice, politics, music and life. I loved what I was learning to and Fela became one of my heroes. One of the symbols of the Fela era was his Shrine, located in Lagos City. I wanted to know more about what happened in The Shrine, so I reached out to find out more from someone with first-hand experience of the time period, who also attended The Shrine.
I attended The Shrine during my university years primarily because I was in the boarding house and a lot of peer pressure. Fela was anti-establishment and against the status-quo. He broke every rule you can imagine including setting up his own government within his compound called Kalakuta. As a student we all gravitated to him because he was an educated man but he would speak how he wanted. Piegon English specifically. He did not care what you had to say about him and he embraced all aspects of being Nigerian. One memory is when he purchased a station wagon; at the time cars like this were used to put people into different classes. He purchased it and loaded firewood on top of the cars then wrote “Molue” on the back of the car. When I attended The Shrine, I remember it being very structured in a non-conformist way. There would be smoking of Indian hemp and weed in the place but Fela would never allow it to get out of control. There was no fighting or anything of sort in the place. However, I attended only a few times because I had the fear of authority as a student. If they were to recreate The Shrine as a cultural spot in the city, I think it should be established at the original place in Moshalashi. He moved it from Kalakuta compound after the raid by the government, which resulted in burning down the house. The impression of Fela on me is someone that is well read, expressed freely and many of the things he spoke of in his music at the time are now being manifested in the country.
As remembered by a Nigerian currently residing in Lagos State.
Originally published at www.36-states.com on February 24, 2016.