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Part 24 - Ghariokwu Lemi: Fela Kuti And Me

Chris May By

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"To do this sleeve I was actually invited, or summoned, in an official letter from Fela's younger brother, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti. Beko had taken over the management of Fela's business when Fela was in jail. I learnt that it was imperative that I have the cover art ready within two weeks. I delivered right on time—and it was momentous. That sleeve was acclaimed by all, and I felt a sense of fulfilment and vindication. Once again, I was on the Kalakuta team, back on the block, solid as a rock, or so I thought.

"Then came another command to go see Beko at Kalakuta. As soon as I walked into his office, I spotted my artwork. It still hadn't gone to the printers. According to Beko, a meeting had decided that then Head of State, President Ibrahim Babangida, should be added to the rogue's gallery on the sleeve—a direct provocation that asked for trouble, very much in the style of Fela. Cleverly, I replied that unless Babangida was mentioned in the lyrics, I saw no reason to include him in my illustration. Dr. Beko pondered a moment, shook my hand and agreed. 'I think that is reasonable,' he said, looking at me as though in admiration of my political savvy, and I grinned as I walked out of his office with a light gait."

Photo Credit

Photos: Courtesy of Ghariokwu Lemi.

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