Music and Revolution: A Study of Fela Anikulapo Kuti

Music and Revolution: A Study of Fela Anikulapo Kuti



What is music? Music a general melody of sounds that unify the mind and soul, not even language differences can’t stop music from reaching out to her selected audience, even before recorded history, people created music, whether through drumming, singing or chanting. Some of our strongest emotions may be brought on by listening to a piece of music. In this modern age, we hear music around us almost all of our waking hours, in one form or another: radio, television or film music and our personal music (iPods, MP3 players, etc.) is with us throughout the day. Most of us listen to recorded music or go to performances regularly, and some of us play a musical instrument. Prior to modern audio recording technology, music was available only in the presence of a musician, or to those who played an instrument or sang. Music varies in genres, pop, rock, R’n’B etc.

A basic definition of music (in the Western World) is the chronological organisation of sounds; that is, making certain sounds at certain times, which make melodic, rhythmic and harmonic sense.The first, most basic concept, is keeping the sounds “in time”. This leads us to some of the first few musical concepts: beat, rhythm and duration .Beat is the regular pulse which provides a `timeline` for the rhythm to anchor itself to. Rhythm is essentially repeated patterns of long or short, stressed or unstressed sounds or silences which fit into the main beat. Duration is the length of notes or sounds or silences which facilitate the rhythm.

Music is also the relationship between sound and silence. Duration and rhythm apply to silence in the same manner as they apply to sound. One way to look at how we perceive music is as horizontal and vertical patterns. We hear melodies as a horizontal pattern. The notes (and silences) are heard one after the other over a period of time. We hear chords (groups of notes played simultaneously) in a vertical pattern. A mixture of one or all of these: melody, rhythm, chords, and silence form musical patterns. Rhythm is the most basic concept of music. In all cultures worldwide, the most simple and basic forms of music are purely rhythms. A rhythm is a pulse; a repetition of sounds in a pattern. Simple rhythms can be recognized straight away. Tapping rhythmically at a drum constitutes tapping it at timed intervals in a pattern. The most common rhythmic pattern in modern-day Western music is four-four time. This is where four pulses come one after the other, with the first of each four being given emphasis (known as an accent). In music, pitch is used to describe how high or low a note sounds. Anyone would know the difference between a high-pitched scratching of fingernails across a blackboard, and the low, rumbling growl of thunder. When Maria tells the children in The Sound of Music that “the first few notes just happen to be…do re mi”, she was referring to pitch. Using pitch, together with rhythm, we can start to construct melodies. Without rhythm, notes would just be long, sustained sounds. Without pitch, each sound would be the same (for example, the beating of a single drum).In music, we use the word dynamics to describe how loudly or softly a note is played. Dynamics falls under the wider category of expressive techniques, which are instructions for the performer to play loudly or softly, smoothly or detached, and many other effects. In music, the “color” of a sound being produced is referred to as timbre, or tone colour. Timbre is the difference between the harsh, scratchy sound of an electric guitar with distortion; the glassy, rounded sound of a piano; and the bird-like whispering sound of a flute. All these instruments could play exactly the same note, yet anyone would be able to recognise instantly an electric guitar from a piano from a flute. Recapitulation – Returns to the tonic key and states the main theme and subordinate theme. The subordinate theme is often reworked to stay in the tonic. Coda – Concludes the piece Texture in music refers to the layering of sounds on top of each other. It describes the depth, nature, and relationship of those layers of sound, or voices. It can describe the vertical and horizontal relationship between the voices. Some common textures are:

Monophonic texture: A melody by itself, without harmony, and without another melody. Forexample, singing in the shower, monks chanting, or a fife and drum corps. Polyphonic texture: Two or more melodies, heard at the same time. For example of singing “Row, row, row your boat” as a round, or a Bach Fugue.Music we all know entertains, it gives pleasure to humanity and it expresses ideas and, emotions in significant form through the Element of rhythm, harmony and color Music is found in every known culture all over the world in past and present varying widely between times and places most people in the world including the tribal groups who has been existing in the ancestral   population   prior to the dispersal of the human race. Music have been in existence over 55,000 years ago .Music was first invented in Africa and its fundamental consistent has played a major role in human life. Music can also be seen as an influential part of culture and access to technology. The motion ad ideas that music expresses the situation which is been played and listened to. The history of music can be viewed from the prehistoric music and Biblical period, the prehistorical music is commonly called the primitive music. This name is given to all music produced in preliterate cultures. This type of music also is followed by the ancient music mostly in Europe which existed in isolated areas. The origin of music is unknown as it is, occurred prior to the recorded of some scholar’s suggestions According to Geberth’s Glaindo’s view 2003 clearly state that “Music can change dramatically over a short period”. However music stirs the natural occurrence of sound and rhythmic nature that suit the human mind using, the patterns of repetition and tonality. Even today some cultures have certain instances that may serve as entertainment to their society. The history of music needs rewriting because the greatest source available has been rejected which is recognizing the creator of the universe (God) as the origin of music. According to the Easton Bible dictionary Jubal was recorded as the inventor of musical instrument also the Bible also indicate that the first man (Adam) knew and practice music. Considering how existed in the spirit realm, the book of revelation records the lyrics of the Angels shouting and dancing around God’s heavenly throne. Also the bible reveals that God sings (zephaniah3: 17) this clearly stated that God is a lover of music just has human beings love music. Throughout the history of music colorful tones pulsating rhythm and meaningful lyrics have been a catalyst or sound track for movement of change. A major usage of music is to portray ideas such as in politics, spirituality or philosophical way, but however, it can be used to show the meaning like people expressing their love for loved once, to show boredom and to show creativity. Music can also be used to liven up, it may not have specific idea or meaning but it can be used to make things look better and more complete. Many people depend on it as it has become relevant source of lively hood. Music also can be used to voice the plight of the repressed. In America, the sixties saw the coining of the phrase “protest songs” as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and a plethora of author artist were protesting the Vietnam War. “A hard rain is gonna fall “they said and it did. Woodstock wasn’t far away neither was Jim Hendrix warped rendition of the US national anthem reflecting what he thought of his country then. Just about the same time, a dilettante John Lennon was singing “Happiness is a warm gun. ‘Little did he know that on a cold December night, the warmth of a gun would take his life In the Caribbean, drenched in sun and music, the Jamaican reggae cum Rasta phenomenon propelled Michael Manley to power he was replaced a while but not before Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley had time to spread the “stand up for your right “philosophy(Jean Pierre Cloutier 1987). others include Denver john , luigi Nono (   1924-1990) an Italian composer , Quaker , Bonnie Ratite who championed social causes and has worked for victims of political persecution In the American countries , U2 , an Irish rock music band which achieved worldwide popularity during the 1980s and 1990s . The subsequently grew famous for commitment to political causes including prominent support for international human rights. Music also can connect the written word to social rights issues, conveying a message of hope to the society also portrayed as freedom and expression often used to evoke politics and some aspect of the society. It is often used as a form of propaganda and thus can be used to subtly influence popular conception or mood. Lastly music connect people around the world. Another key to the order in music is the music being the same and different. The brain works by looking at different pieces of information and deciding if they are different or the same. This is done in music of the baroque and classical periods by playing a theme and then repeating or changing the theme. Furthermore excessive repetition causes people to lose control of their thought and expression. While rhythmic repetition is used by people who are trying to push ethics in their music (O’Donnell, 1999)


The key to approaching the music of Fela and it change contexts of revolution, circular and consumption reveals the peculiar character of the relationship between art specifically oppositional music and post-colonial African state. Fela‘s Afro beat occupies a pivotal position in Nigeria musical continuum and socio political discourse, through Fela a new medium of social and political criticism was Unearthed for the critical mass of Nigeria in the 1970. Although Nigeria was experiencing what would turn out to been a brief respite of oil boom prosperity after the biter Biafra civil war. Fela used his music to remind the society to be critical and cautions about the military, dictatorship and the impact of neocolonialism on the psyche of the Nigeria people. In other words fela is seen as an activist all over Africa. A true activist first of all must acknowledge the power of the mind. There is no road to healing; consciousness must be fundamental in the process of doing this he or she realizes that the root cause of the ecological destruction of the world and social injustice are not “out there “but in here”- in our own mind (Andrew 2003) this where the music of fela comes to play, his emotions towards the oppressed and the creation of mental image of societies who were used by their dictators describing them as been constantly responsible for Africa’s woes. His words, Africa was been ruled not by people, but by comprador classes nations as a whole. In conclusion Fela’s music through his famous songs tittle Teacher as his focus letting people see that the white man knows everything we know but one of the important thing they thought us was politics so he used that to compare the situation of issues we are facing in Nigeria Fela’s ideology is a matrix of radical Black Nationalism which opened out to a much expansive Pan Africanism and Afro centrism and a sturdy partisanship for the oppressed lower classes that could be described as socialist in orientation and an irrepressible libertarianism that frequently tries to anchor the articulator of the other two. Fela’s solidarity with the oppressed lower classes was a complete. He lived in their midst, trumpeted their sounds to national attention, experienced their brutalitalization at the hands of official lawlessness and even shared their poverty (Olaniyan, 1977). Recalling for Albert Memmi‘s notion of class suicide. Olaniyan also offers this aspect of Fela who is not born into the oppressed lower classes as consummate an example of class suicide as we can get to in the world of actual struggle.


The study is designed to embrace revolution tune in the music of Fela and his relation to political activism especially in Nigeria. it is also designed to embraced the teachings of Fela’s music and recognizing Fela Anikulapo Kuti as the number one musical icon an activist in Nigeria even when his dead his music lives on. The purpose the of a particular study or research is embed in the intention to resolve a problem.


Consequently the study is aim at;

  1. Establishing the fact that music is a critical and essential instrument of change making.
  2. To demonstrate how Fela’s music has been use as instrument of change making in time past.


The research makes use of both primary and secondary sources in order to obtain primary data, research questionnaires were developed personally administered by the researcher to students of university of Abuja. Primary data obtained from respondents has been classified into sampling proportions using single percentage. This would allow for easy interpretations and detailed discussion. Data has been presented in tables with descriptions. The sample size will be determined by means of convenience sampling technique The secondary data will be gotten from specifically internet materials, general discussion with people inclusive of class lectures, newspaper and magazines


The significance of any research lies in its contribution to the improvement of life by way of possessing the potential or application to problems. In doing so, this study proposes a knowledge and a better understanding of music and its relationship with literature. The form of activism proposes intellectual approach (dealing with the brain and mind) to solving both political and social problem faced in the modern day Nigeria Most researcher’s topics in the English department would focus on feminism, stylistics, phonetics etc. but this research with its new dimension is made in attempt to just know more about music and the revolutionary tune in the music of Fela and also to impact the study of revolution or change making in the department of English

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