The fabled Fela shrine embodies more than just a physical location. It is the birthplace of Afrobeat as we know it today. The idea of the Kalakuta shrine was to create a place where Fela and his band could commune, record and perform. It was dubbed "shrine" because he was known to pay homage to the ancestors before performances and events. He had and still has a massive fan base, predominantly the masses, because they bore the brunt of the issues he spoke about. It was unheard of for majority of people to speak up against an often tyrannical government and Fela was their voice.
Some things you might not have known about Fela. He:
married 27 women in one day
publicly smoked marijuana despite the threat of prison
declared Kalakuta an independent state
was often beaten up and imprisoned
attempted to run for presidency and register his political party, MOP (Movement of the People), but was thwarted by the government because he wanted to cause an uprising.
his mother was killed by soldiers who dropped her out of an upstairs window
Over the decades the location of (the Africa) shrine has moved around because of how much of a bother to the Nigerian Government Fela was, with other locations being raided and burnt down. It is presently at 1 Nerdc Road Agindigbi, Ikeja, Lagos
Upon entering the structure, you are greeted with a lot of different signs, posters, pictures and famous Fela quotes. It becomes clear to you immediately that there is a lot going on in this space. There were food stalls (suya, peppered meats, fries, pepper-soup, rice, etc), merchandise stalls (Fela shirts, vape pens, and other collectibles) and smoke shops (cigarettes and other smokables). You walk in a bit more and then you see this huge open air entertainment centre (2 floors) with a massive, well-lit stage in front.
The message is quite clear - This is a place where all kinds of people can eat and drink whatever they want while listening to amazing music
A United Africa.
In front of the seating area is a massive dance floor and it was fun to notice it fill up more and more as visitors progressively got intoxicated (by the music).
Femi Kuti, like his father, has made commitments to social and political causes throughout his career and he and his dancers entertained us for "a minimum of 3 hours of music, NONSTOP 🥁". You will get this reference when you see the show. He rehearses on Thursdays (Free entry) between 7 & 11pm and performs on Sundays (N500/$1.40) same time. They have a DJ playing music basically everyday that Femi and his crew are not on stage. Given the massive shoes that Fela left to fill, Femi has decided to create his own shoes and has excelled at that. He set a Guinness World Record for longest time holding a single note on a saxophone at 51 minutes and 35 seconds.
Prices aren't bad here, there is decent competition so this moderates that. A regular meal (Roast Turkey with a side of Fries) might cost you about N2,000/$5.60 and I have posted a picture of their drinks menu below.
NB: Its best to bring cash with you.
Due to the fact that all manners of people come to shrine, you might get a slight sense of insecurity but you really have nothing to worry about. They have a good number of "shrine police" to regulate unruly behaviour and you just need to be mindful of your small belongings (bags, wallets and phones). Its interesting to note that the area becomes a big street-side bar at night, with vendors setting up plastic chairs and tables for their guests.
Felabration is an annual music festival that was started in 1998 in the celebration of the life of Mr Fela Anikulapo Kuti. It takes place from the 14th to the 20th of October and attracts visitors from all over the world. The event features musical performances from Nigerian and foreign artists, guest appearances from internationally acclaimed personalities, parades, photo exhibitions and debates. Definitely seems worth checking out!
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