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An Immersive Exhibition Opening at the Paris Philharmonic on Afrobeat Legend Fela Kuti

“Instead of picking up a gun, music was the only tool he had. It was a weapon to use against authority, against colonisation and corrupt African governments,” said Femi Kuti. The Paris Philharmonic is paying homage to Fela Kuti by recreating the atmosphere of his sweaty, politically-charged nightclub in Nigeria, The Shrine, that became a beacon for global stars in the 1970s including Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. “When we started working on this exhibition project, the Black Lives Matter movement emerged and Fela’s fight in the 70s and 80s found resonance there,” said Alexandre Girard-Muscagorry, one of the curators of the immersive exhibition. Kuti was harassed throughout much of his life by the military authorities in Nigeria for his relentless criticism of their corruption and violent misrule. There was a particularly vicious reaction after he refused to take part in an official music festival in 1977, instead organising a parallel event that became much more popular and attracted international stars including Stevie Wonder. Soldiers responded to his counter-festival by burning down his home and pushing his mother out of a first-floor window, causing injuries which led to her death a year later, Femi Kuti said. He was a voice for the voiceless, the only opponent who was brave enough to tackle the hardcore military dictators at that time and he paid a very high price,” said Femi Kuti. But it was ultimately the genius of his music that made him so popular, creating something entirely new with its mix of free-jazz, soul, funk and Yoruba.