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Fela’s Nomination for a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Spot Sparks Debate about his Legacy

The truth is that during Fela’s extraordinary lifetime, the Nigerian’s notoriety as an engaged citizen fighting for social justice was what usually attracted attention – and not his music. His public persona as a cultural renegade, an incorrigible iconoclast and social rebel hugged the headlines. Not his intoxicating blend of Yoruba trance music, highlife-derived harmonies and African American funk and jazz. He was artistically ahead of his time. And nearly 30 years since his passing, the world is still playing catch up. Fela Kuti is one of many prominent names nominated for induction into the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. Other big name acts include Tina Turner, Foo Fighters and Iron Maiden. We are already late in catching on during his colourful lifetime. It does feel embarrassing. But now there’s an opportunity, with the benefit of hindsight, to reevaluate, redefine and bestow his due accolades. Kuti’s recent nomination for a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a great start.