From both ends, the New African Shrine in Ikeja and Freedom Park in Lagos Island echoed with music, fashion pageants, political debates, and the customary ‘yabis’ in Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s style.
Surprisingly, sports also took center stage, embodying the late Afrobeat originator’s multifaceted career spanning three decades.
Between October 9 and 15, the Freedom Park and New Afrikan Shrine hosted the arts community during the 2023 Felabration ceremonies, reminiscent of having the Abami Eda back among his people, right on stage.
Felabration, an annual festival conceived by Fela’s eldest child, Yeni, in 1998, celebrates the life and legacy of the iconic Nigerian musician. This grand event, recognized as an official tourist attraction by the Lagos State Government, attracts global visitors with diverse activities, including debates, dance competitions, and art exhibitions, honoring Fela’s profound contributions to society.
A classic celebration of Fela Anikulapo Kuti's enduring impact, Felabration unites music enthusiasts and cultural aficionados, commemorating Fela's remarkable influence on music, politics, and social change.
The 2023 Felabration organizers promised a week filled with music, art, dance, sports, and discussions on social and political issues, delivering a hyperactive rendition of Fela’s old tunes, drumming, and dances. The festival features a diverse line-up of established and emerging artists, ensuring Fela’s spirit lives on through the next generation.
Since Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s departure in August 1997, various events have celebrated the iconic legend, but Felabration has become the main event, revolving around the Afrobeat originator’s life and times. The Abami Eda remains an iconic legend to fans, music lovers, and the arts community, prompting yearly Felabration celebrations.
According to Architect Theo Abiodun Lawson, curator of Freedom Park, Felabration has now gone global, with permissions granted to organizers worldwide to host the event on their own schedule.
In 2023, Felabration birthed new projects alongside musical activities, introducing Fela dress fashion and a boxing competition. The grand finale of these competitions occurred inside Freedom Park on October 15, 2023. The dress fashion competition showcased Fela’s various fashion senses, with the winner receiving a fabulous prize.
This year’s events were landmarked, running concurrently at Freedom Park and the popular Afrikan Shrine in Ikeja, owned by Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, a son of the late legend. Popular singer Ikuforiji Abdulrahman, aka Oxlade, garnered adulation during the ceremony.
The annual music and cultural festival celebrated the late Afrobeat icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, at the New Afrika Shrine, running from October 9 to 15, 2023, coinciding with Fela’s birthday on October 15, 1938.
Oxlade set the tone for Felabration 2023 on the opening night with an energetic performance. Expressing delight, he considered it a fortunate moment, especially in celebration of the legendary Fela, underscoring the significance to his career and personal happiness.
Despite the dominance of Afrobeats, Oxlade expressed delight at the turnout, reception of his music, and Afrobeat appreciation. He emphasized Afrobeat's evolution and acknowledged Fela Kuti's undeniable contributions to the growth of the Nigerian music industry.
The opening night featured performances from Nigerian singers Skales, Ara, and Aramide. Other artists to perform during the week-long festivity include CDQ, Lyta, Olakira, Savage, Omobaba, Manito, Quadplay, Shanko Rasheed, and Ferankanks.
In addition to musical performances, Felabration hosted various events, including art exhibitions, panel discussions, film screenings, Secondary Schools Debate, The Fela Debates (Symposium), The Afrobics Dance Competition, The Artwork Competition, The Dress Fela Fashion Competition, The Musical Concert, and more.
The theme for the 2023 edition was ‘Question Jam Answer,’ aligning with Fela’s 1972 classic, fitting into the socio-political mood of the country after an intriguing general election where people sought answers to questions asked.
Alagba Afolayan ADEBIYI writes from Lagos, Nigeria
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