Finding Fela is a captivating documentary that explores the life and legacy of Fela Kuti, the Afrobeat pioneer and political activist who challenged the oppressive regimes of Nigeria with his music and his courage. Directed by Oscar-winner Alex Gibney, the film combines archival footage, interviews, and scenes from the Broadway musical Fela! to create a rich and nuanced portrait of a complex and charismatic man.
The film shows how the discovery of oil in Nigeria in 1956 transformed the country into a wealthy but corrupt petro-state, where the ruling elite exploited natural resources and neglected the majority of the population. The oil-rich region where Fela was born, became a site of environmental degradation, social injustice, and violent conflict. Fela witnessed the atrocities committed by successive military dictatorships, such as the Biafran War, the execution of writer and activist such as Ken Saro-Wiwa, and the destruction of his own commune, the Kalakuta Republic.
Fela used his music as a weapon to expose and resist the tyranny of the Nigerian government. He created a new genre of music, Afrobeat, that fused traditional African rhythms, jazz, funk, and highlife with political lyrics and social commentary. He sang in pidgin English, the lingua franca of Nigeria, to reach a wider audience. He criticized the corruption, oppression, and hypocrisy of the leaders, and called for a revolution of the people. He also celebrated African culture, spirituality, and identity, and challenged the colonial and neocolonial influences that shaped Nigeria. This was heavily influenced by his time in England where he experienced the unfavourable plight of an African in the diaspora.
Fela emerged not only a musician, but also a leader, a rebel, and eventually a martyr. He endured harassment, arrests, beatings, and torture from the authorities, but he never gave up his fight for freedom and justice. He inspired millions of Nigerians and Africans to stand up against their oppressors. He also influenced generations of musicians around the world with his innovative and powerful music.
‘Finding Fela’ is a must-watch for anyone who wants to learn more about Fela Kuti, one of the most important and influential figures in African history and culture. The documentary is available to watch on Netflix.