An absolutely knackering weekend but packed full of stuff. I hope you’re sat down.
I’ve had a desire to come to Nigeria for years now. With the Ginger Baker thing, drums in general and having been listening to Fela Kuti for years, I always wanted to come here and see it all. Coming to see Fela’s Shrine was probably the first reason I booked to come here, before I found the Eko Samba connection.
We set off for the mainland, taking the usual route of boat and bike before getting a taxi to Ikeja. We stopped off for fuel but the pumps were empty. The driver told us that the standard Government set price for fuel is 145 Naira. Some places undercut this and sell it for 143 Naira, but they tamper with the pumps, so the filling stations with good fuel are more likely to run out.
We arrived in Ikeja. Our first job was to see the Kalakuta Museum, in the building which was Fela’s house. Because of the Fela connection, Ikeja feels a lot different. I didn’t get called Oyinbo once and could just slip in to anonymity. It was great.
The Kalakuta Museum, as a Fela Kuti fan, is amazing. It’s actually his house. His real house where he and his 27 wives lived.
Some of the Egypt 80 were mingling around outside. His bedroom remains exactly how it did when he died. That’s his last bedsheet.
All of his clothes lined up, his Saxophone, and the bed extended to accommodate as many as possible. Next to that is his bathroom and his toilet, still with the torch he used at night and the disinfectant next to it.
He had a whole room for his shoes. All of them are handmade and have a corresponding outfit.
The walls around the house are lined with newspaper articles and promotional material and pictures of everybody who played a role in his life. There are instruments lying about as well.
Fela is buried outside the house.
It was overwhelming to see all this after the hours I’ve spent listening to him.He could be an absolute monster, but so could all my other musical heroes. He never paid his band properly and apparently in order to stop women having terminations all the time (and this was very common for the women he surrounded himself with), he offered them all marriage so they could keep the child. 27 of them took him up on the offer. This wasn’t in the museum, I read this elsewhere.
They have music in the evenings on the rooftop so we’ll definitely go back at some point.
The only thing for it after this was to go and watch football and have a beer. I needed to return to normality! I was surrounded, as always when watching football in a bar, by Nigerian men shouting at each other about whether English football is better than Spanish football or whether Mourinho has lost it or who has the best shorts. (I made that last one up).
I recorded a small snippet of it.
I thought Friday’s rehearsal was loud but this came close to it.
Then came the time to head over to the New Afrika Shrine. In 1977 Fela’s original Shrine was burnt down by the Government, after years of them trying to get him. The song Zombie was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Famously they threw his mother Funmilayo out of a 4th storey window and she died from her injuries. The New Afrika Shrine replaced the original and is now run by 2 of Fela’s children, Femi and Yeni. It’s ironic that the refurbishment of the Kalakuta Museum was paid for by the Lagos State Government.
We arrived at 5.30, so it was a long while before Seun was on. He was due on at 10pm but I thought it would be nearer midnight. And then I saw it – the moment we’d all been waiting for. Everything had been building up to this moment. The whole trip centered around this – and there it was, in huge letters, bringing a smile across my face like no other:
‘Egg and Chips’.
In the New Afrika Shrine, I drank lager, played pool and had Egg and Chips. What’s going on?
It was 1.45am so by the time we’d waited nearly 7 hours for Seun to come on, turning down plates of Goat Meat and Ice Cream that looked like Johnny Bravo, I was absolutely frazzled. I peaked too soon in the night. Ojo said ‘have another Egg and Chips’ but it would have made me even sleepier.We watched an hour and a half of Seun’s set – all but 2 of which were rip roaring Fela numbers done perfectly by his youngest son – before 1 yawn too many meant us heading off at 3.30am. Knowing this, we’ll go again before I leave Nigeria, and get there much later so I can lose myself in it more.
The equivalent would be going to the Cavern I suppose – it’s a living link to the past of a musical icon, but is in a different location. I’m definitely gonna go back.
Sunday was my turn to play and my first performance with Eko Samba and first performance in Nigeria. It was a corporate event at the Eko Hotel for the people that run Calabar Carnival, which is Africa’s largest street party, held in December. Eko Samba are hoping to play it this year, having missed last year.
As is custom with this events, we waited 3 hours for a 10 minute performance. ‘Get here at 6pm, you are on at 8pm’. Yeah, 10.45 we went on. It’s a bit stush because two of the kids in Eko Samba are 11 and so to keep them out so late on a Sunday isn’t great. This is the committee making the decisions though so we had to go with it. They loved it, as did the band, so all worth it in the end.
This week sees a couple of rehearsals, some insurance forms and clothes arriving before Ojo and I set off for Oshogbo on Thursday. We’ll see the Osun River and the city of Ejigbo, a deity and place featured in two of my favourite songs, E D’Oxum and Elegibo, and be able to witness the Nigeria that was taken over the Atlantic.