A generation after Fela Kuti invented a genre and challenged his oil-rich government, his
youngest son Seun is carrying on the tradition.
Nigerians file past the body of Afrobeat star Fela Anikulapo-Kuti at his funeral in 1997 / Reuters
It was 1969 when Sandra Izsadore first heard Fela Kuti. The Nigerian musical icon, more commonly known as just Fela, was performing at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He sang in his native tongue, Yoruba.
"I asked him what he had been singing about, and he told me, 'I was singing about soup,' so I started laughing," Izsadore said.
Not long after their first encounter, Izsadore helped Kuti politicize his music, which gradually became a voice for Nigeria's anger over corruption and inequality. "I told Fela that his music should have words that encouraged the people or at least taught people to raise their awareness," she remembered.
Today, as Nigeria confronts more issues of government accountability, Fela's son Seun has taken up the tradition of musician-as-activist.
That tradition began when Izsadore fell in love with Fela and returned with him to his home in Nigeria. With her help, he became the father of Afrobeat, half-musical genre, half-political movement, the latter a response to government corruption and negligence across Africa. Below, one of his early Afrobeat performances, from 1971 in Calabar, Nigeria:
Fela was soon writing songs about the Nigerian government, which used the country's vast oil reserves to line the pockets of its moneyed political elite. At one point, Fela declared his commune -- replete with armed soldiers to guard his legendary Africa Shrine nightclub -- a separate national entity, The Kalakuta Republic. Government thugs infiltrated the republic and burned down the nightclub, but it was rebuilt in another part of Lagos shortly after.