Fela Kuti [1938 - 1997]
It’s no exaggeration to say that Afro Beat has become one of biggest selling genres within the music industry. From its humble beginnings in West Africa along its journey taking in American Soul, Jamaican reggae and African High life, the music has become one of the most influential in terms of sales over the last five years.
On 1st November 2021, its founder and originator, Fela Kuti, was at 12 Stanlake Road, Shepherd’s Bush, the address that Fela first stayed at when he came to the UK in 1958 to study music. The owner of the flat was Jimo Kombi Braimah, affectionately known to everyone as JK. JK, who became a lifelong friend of Fela Kuti, was a fellow musician and singer. It was JK who introduced Fela to the Lagos music scene 4 years earlier, and who Fela would later describe as “the most important man in my life”.
But evidently, the man who was destined to become the most important African musician of the 20th century was not the easiest person to live with.
This was confirmed a few months after his arrival when JK kicked Fela out of his flat, leading the latter to stay with his brother Beko in Ladbroke Grove. Fela would eventually find and rent his own premises in Notting Hill before settling in Bayswater. His first 4 years in London resulted in Fela graduating from Trinity Music College and setting up a African band that became a fixture on the Capital’s night life scene. On his return to Africa, he would begin to lay the foundation for a new music which the world now knows as Afro Beat.
As well as being a global recording star, Fela was also a pan Africanist and political activist and criticised the Nigerian government of the time.
The blue plaque to Fela at 12 Stanlake Road was a partnership between the largest deliver of diverse plaques and statues in the world, the Nubian Jak Community Trust, and Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
Fela was more than just a pioneering musician, more than just an activist or pan Africanist. He was a visionary whose time had come. And it’s as if his time has come back again with the global impact of Afro Beat. Hammersmith and Fulham Leader Cllr Stephen Cowan Fela was more than just a pioneering musician, more than just an activist or pan Africanist. He was a visionary a prophet and visionary whose time had come. And it’s as if his time has come back again with the global impact of Afro Beat. Dr Jak Beula
H&F has wonderfully rich and diverse musical heritage. Afro Beat has been a key part of this so I am delighted that this plaque marks the importance of the genre and its pioneer, our former resident, Fela Kuti. I’d like to congratulate the Nubian Jak Foundation and their partners for this initiative as we continue to work with them and others to celebrate the music which is so important to the black history of our borough. Deputy Leader Cllr Sue Fennimore.
It's brilliant that we can honour Fela Kuti here in the Borough with its strong music connections and histories. Fela Kuti's musical innovation and power cannot be underestimated, and his legacy is felt with Afrobeat rhythms and horns as the heartbeat of so much contemporary African and Western music today. Thank you so much Nubian Jak and the Council for making this happen. Debbie Golt, friend of Fela and Resonance FM broadcaster.
Afro Beat has had an impactful and lasting influence on generations growing up in H&F, so I am really pleased that we are now honouring its origins with a plaque to Fela Kuti. This will become an important new feature of H&F’s Black History Music Trail and I look forward to welcoming even more people to the borough to enjoy it.”
Afro Beat has had
an impactful and lasting influence on generations growing up in H&F, so I am really pleased that we are now honouring its origins with a plaque to Fela Kuti. This will become an important new feature of H&F’s Black History Music Trail and I look forward to welcoming even more people to the borough to enjoy it. Cllr Sharon Holder, Cabinet Member for Strategy.
Location: 12 Stanlake Road, Shepherds Bush, W12