A look back over a seminal career that encompassed political dissidence, UFO contact, chicken sacrifice – and some of the greatest dance music ever recorded.
1. It’s Highlife Time (with Koola Lobitos)
Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti was born on 15 October 1938 in Abeokuta, Nigeria to influential upper middle-class parents. His mother was one of Nigeria’s leading feminists and a prominent anti-colonial protester while his father, a preacher, was the first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers. They planned careers in medicine for their three sons (and Olikoye Ransome-Kuti would go on to become the Nigerian health minister) but Fela, a rebel from the outset, switched courses within days of arriving in London to study. While he was attending Trinity College of Music between 1958 and 1961 he formed the Koola Lobitos. He led this highlife-influenced jazz band, as a trumpet player, taking full advantage of the underground London craze for African dance music in the 1960s.