My friend Daniel Hernandez inspired this post with a recent Facebook profile picture of his. Fela Anikulapo Kuti is technically the original Black President. The Nigerian founder of Afrobeat is my favorite musician of all time and, in my opinion, one of the greatest. He used to say that one day he’d become Nigerian’s president — which was probably not a bad idea — and thus the “Black President.”
Not just a wickedly inventive singer, lyricist, and trumpet/sax player, Kuti was also an activist at a time in Nigeria when activists were usually brutally squashed. After releasing the album “Zombie,” whick attacked the blindly obedient and corrupt Nigerian army, his home in Lagos was raided by the military and his 82-year old mother was thrown out of a window.
Kuti eventually died from HIV/AIDS in 1997.
But whenever I leave the airport and drive into the kinetic madness that is Lagos, surrounded by hustling people, intoxicating music and food, and the thrilling sensation of being unsafe and comfortable all at once, I’m reminded by his home that he’ll always be the First Black President.
A clip of his excellent “Gentleman,” an entertaining comment on Nigerian middle-classers wearing Western clothing in a tropical climate: