South Africa: This Bitch of A Life Launches in Johannesburg

By Novell Zwange – JOHANNESBURG – Dr Carlos Moore yesterday launched the Cassava Republic’s  new version of his book, “Fela: This Bitch of a Life” which was first published in 1982. The new version which was launched last night at OST in Johannesburg, includes remarkable never-before-seen content including a Preface by renowned Brazilian musician and statesman Gilberto Gil, a Prologue by Fela’s friend Lindsay Barrett, an introduction and a moving epilogue by Carlos Moore written specially for this edition. It also includes the two part magnificently illustrated Afa Ojo sections, which delve into the mystical aspects of Fela’s character. The cover and artwork for this new version were designed by Lemi Ghariokwu, the original designer of some of Fela’s most iconic album covers.

“Fela: This Bitch of a Life”, the authorised biography of Africa’s greatest ever musician, the late Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, is set to become a collector’s item and to take pride of place on bookshelves across the continent.

Renowned South African musician, Hugh Masekela, wrote that Fela was “an amazing musical genius with a boisterous sense of humour…an immovable rock in his fight against corruption.”

Speaking to a captive audience Dr Moore revealed that the late controversial Nigerian artist, “wanted to call the book (THIS MOTHER FUCKIN LIFE), but I said to him, no man you can’t call it that.”

Fela Anikulapo Kuti (15 October 1938 — 2 August 1997), or simply Fela, was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, pioneer of afrobeat music, human rights activist, and political maverick. When he died more than a million people attended the funeral at the site of his old Shrine compound.

“Fela is still a voice for Nigerians. He brought our struggles and social challenges to the fore. It’s vital for us to use his life and music as a reference point for social consciousness. Fela protects our identity and reminds those in power to respect our rights as young Africans.” said Naeto C.

“Fela Anikulapo Kuti was James Brown, Huey Newton, Rick James, Bob Marley, Duke Ellington and ODB all rolled up in one black African fist…” remarked US artist, Mos Def.

Dr. Carlos Moore, an ethnologist and political scientist with two doctorates from the prestigious University of Paris-7, France, he was banished for three decades from his native Cuba as a result of his opposition to the racial policies of the Castro regime. Fluent in five languages, he lived and worked in many lands throughout his 34-year exile, and traveled extensively on ethnological research projects in South-east Asia, Africa and the South Pacific.

In late 1963, he fled Cuba, with the assistance of the embassy of Guinea, where he took refuge. He went on to specialize in African, Latin-American and Caribbean affairs, and while residing in France developed a prolific career in journalism, serving as in-house journalist for France’s national news agency, Agence France-Presse, and as a specialist on West African affairs for the international weekly Jeune Afrique. Most of his academic life has been devoted to research on the impact of race and ethnicity on domestic politics and inter-state affairs. He was Senior Lecturer at the Institute of International Relations of the University of the West Indies, at St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, for six years; Visiting Professor at Florida international University, in Miami, for two; and Associate Professor at the University of the French West Indies (UAG). The confluence between his academic and political life occurred in 1975 when the distinguished African scholar, Cheikh Anta Diop, invited him to take up residence in Senegal and assist with several political projects. One of these involved the setting up of a World Black Researchers Association (WBRA), in 1976. He remained in Senegal until 1980.

Dr MooreIn 1982-1983 he was personal consultant to the Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) currently African Union). Moore was involved with the initial phase of the Festival of Black & African Arts and Culture of 1977 (FESTAC), working in Lagos, Nigeria, where he came into contact with legendary pan-Africanist and musical genius, Fela Kuti, whose biography (This Bitch of a Life) he wrote in 1982.

“This book was written in first person and to me it was a not just writing a book, but a mission,” Dr Moore told fans who thronged the Newtown venue to buy copies of the biography. “Writing this book was very disturbing for moment for me because I had to write under serious tensions a Fela’s life suffered many casualties.”

“He had just lost his mother due to barbaric attacks on his family by the military. He lamented that he felt he was to blame for his mothers attack and I kept telling him that he was not to blame. He told me that it was mother who told him to call me and ask me to write his book.”

During the question and answer session the fearless writer defended the late musician from all the public misjudgements, and maintained that he had a very close bonding with the late artist.

“I detested Idi Amini and Fela praised him, Fela hated Bob Marley and I loved Marley.”

Dr Moore said music for Fela was something that was engraved in his day by day life, an ongoing conversation, and an example of the dialogue that he was practising.

“Fela was a genius, he wasn’t only creating hits, he created a genre.” said Dr Moore. “Music that doesn’t maintain the slave system is the music we would like to defend. We must protect our own message, by this I am saying we must protect our own heritage. They have bought Fela’s music and they are now planning to turn him into a pop star, something that he always refused”

Responding to the question of Fela’s many wives, Dr Moore said, ” Whether a man decides to marry another man in order to stay together or to raise a family together. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t think the state should dictate who should marry who.”

“Likewise in Fela’s case, marriage is not a mathematical arrangement at which people could be preoccupied with how many wives he had, marriage is an arrangement between people. Fela had no problem with his many wives most of whom were his band members, in the same way he had no problem with nakedness.”

“He was marrying the dancers, the musicians and the people living with him and around him. He provided for them, and now if you tell me that there’s something wrong with that, then there’s something wrong with all of us,” Dr Moore said.

“As for Fela and ganja, listen, the Europeans came here and penalised ganja. We had no problem at all with ganja. These people what they did here in Africa is just incredible. They are the ones who came here and penalised ganja, yet we as Africans were smoking ganja for thousands of years before the arrival of these people.”

“Yes Fela was smoking ganja, the ancient Egyptian priests smoked ganja, instead, we should fight to de-penalise ganja”