Femi Kuti, Afrobeat musician, activist, and the eldest son of the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti, sits with Chude Jideonwo, founder of Joy, Inc., on a recent episode of #WithChude, to discuss being a single father, the loss of his parents, and the impact it had on his life.
On the lowest point in his life, he shared, “I have had many low points. The beatings of my father started when I was a teenager. So, schooling was a very depressing time for me because there were teachers that liked [my father], and teachers that didn’t like him. So, if I got into trouble with a teacher that didn’t like him, that teacher will beat me because they didn’t like my father.
“Then there were the rich children in the same school, and they didn’t like me because I was Fela’s son. So, I was fighting for most of my time in school.”
Femi also shared about dealing with grief after the death of his loved ones, especially his mother. “I’ve also experienced death. The passing of my mother was probably the worst time because my mother was like my pillar, and when she died, I was lost.
“Till about 3/4 years ago I would still wake up wanting to go and say good morning to her. Because every morning the first person I wanted to see was my mother.”
He added, “I didn’t cry because everyone was saying, ‘you’re the man’, ‘you must hold on’! Fela had just gone, my sister had gone, my cousin had gone. Some people predicted the 12 of us will die, and I was thinking is this prediction going to come through? Then we had our internal family problems, my wife goes, and then they said, ‘Femi is going mad’. But I am thankful that I overcame it, I think it is what have made me a better person.”
On his relationship with his son, he shared, “When I was bringing him up, he was all that mattered. I had lost my mother, my wife had left, and he was my joy. Fela had gone, and the only thing I had to hold on to was him. He also reminded me so much of my youth, people had thought that because we were Fela’s children, it was so nice. So, I just said, where do I think Fela went wrong in my life, where I think he went wrong, I’ll correct it with my son, and where I think he was right, I will emphasize it and bring him up to understand that I am still not a perfect father”.
“When he was growing up, we spent 6 years in the shrine because they were sending thugs and police to raid, so the only way to stop that was to move into the shrine. So, I put all my adopted children and my son upstairs, and then, somebody comes to me and said, what if they kill your son?
“So, I thought it was a political message because I was very political at that time. Social media wasn’t as it was today so, people will raid, police will raid here, and nobody will talk, and the press was against me for whatever reason they had against me. All I had was my son. My son, my elder sister, and her daughter, but my son was closer because he is my son.
“So, I molded him and gave him all the opportunities I didn’t have — musically and otherwise. So, everybody thought I was bringing him up as a spoilt child and people would say I was spoiling him, and I would say, ‘He’s like a flower; I’m giving him sunlight, and watering him”, he added.