Femi Kuti, son of Afrobeat icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti has said it took him about a decade to gain the acceptance of music fans.
The 55-year-old musician made the revelation in a tell-it-all interview on Wazobia Max in Lagos on Thursday. In the chat, Femi explained how he struggled to get out of his father’s shadow to make a name for himself.
He said,“For like a decade nobody wanted to listen to my music. And so I decided to make a name in France, Switzerland, and Germany. Then I broke into America before ‘Wonder Wonder’ became a hit in Nigeria and people wanted to listen to my music. So, it took eight to ten years before people gave me a chance.”
He explained that he was never christened “Femi” as his first name was actually “Olufela”.
He revealed that his mother changed his name to Femi so as, ”not to be put in the shadow of Fela.” He also revealed the steps he took to create a name for himself stressing that he “can never be Fela Kuti because he is Femi Kuti.”
Femi also spoke about his experience performing in his father’s Egypt 80 band, before eventually leaving to kick off his own music career. According to him, the transition took place in an era when his father reigned supreme.
Obviously tired of constantly being compared to his father during his time in the Egypt 80 band, Femi said he had to make the bold move.
“Playing in my father’s band, he took me everywhere. I knew I could never be him. As Fela’s son, I was loved and appreciated but some people always looked at it like a challenge. And I didn’t see that way; all I saw was the man I loved, adored and respected so much. So I didn’t see the competition. But everyone expected, I wanted to be like him and I was constantly being told I couldn’t be like him but it wasn’t my aim. I wanted to find myself in the chaos surrounding me.”
Femi, who started playing the saxophone at age 15 before he became a member of his father’s band, noted, “I can never be Fela Kuti but I can be Femi Kuti.
”With this in mind, I decided I was not going to turn up for rehearsals anymore. My father was very angry. Everyone was scared for my fate but I knew that this journey would be tough. Even if it meant going through a brick wall, I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I knew I had to start then before it was too late. So I closed my eyes and mind and did it.”
On his early music influences, Femi said, “I think it is very important to understand why and how I decided music. I started out listening to jazz. My father introduced me to jazz and I hated the genre in the beginning. When I understood the nitty-gritty of Jazz music, I knew I could be either be Charlie Parker, Myles Davies or I could just be Femi Kuti.”
Watch the full video below: