There is perhaps no African artist more widely known and celebrated
in the world of rock 'n' roll than Fela Kuti. Ex-Cream drummer Ginger
Baker sought him and toured with him; Paul McCartney and Wings
recorded in Lagos while in his thrall and Talking Heads tore down
what they were doing to rebuild themselves following his and Africa
‘70’s blueprints. And, of course, Fela remains beloved on the
continent and in Nigeria, his home country, the most populous in
Africa. So it should come as no surprise that now that the Rock &
Roll Hall of Fame finally got around to nominating him; he’s doing
Of the 16 nominees
for the 2021 class of inductees, Fela Kuti leads all voters with over
116,000 votes, well ahead of long-time-canonized rock 'n' roll
artists' Tina Turner’s 80,000 and Foo Fighters' 60,000.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has been criticized for being too white
and too male in scope—in this respect, it really reflects rock 'n’
roll’s shortcomings—but this nominating class includes, in
addition to Fela, Mary J. Blige, Jay Z, LL Cool J, and Chaka Khan.
Sure, they all made their names in the non-rock genres—Afrobeat,
hip-hop and disco—but the Hall is going for a big tent, which is
probably for the best.
Fela’s son Seun
Kuti, who still tours with Fela’s old band Egypt 80, encouraged people to
keep voting. On Instagram he posted, “On behalf of the
Anikulapo-Kuti family, we want to say thanks for the support. One can
vote every day so please visit the website to keep the numbers going
up. I have to say though, we Africans all over the world have already
put Fela in the greatest hall of fame of all time— our hearts.