Singer and dancer, Yeni Kuti sits with the host of #WithChude, Chude Jideonwo, discuss the circumstances surrounding her father’s death, her life as a dancer and her family.
On how Fela’s reputation has grown after his death despite the disdain he was treated while he was alive, Yeni said, “it amuses me. I remember that Fela was in jail and my cousin Dotunintroduced me to this girl. He said, ‘These are my cousins, ‘Yeni and Sola’ and she said, ‘Don’t introduce me to such people’. It stuck in my mind, I moved away from her, and I just thought to myself, ‘how nasty?’ I’m sure if I met that girl today, she would want to be my friend. That is why it is amusing that decades later, Fela is suddenly the hero while in those days, he was the villain. She also shared why she thinks this change happened, “I think ‘their eye don clear, suffer don hook us for Nigeria’. We have seen that there was at least one person who was singing about the abuse and fighting it. Fela used to take out an advert then on Daily Times that later became Punch, every Saturday. He would tag it, ‘Chief Priest says’, and he will write something about Nigeria. He had a printing press, where he would just print and yab all of them. Of course, it took death for them to realize that they had lost something important.”
Yeni Kuti also talked about her relationship with her late father. “Fela was a good father in his own way, but in the conventional sense, he wasn’t. My identity and pride as an African woman, I learnt from my father. Who I am today was shaped by him, but I don’t think he should have had children. I think he should have just been a father to all the nation. You don’t feel any special bond that you were Fela’s child. You are just another human being as far as he was concerned. You could resent it, but I just had to rise above it. But it caused a lot of rifts between us. I mean, there was a time when Femi and Fela quarreled. Of course, Fela quarreled with Femi, Sola and I. So, if we were going to settle, we would send Femi, ‘You’re the son now, you go and settle with your father. If you settle with him, Sola and I will follow.’ So, it was different, we didn’t call him Daddy. I think our not calling him daddy made him not realize the gravity of having kids”, she added.
On dancing as a career path, she said, it (dancing) was rewarding as a career path, but it isn’t anymore. I still get offers for people who want me to teach them. The fact of the matter is that I didn’t do it for monetary value, I did it because I loved it. Of course, we went on tour, and I made money”.
Yeni also shared about joining Your View on TVC, she said, “I have been trying to work on a TV program with my best friend, Carol King. We had gone to meet MITV and showed them what we wanted to do but we couldn’t get it off the ground. Then Lukman Musa called me to say that he wanted me to do a TV show, and because it sounded like what Carol and I were working on, I went, we talked, and I accepted. I think it is a good decision and I do not regret it for one minute. People have now come to know me as Yeni, not just as Fela’s daughter or Femi’s sister but as Yeni Anikulapo Kuti”.
Watch the excerpt here: