France’s President Emmanuel Macron has visited the famous nightclub built in honour of legendary musician Fela Kuti in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos.
Fela, who died in 1997, pioneered the Afrobeat sound and was known for his sexual exploits, marijuana smoking and being a fearless critic of military rule.
The French leader – who spent six months as an intern at the French embassy in Lagos in the early 2000s – told reporters travelling with him: “I like Nigeria a lot. It’s an appealing country. I’ve got a lot of memories… that haven’t left me”.
Fela Kuti, the Afrobeat king
Fela Kuti came from a patrician Nigerian family whose pioneering music and quest for social justice made him an international star and the bugbear of Nigeria’s former military rulers.
Called the “black president” by adoring fans, Fela Kuti’s trademark style, christened Afrobeat, featured songs in his native Yoruba and pidgin and were searing indictments of corruption and incompetence.
Ibrahim Tcha-Tchere, a veteran employee of the Alliance Francaise cultural institute in Lagos, said Macron’s visit was fitting given that “France has always had great cultural cooperation with Nigeria.
“It was the French who organised Fela’s first European tour in 1981,” he said.
“Then his sons Femi and Seun launched their international careers in France.”
The shrine is a big hall, painted brown and yellow, with patterns of green, red and black, suggesting African symbolism.
Laouchez joked that organising the event was no cakewalk, saying: “It requires great organisation because there are frequent power cuts and you have to ensure that the ceiling fans do not fall on the heads of guests… but it’s exciting.”
“Musically speaking, the new Nigerian Afrobeat movement is global,” he added, pointing to stars such as Davido, Wizkid and Mr Eazi.