To understand the story of Fela’s 27 wives, one must first understand the context in which it occurred. In the 1970s, Fela was at the height of his musical and political powers. He had emerged as a leader of the Black Power movement in Nigeria and was a vocal critic of the corrupt government and Western imperialism. His music was a potent mix of African rhythms, funk, jazz, and social commentary, and it had a massive following among young people in Nigeria and around the world.
Fela was also known for his unconventional lifestyle. He lived in a communal compound, which he called the Kalakuta Republic, with his family, friends, and band members. The compound was a hub of creativity, political activism, and free-spiritedness, and it was also a target of harassment and violence from the Nigerian government.
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The Marriage Ceremony
On February 20, 1978, Fela married 27 women in a ceremony that lasted for several hours. The brides were dressed in traditional Nigerian attire, and Fela was dressed in his trademark African print pants and no shirt. The ceremony was attended by a large crowd of Fela’s fans and supporters, as well as his family and friends.
The reason behind the mass wedding is still a matter of speculation. Some have suggested that it was a political statement against the Nigerian government, which had been cracking down on Fela and his Kalakuta Republic compound. By marrying 27 women, Fela was asserting his independence and his right to live according to his own rules.
Others have suggested that the marriage was part of Fela’s spiritual beliefs. Fela was a follower of the Yoruba religion, which recognizes multiple wives as part of its traditions. Fela may have seen the mass wedding as a way to demonstrate his commitment to his religion and his desire to live according to its tenets.
The marriage ceremony caused a sensation in Nigeria and around the world. The media dubbed Fela the “Black King Solomon” and portrayed him as a flamboyant and eccentric figure. However, the Nigerian government did not take the ceremony lightly. They saw it as a provocation and a challenge to their authority. In response, they raided the Kalakuta Republic compound, arrested Fela and several of his wives, and burned down the compound.
The aftermath of the marriage ceremony and the subsequent raid on the Kalakuta Republic had a profound impact on Fela and his music. He became even more politically radicalized and started to focus more on social and political issues in his music. He also became more reclusive and paranoid, fearing for his safety and the safety of his family.
The story of Fela’s 27 wives is a fascinating and complex one. It speaks to the political and cultural climate of Nigeria in the 1970s, as well as Fela’s own personal beliefs and values. The mass wedding was a bold and provocative act, and it had both positive and negative consequences for Fela and his music. Today, Fela’s legacy as a musician, activist, and cultural icon lives on, and his marriage to 27 women remains a part of his larger-than-life persona.