Over the decades Fela Kuti has come to be cast as the romantic hero dissident who drew harsh reprisal because he criticized politicians and military governments. But Fela Kuti was far more than a dissident. Fela Kuti was, first and foremost, a comprehensive and unsparing critic of the postcolonial no matter their profession or station. As Fanon was a relentlessly unsparing critic of the alienated colonial—and most Fanon fans consistently ignore this fact—so was Fela a rigorously unsparing critic of the postcolonial in ways that hardly any other critic has matched.
He was unsparingly critical of postcolonial servility (Monkey Banana)
He was unsparingly critical of the postcolonial equation of beauty with whiteness (Yellow Fever).
He was unsparingly critical of the postcolonial proclivity for chaos and disorder (Ojuelegba, Go Slow).
He was unsparingly critical of postcolonial incompetence (Swegbe and Pako).He was unsparingly critical of postcolonial corruption (ITT).
He was unsparingly critical of postcolonial acquiescence and complicity in state violence (Zombie).
He was unsparingly critical of the dangerous vacuousness and poverty of postcolonial education (Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense).
He was unsparingly critical of postcolonial religious and pentecostal charlatanism (Coffin for Head of State).
He was unsparingly critical of postcolonial apathy (Shuffering and Shmiling).
These weren’t critiques of politicians or government, much as he engaged in those as well. These weren’t critiques of the white man. These were comprehensive critiques of the postcolonial citizen, the postcolonial individual, and the postcolonial mind. In this regard Fela Kuti remains our only true heir to Fanon.
Forget the academic pseudophilosophers and their turgid and pretentious books that nobody reads; that’s mostly ambivalent nonsense.
The paradox, of course, is that the fact that people listen to Fela Kuti, but take little note of what he actually had to say, or prefer to cast him as only a brave critic of military governments, is a sad demonstration of the very postcolonial indolence which he repeatedly criticized.