Fela Kuti gives tips on perseverance and Lifestyle Improvement from beyond the grave
The first Fela Kuti song I ever heard was Zombie about 10 years ago at a guy called Jays house. The song has stuck in my head ever since. As I recall, Jay had atrocious breath, a penchant for ridiculous jackets and improper intentions. He was in his mid-30s; I had not yet hit 20, however my misspent youth is an entirely different story.
For any of you who are familiar with Fela’s music, you will know that he has a tendency to go for the slower burners. Epic, rhythmically enchanting, Afro-Beat, that resonates with the African blood in me, and makes me want to shake my ass. Fela is not adverse to the 12 or 17 minute track, but you stick with him, because you know at the end of the day the man delivers the goods.
The Nigerian musician, husband of 27 wives and political activist, faced relentless adversities in his native Nigeria, which initially saw him intent on fleeing the country. If paramilitaries threw our mothers out of the window, burnt down our home and raped our wives, many of us would be on the first Easy Jet plane we could find. But Fela was defiant in his resolution to see change bought to Nigeria, an end to the corruption, gross international theft and diabolical living conditions for the everyday man.
So he stayed. And with a band of musicians that’s became up to 80 strong, begun a movement of irreverent, straight talking defiance, encased in deliciously infectious music that touched the hearts of people all over the world. Fela would not be held back, silenced, backed into a corner, nor would he ever surrender.
Whilst having the time of my life watching Fela the musical at the National Theatre recently, it came to me that there was something about the life and music of Fela, that was a great lesson to all us.
How to display World Shaking-History Making-Perseverance in the face of adversity
Thinking about the commitment I made this year to start and continue my quest for holistic Lifestyle Improvement. Perseverance has been something I have struggled with regularly. I am now and always have been the sort of person who likes to see instant, excellent results. I want a home cooked feast of a meal, in microwave time and throw out containers.
But it’s a fact of life that most of the truly exceptional things, experiences and people, either take time, or take “their” time. Which is a bitch; because time is the one thing we really are not promised
In the daily effort to overcome my gremlins, which like to sit on my shoulder and whisper nasty ( jay breath) words in my ear like………
* You will never understand all this blogging stuff, it’s to technical and you’re not smart enough
* You will never lose this excess weight and look fly again, you’re in your thirties girl, it’s all downhill from here
* Why is this “writing project” taking so bleeping long to get off the ground, you have been working at this for ages, with no visible progress. You haven’t got a chance in hell.
Sometimes it’s all I can do not to say f%@k it, and start looking for a job in Tescos. Seriously sometimes there are days when I feel so demotivated, like I don’t have a clear or original thought in my head, and am therefore destined for failure. These clouds of insecurity fear and impatience can last for days if I let them. Then I get a shot of inspiration and I’m alright again.
Here are the things Fela and his inimitable style of Afrobeat taught me
1.The devil is in the detail, but always keep an eye on the bigger picture
Fela’ music was dynamic and intricate, but every single instrument was ultimately there to support the overall sound. He had vision
2.It’s ok to start small, with only a vague outline and big dreams.
The intro to many of Fela’ tracks start off quite simply with drums, horns and hardly ever any vocals. But when he gets into the swing of things, boy does he make a mighty sound
3. You will have off days, days when you simply can’t get your shit together and are drowning in ideas and a passion to know, be, do-more.
So give yourself a break, then get back on the horse and keep riding. For someone with a back catalogue as extensive as Fela’s it’s inevitable that you will find some clangers. Some tracks that’s just don’t do anything for you personally, but with a man as inspired, driven and talented as this, you know that if you keep going, you will always get back to the good stuff.
So what goals do you have to for your lifestyle Improvement?
Are they plans for dynamic Lifestyle Design! Plans for a slimmer waist line and money in the bank generated by NOT selling your soul. Are you working your very own Lifestyle Max!.
If so, I want to encourage you to persevere. Take the slow burn approach to success, and remember that achievement in life, love and business are often a marathon and not a sprint.
Remember that it’s ok to have off days, as long as you recognise them for what they are. A crappy day, where you will allow yourself a hot minute to wallow, drink copious amounts of tea and stumble about until you find a shred of inspiration, in the full knowledge, that you WILL rise again and continue to eat the proverbial elephant.
And finally, if that word of encouragement does not get you galvanised, moving, and a little sweaty with excitement. Tune in to Spotify, pull up some Fela Kuti, make some space in the living room and shake what your mama gave ya.
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