By Damilola Faustino
Though he’s my music idol of all time, Fela’s life holds some very deep business lessons for me. He understood from the onset that music is big business and it can actually put food on the table. With his extraordinary musical talent and lifestyle, he used it to make himself popular and earn money which not many musicians have been able to do. So if you are a musician or an aspiring entrepreneur, here are business lessons to learn from the Fela abami eda Kuti:
Dare to be different
Fela was born into a regular middle-class family. The son of a Reverend, he was sent to the United Kingdom to study medicine so he could become a doctor (just like his brothers). Instead, he went ahead to study music at the Trinity College of Music, London. Even with music, his style was visibly different. He pioneered Afrobeat, a new genre of music that fused Jazz, Funk, West African High Life and psychedelic rock. He chose to sing only in Pidgin English despite his impeccable fluency in the English Language. This what made Fela win the heart of many. He was different, so, don’t be afraid to be different no matter the opinion of anyone.
Never succumb to fear
Fela has turned out to be one of the most vocal musicians and social commentators Africa has ever seen. Even in the face of the brutal military dictatorship that ruled Nigeria in the 1970s and 80s, Fela was one of the fiercest critics of a government that was notorious for intimidating and taking out its opponents. Life is tough, more so in the world of business. Many countries are terribly difficult places to start and run a business. There are uncountable obstacles and challenges to doing business here. Despite these challenges, you should never give in to fear!
Never ever give up!
Following his unrelenting criticism of the military dictatorship, one thousand soldiers were ordered on his house and ended up ravaging it. Fela was beaten within an inch of his life. His mother was attacked and later died from the injuries. His house was burnt to the ground and he lost his music studio, musical instruments, equipment… everything. With no home and no mother, Fela rebuilt his music band from scratch and launched further harsher criticisms against the government. In all these travails, he never gave up. So, if things are no working out as at now, you should keep trying and never think of giving up your dreams!
Be versatile and creative
Fela was a creative and versatile musician. He could play several instruments including the saxophone, keyboards, trumpet, electric guitar, and the drums. His skill with instruments combined with his reflective music and sonorous voice always made him a wonder to watch on stage. He found ways to captivate and thrill his audience through wild and theatrical performances. We live in a fast-changing world. Your ‘regular’ customers will enjoy your products and services until some other business comes along with cheaper, higher quality and much more convenient options. Serious businesses must continue to look for ways to innovate and excite their customers in order to keep them engaged and invested in the products and services they offer.
Remember to leave a legacy
Fela’s creative musical genius and his magnetic personality have been widely influential on African music, popular culture and social activism. His Afrobeat creation has birthed several other music forms including Afropop, Afrojuju and several others. His influence on his country’s history and evolution is symbolic in many respects and has crossed generational lines. Most African businesses find it difficult to outlive their founders. It is true that the primary motivation for starting a business is to make a profit and create wealth, however, there should be an overriding motivation to leave a legacy that lives beyond the business’s creator.
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