Gbemisola street in Ikeja is very much like any residential street in Lagos. Left and right, houses stand loosely together, interrupted here and there by wooden shops selling a multitude of wares. Then you arrive.
Home to the legendary Fela Anikulapo for 31 years, now a museum, kalakuta shares with the public carefully curated snippets of Fela’s personal life, music and politics.
Today, I am a guest in Fela’s home.I was excited. I didn’t know quite what to expect.
Like many of my generation, Fela’s voice, lyrics and roguishness was the draw.
Fela’s stairs, bedroom, flamboyant shirts, glamorous shoes, outlandish fur coat, life on stage and the beautiful people who made his life complete.
The sunlight poured down the high ceiling. I was transfixed. Family portraits carefully lined the walls. I followed the narratives up the elegant spiral stairs.
Like many of my university friends in the 80s, I gyrated to Fela’s pulsing music and shouted out his provocative lyrics. I was fascinated by his lifestyle and intrigued by his outlandish exterior.
Importantly, these messages continue to thump off these walls on Wednesdays when Seun Kuti rehearses with his band in Kalakuta.
That almost brought tears welling up. The spirit of Kalakuta is alive and well.
Perhaps it was the light flooding down from the ceiling.
Perhaps it was the life beaming back from the walls, kalakuta didn’t feel dead and dusty.
For a few hours, I was transported completely. Each piece, each picture, each newsprint felt lovingly curated, placed exactly in its place so I could find it today.
In many ways, wether you knew Fela or not, this house must be on your bucket list of places to visit in Lagos.
It tells a story of not just one man and his life but a story of life and living it.
Under the hexagon headstone rests the remains of the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti. A poignant resting place underneath the balcony where he would have looked outside onto Gbemisola street everyday.2