In 1978, the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti shocked the world when he married 27 women in a single day.
Hailed as the Muhammad Ali, James Brown and Bob Dylan of Africa all wrapped into one, modern hip-hop wouldn’t exist without Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the late Afrobeat star.
This act may seem peculiar and unconventional, but it reflects Fela’s unique personality and his commitment to his band members. This article will delve into the circumstances leading up to this extraordinary wedding, as well as the reasons behind Fela’s decision.
One of the key factors that contributed to Fela’s mass wedding was the devastating attack on his commune, known as the Kalakuta Republic, in 1977. After the Nigerian military raided his residence, many of his band members were left homeless and vulnerable. Determined to keep his talented and loyal team together, Fela devised a plan that would provide them with security and protection.
To create a sense of unity and stability within his band, Fela presented a piece of paper to his female band members, inviting them to express their desire to marry him. Astonishingly, all twenty-seven women willingly added their names to the list, showcasing the trust and bond they shared with their charismatic leader.
On February 20th, 1978, at the Parisona Hotel in Anthony, Lagos, Fela Kuti embarked on an unprecedented journey. With the blessings of twelve Ifa priests, the ceremony marked the union of Fela with his chosen twenty-seven wives. However, it was not without controversies, as some parents of the women expressed their objections to the marriage.
During the wedding ceremony, Fela addressed the attendees, emphasizing his intentions behind this remarkable act. He pressed naira notes on his wives’ foreheads as a symbol of his commitment to their financial well-being. Additionally, he bestowed each wife with marriage certificates, signifying their legal status and his dedication to their union.
In the aftermath of the nuptials, Fela implemented a rotation system, ensuring that he spent time with each of his twenty-seven wives. Twelve wives would reside with him at any given time; however, this arrangement did not manifest without challenges and occasional conflicts among them.
Following the wedding, Fela and his twenty-seven wives embarked on a honeymoon in Ghana. This trip not only allowed them to solidify their bond but also served as a celebration of their union. Fela’s wives played vital roles in his musical career and continued to support him throughout their married life.
In 1986, following his release from prison, Fela Kuti made the decision to separate from his 27 wives, citing reasons of jealousy within marriages. It is important to highlight that despite the divorce, his former wives were not compelled to vacate his residence and some even continued to live with him until his passing in 1997.
Fela Kuti’s decision to marry twenty-seven women in one day may appear puzzling to many, but it is essential to understand the context and reasoning behind his actions. This monumental event was a direct response to the tumultuous times Fela and his band members had endured. By marrying his female band members, Fela safeguarded their well-being and kept them united in the face of adversity.
Fela’s unconventional lifestyle and audacious actions were hallmarks of his persona, making him a visionary and a revolutionary. While his mass wedding in 1978 was met with skepticism and disapproval from some, it ultimately strengthened the bond between Fela and his wives, supporting the notion that love can be expressed in various forms.
This remarkable event continues to be a testament to Fela Kuti’s unique character and his deep devotion to his music, his band, and his belief in the power of love and unity.