For his 51st birthday, Afrobeat king, Femi Akinkulapo-Kuti staged a concert at the Afrika Shrine, Agidingbi Ikeja, Lagos. The event which held on Sunday, June 16, 2013, featured music, dance from popular acts in the entertainment industry.
Before the start of the event proper, Shoki, as Femi is fondly called chatted with ENCOMIUM Weekly about life at 51 and much more.
What are your wishes for today that you are celebrating 51?
To be there for my children as long as possible and to keep making great music, always striving for a better Africa and the world.
Did you ever thought you will live to be 51?
No, I thought I would be dead by my early 20s. I never gave it a thought. I was very reckless as a teenager. Year 2000 was so far away, it was unbelievable, I was the happiest person in the world when we arrived year 2000.
What do you look forward to in your better years?
I won’t stop what I am doing. Make good music, nothing really has changed about me. I will do a bit of reflection about my life because I had a difficult life and I want my future to be smoother. I will organize myself in a more peaceful manner but still be very focused about my objectives.
You seem to be working hard primarily for your children’s enjoyment, do you have time to pamper yourself?
No, my happiness is in seeing my children happy. What else do I want? If I am rich, it will go to my children. There’s no greater pleasure in seeing my children successful.
My life is dedicated to my children, from Made to the last one, everything I have, I do is geared towards my children’s good education and the day I leave this world, I want to be totally convinced that my children are all well. There is no greater joy than that.
Recently, you churned out another album, why did you do the launch abroad and not in Nigeria where majority of your fans are based?
I tried to get a label and they were all proving too difficult. I am not ready for the stress of running around begging anybody or trying to convince them to release my works and I am not ready to deal with piracy problems. The complications here are just too much. In Europe, I got a manager and all the people who could do all these for me. I don’t have all that here
I have worked with some people in the past who were a disappointment to me.
Tell us about the album, how many tracks and the songs?
11 tracks, Nothing to show for it, No place for my Dreams, No Work, No Job, One Man Show, This is just the Beginning, The world is Changing, Na so we see Am, one of my favourites.
How long did you put all that together?
How do your fans enjoy all these songs?
You can buy it. It’s in the market. If you go to Jazzhole, you get it. You can get it at the Shrine and if you are on iTunes, you can get it. Everybody now buy online, even those in Europe. Nobody buys the digital tape anymore.
Which of these two gives you more money, your album or going on tour?
To make money on tour with a big band is next to impossible. My intention wasn’t to make money so I can bear the cost. My intention was to always play good music and be a successful musician. If the material aspect comes, all well and good. If it doesn’t come, it doesn’t mean I will stop.
You seem to be the outgoing type now more than before that you became one of the judges at Nigerian Idols. Did you decide to change?
Nigerian Idols organizers asked me to become one of the judges, they really wanted me so I obliged. Nothing much has really changed about me. I still cherish my peace and quietness very much but sometimes people want me for something and I oblige.
You have also started doing collaborations?
They asked me, would I refuse? They respect my works, they respect me. They believe I can enhance their creativity.
What’s your plan after today, your birthday?
I will leave for America, Canada and France for my tour.
Which is the best gift you have received for your birthday?
I got a gift from my last daughter’s mother, Anthonia Bernard. I got DSTV Walka from sister Yeni. She also gave me a Blackberry. More people are just coming. I am sure I will get more.
You have not mentioned your ex-wife, Funke?
She is coming for the party. She told me she will be here. She has already given me Made and that’s okay. Everything else is a plus.
This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, June 25, 2013