Femi Kuti Reveals: 'Fela Didn't Want Me to Go to School, He Wanted Me To Become An Area Boy'


In a deep revealing interview with TheNetng, Femi Kuti opens up on his tough childhood and how his father, the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti kept him out of school and used him as an experimental guinea pig.

In the words of Femi Kuti, "My father didn’t want me to study music because I was more of an experimental guinea pig to prove a point that you do not need education to be successful and he wanted to use me to prove to his brothers that the education he got was not what made him, so I was like a guinea pig which I really vehemently protested against but when I became successful and I complained again, my father said ‘are you famous? Are you not successful? Oya shut up.’

"But I was still very angry because I’m more of a street boy. I may speak well, it’s because I read a lot of books and I’m very well informed but my father wanted me to be more like an area boy. Back then if I got back from school and said I got ZERO in Mathematics, he’ll say that’s very good. I used to be among the bad boys in school that’ll jump the fence to go and watch Chinese movies at the cinema and if we get caught and my father hears about it, he’ll say ‘very good’. My father wanted me to be the head of the ‘most baddest boys’ in school (laughs). If I did well in my science subjects, he was very unimpressed but if I did bad things, he’ll be like ‘that’s my boy’ because that’s what he wanted and in the long run you could say he proved and made his point because I became successful."

Femi added that, "I didn’t get the education and my mum, his brothers were all so scared that I’ll be a complete failure. Nigeria wrote me off, you can’t imagine how bog my father was in those days and then his first son (me) had no school no education, smoking igbo, doing all the bad things everyone else was running from. I was totally written off. Back then If a girl introduces me to her parents they’ll be the end of the relationship, even my marriage broke up because of such stigmas of being Fela’s son. So if you look at it well, I’m not supposed to be successful, I should not have been nominated for a Grammy, I shouldn’t have won KORA Awards, these things are not important to me, but those that know my history know the significance because I was a failure."

Asked if he’ll take the same risk with his kids, he said:
"I understand that It was a very big risk my father took, I won’t take that kind of risk with my kids, but I am lucky to have that street mentality, so if I walk on the street, the area boys will not just respect me because I’m a great musician, they’ll relate with me because a lot of them have heard my history on the street. So I can give my children that same rugged attitude but with a lot of finesse and I’ll ensure they get that education so the elite will not be able to talk down on them."

On whether he attributes his success to his father:
"How? Why? He too cannot lay claim to it. When he first watched me on stage, he said I was a failure himself and that was our first fight because I told him ‘How dare you’, your parents sent you to music school, gave you the best education but you  refused to train me and you open your mouth to call me a failure."