On This Day – February 20 1978: Fela Anikulapo Kuti Married 27 Women
On February 20, 1978 African music legend and Afrobeat creator Fela Anikulapo Kuti married 27 women on the same day all of whom were his back up dancers.
History has it that Fela was able to pull off the feat by putting out a notebook and asking any of the girls who were willing to marry him to write down their names and instantly 27 of them did. After which he called Ifa priests (reportedly 12) to join the wives in holy matrimony at the Parisona Hotel in Anthony, Lagos. A handful of the wives married against their parents consent but the wedding ceremony went on nonetheless.
“His friend took us to his house first before we were taken to a high court for the wedding. The people at the court said we were underage and that Fela should be arrested for even thinking of luring us into marriage. Eventually, they threw us out and we went to his friend’s office and from there to the late Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti’s residence. By that time, Fela’s house had been burned down. So he rented a hotel where 12 herbalists were invited to conduct the wedding ceremony.” Kevwe (one of Fela’s wives)
The event was joined by band members, friends and family. Fela placed naira notes on their heads, offered a few words and dished around marriage certificates.
The marriage served not only to mark the anniversary of the attack on the Kalakuta Republic but also to protect Fela, and his wives, from false claims from authorities that Fela was kidnapping the women. Later, he was to adopt a rotation system of keeping 12 simultaneous wives.
On the 3rd of August, 1997, Fela’s death was announced by his younger brother who was the then minister of health and prominent AIDS activist saying that his brother died from complications related to AIDS.
However, there has been no definitive proof that Kuti died from complications related to HIV/AIDS, and much skepticism surrounds this alleged cause of death and the sources that have popularized this claim.
Fela Kuti was honored with a lying-in-state in which his remains were encased in a five-sided pyramid-shaped glass coffin for full public viewing. More than one million people attended Fela’s funeral at the site of the old Shrine compound. The New Afrika Shrine has opened since Fela’s death in a different section of Lagos under the supervision of his son Femi Kuti.