The Sound of Black Solidarity: (Re)Incarnations of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti in the Global Black Politics and Soundscapes


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships




This project explores the enduring fascination with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the Nigerian musician and creator of the Afrobeat genre. Since his death in 1997, Fela has become a ubiquitous icon: deified, representing resistance and liberation, and continuing to be the subject of global obsession. Through a transnational archival and multi-site ethnographic research, this project investigates the significance of the obsession with Fela for the Black world, what it reveals about Global Black experiences and solidarity, the conceptualization of Afro-musical aesthetics in the twenty-first century, and the understanding of contemporary global Black soundscapes. Drawing on Yorùbá cosmology as a theoretical basis, this project uses ideas of reincarnation to trace Fela's deification, spiritualization, and (re)incarnations in art, films, music, and stage plays. This project uses indigenous epistemologies to tease out narratives of Fela's life-after-life and situates him in contemporary discourses as a figure who abides in the ancestral planes and the worldly realms.