Fela Kuti: 6 Crucial Business Lessons From Afrobeat Inventor
Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the Afrobeat Inventor whose life and music still inspire many, years after his departure. Fela pioneered the Afrobeat genre, a complex fusion of jazz, funk, highlife, and traditional Nigerian and African chants. The Nigerian musician lived an eventful life filled with struggles and triumphs, one that generally describes an ideal business environment.
From Fela’s personal life to his music career, and his active criticism of the military dictatorship that characterised the 1970s, the afrobeat inventor leaves a trail of business lessons for every entrepreneur to glean from. Let’s take a look at 6 crucial ones:
Never succumb to fear
Fela fiercely criticised the corruption in government and the violation of human rights meted out by military dictators in the 1970s and 80s. He was bold and unrelenting and became a thorn in the flesh of corrupt leaders. Also, Fela had great convictions that governed his life. These convictions were reflected in his music because he was unapologetic about them.
Entrepreneurs must, like Fela, be unflinching in their convictions, even when the business environment does not favour them. They must be bold enough to weather the storm that comes with running a business in a tough environment like Africa. They must be fierce and have the courage to match their biggest competitors’ energy. This is because succumbing to fear can kill your business on arrival, so like Fela, choose to be bold and take on challenges.
Fela’s Father (Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti) wanted him to be a doctor like his brothers. But Fela chose to be different. He studied Music at the Trinity College of Music, London. Fela’s stance was not only different career-wise, but he also brought that mindset into his music. He invented Afrobeat, a combination of Jazz, funk, high life and rock. The Legend’s performance and song style were unusual. From this, business people must understand that “being different” sells.
Entrepreneurs seeking to excel must be willing to identify a unique need and create a unique solution. They must get up and break societal stereotypes and be different in their approach to business. Again, they must decide to think and act differently.
Never give up
Being different won’t be void of criticism and tough times, but you must like Fela, never give up. Fela was beaten to a pulp by one thousand ‘unknown soldiers’ who invaded his house on February 18, 1977. He was arrested and locked up in jail for 27 days after they burnt down the Kalakuta Republic. Despite all these, Fela didn’t give up. He came out of jail and rebuilt his music brand from scratch and continued criticising the government. This is a very crucial lesson for business people.
Entrepreneurs must not be quick to give up when a business idea doesn’t work as planned. Oprah Winfrey once said, “Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” This should tell you that failure shouldn’t make you give up. Failure makes the world interesting. It puts your hunger for success to the test. So, when next you hit a brick wall, bring the building down and rebuild if you have to. By all means, keep trying.
Fela was skilled. He could play several musical instruments. From the keyboard, trumpet, and electric guitar, to drums, Fela brought on his vast knowledge of music every time he performed. He chose to sing in pidgin and thrilled his audience with his wild and theatrical performances. From this, business people must learn new business principles and explore new paths to achieve success.
They must identify tech trends and take advantage of the million possibilities offered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). In addition, know your competitors, know your target audience in-depth and develop unique strategies to convert them while you seek out new opportunities.
Build a network
Codenamed “The Black President,” Fela had a very strong connection with his followers. He created the Kalakuta Republic which became a platform for his regular performance. His convictions and uniqueness attracted many dispirited Nigerians and Africans to him. Like Fela, businesspeople must build a network, filled with loyal followers.
Building a network of loyal followers can give your business a competitive advantage. This is because your loyalists will fight and defend your business when you are not there. They will also promote your business and give it widespread recognition. This secret is something that brands like Apple, Samsung, and Techno have identified.
Build a legacy
Fela has been gone for over 25 years now, yet his Afrobeat continues to make waves globally. It has birthed other genres of music, some of which includes Afropop and Afrojuju. Millions of current African A-list entertainers are inspired by his life and body of work while more talents are springing up daily because of his influence.
Entrepreneurs must strive to make a lasting impact on society, with their businesses. As much as you desire to make money, you should also be passionate about leaving footprints in the sand of time.
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