Throughout Fela‘s life, he had a complex relationship with women: yes his brand of polygamy was unconventional and shockingly married 27 women on the same day, the influence they- and other women- had on him was evident.
Here we take a look at the many women of Fela’s life and the role they played in his incredible life.
Remilekun Ransome-Kuti nee (Taylor) was Fela’s first wife and mother of his three oldest children. The two met as students in London. They got married in 1960 and had three children: Yeni, Femi and Sola. Fela’s antics got a little too much for her and she moved away from all of the chaos into a separate house in the 70’s. She died in 2002.
Not that Fela cared what people thought of his bevy of women but in 1978 he married 27 of his singers and dancers. The Queens as he called them also suffered during the several police raids on Fela’s house. He later explained marrying them as an act of protection from society that nfairly referred to them as prosyitutes. His two youngest children, Motunrayo and Seun were born by two of his Queens Najite and Fehintola.
Fela’s closeness with his mother is stuff of legend: Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti the firebrand activist who once famously led a women’s uprising that forced a king into exile was reincarnated in her son. The two of them were kindred spirits who understood each other better than anyone else did. She supported her son throughout his activism and paid dearly for it: in the 1977 raid on Fela’s Kalakuta Republic, she was thrown from a second storey window and died from the injuries sustained on that day. Many people believe that Fela was never the same after her death.
Born Sandra Smith, she later became known as Sandra Iszadore. She perhaps is the woman with the most impact on Fela’s life. When he met her in Los Angeles in 1969, he was already married and playing highlife music. Sandra introduced him to pan-Africanism and the Black Power Movement in America. She changed his thinking and encouraged Fela to create powerful music that carried a message. The two were in love but never got their fairy tale ending- Sandra did not want to be one of the many women in Fela’s life. However she helped him embrace the social consciousness which defined his music and life forever. She is featured on Fela’s 1976 record Upside Down- the only guest vocalist on any of Fela’s songs.
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