One of my favourite things here at Wellgosh is how diverse all of our staff are. Our lovely bunch are all interested in such a great manner of different things that we're constantly hearing about new music, shows and books etc. One thing that I always remember hearing in the shop when I first started were some tracks by Fela Kuti, an immensely talented artist and inspiring cultural figure.
To celebrate the legacy of Fela Kuti, Carhartt have released a limited collection that is inspired by the afrobeat pioneer. The capsule makes use of Fela Kuti typography, which featured heavily on his album artwork and record sleeves throughout his impressive music career.
Born in Nigeria in 1938, Kuti was raised in a massively anti-colonial family as one of three sons. His mother was a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement, his father an anglican minister and a school principal. Chalk & cheese? Both of Kuti's brothers went on to have careers in medicine, and whilst the same was expected of the man in question, he instead enrolled into the Trinity College of Music when he arrived in London from Nigeria in 1958.
After forming his band Koola Lobitos in London, Kuti relocated to Ghana for a short period, where he gave his genre of music its name - afrobeat. In 1969 Kuti took his band to Los Angeles for 10 months, where he became familiar with the Black Power movement, something which heavily influenced his music and political stance. He then renamed the band to Nigeria '70. Kuti and his band were deported from America and moved back to Nigeria, renaming the band again to Afrika '70.
In order to celebrate his heritage, Kuti changed his surname from 'Ransome' which translated to slave, to 'Anikulapo', which interprets "I will be the master of my own destiny and will decide when it is time for death to take me." It was from here that Kuti's political influences became apparent within his music.
In 1977, Kuti released the album 'Zombie', which was a scathing attack and metaphor aimed towards the Nigerian Army. The government reacted by sending 1000 troops to his commune, which was half nightclub and half studio. The attack saw him severely beaten, his studio & work destroyed and his mother killed. Kuti's response to this was to deliver his mothers coffin to the barracks of the soldiers. Referencing this later in his music with the song "Coffin For Head of State".
After forming his own political party in attempt to change society, Kuti ran for presidency in Nigeria in 1979, which was swiftly rejected. 5 years later, in 1984, he was jailed by Muhammadu Buhari, who he vocally opposed against, for currency smuggling. His imprisonment was then denounced as being politically motivated, and was eventually released after 20 months. Refusing to give up, Kuti carried on producing music and touring worldwide under another band name - Egypt '80, continuing with his protests of the unjust events that were occurring. Anti-apartheid themed music such as the album 'Beasts Of No Nation' saw him play alongside the likes of Bono, Carlos Santana and The Neville Brothers at the Amnesty International 'A Conspiracy Of Hope" concert in 1986.
His output eventually slowed down in the 90's, followed by his untimely death in 1997. Fela Kuti produced incredible music throughout his life, even when the odds were against him. There is a much more in-depth article that follows the life of Fela Kuti in much more detail here, and it really is worth the read.
The Carhartt X Fela Kuti collection features a printed shirt, shorts, hat, jacket, as well as various printed tees. Modelled by our very own Divine, (who you've probably heard singing at the top of his lungs and having a dance in the shop), here's our shoot for the collection.
A visionary, an icon, a legend. The Fela Kuti x Carhartt collection is available in store and online on the 4th April.