Afrobeat maestro, Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, has finally opened up on his crashed marriage. The musician, who is currently in Paris, France where he is due to perform at the biggest African music festival in Europe, went down memory lane and recalled how he met and married Funke, his ex-wife and mother of his first son, Made. He also spoke about other intimate issues. It is vintage Femi – candid, honest and brutally frank! Enjoy it.
What has been your experience in collaborating with musicians like Wizkid and the rest?
It is okay.
Did you expect the kind of acceptance ‘Jaiye Jaiye’ is receiving?
Yes, because I know what I put inside. It is like cooking a pot of soup without putting spices that will make it sweet, it will just be an ordinary pot of soup. People might like it because they are hungry to eat. It was already a good music I just put a bit of energy that enhanced creativity and that was easy because I already like the music.
Would you still do more with upcoming Nigerian artistes?
Yes, I will do more. I get a lot of people asking me to do collaboration with them. My problem now is that I have to finish my next album. There are many people that I have already promised. The next person now might just be Nneka, who is asking me to do something for her. I might, it all depends. My next album must come out next year and I most compose 12 to 14 songs in four months time. I have already done a lot in my life to start thinking of new music; it’s impossible right now for me.
Because of Made, maybe you and Funke see to talk about common things but we are shocked to see her sitting next to you at ‘Femi Segun’s burial?
She is the mother of my child and we are very friendly, we even call each other. At least, what I manage to do is not to let the breakup affect Made first of all, and our relationship. Human beings must fight. There must be misunderstanding sometimes. It is now left to us if we are matured enough to overcome these problems. To some people, breakup is so bitter that they end up hating each other. I manage to take my hatred and throw it away, and still respect her as a human being and the mother of my son, and most importantly for the love of my son who needs his mother. If she too understands that he needs his father then we must get rid of our misunderstanding. He was the one at the church who said ‘please sit beside my mother’; I had to oblige him. I could have refused because I went with my girlfriend, so I told my girlfriend not to be annoyed and she understood.
Does it mean you and Funke may come back as husband and wife?
I doubt it. But you never know. You never know what God has in plan for you. What if you say never and something just happens? If they told me she would leave my house one day, I would have said it is impossible. So, if she comes back one day, you never know what can happen. One sickness can hook you down and she might be the person by your bedside, what would happen? I don’t pray for it but you never know what God has in plan for you. So, I am not the one that tempts fate. Right now, I am content, I am happy, we are friendly and my children are also happy.
Tell me your greatest memory of Funke?
Are you trying to bring us back because this question is mischievous (laughs). There are many great memories of her. I can’t say one or two because it is not possible to throw 10 years away. There are great, good and bad memories. All are memories.
How did you meet Funke?
I met her at a restaurant where I was playing jazz, at a place called ‘44’ in Ikoyi. She came with my cousin, Funmi Ransome-Kuti, they were in UNILAG together. She was so beautiful and she was looking at me, so I knew she likes me. So, I told my cousin to introduce me to her. That’s how we met.
How did you eventually propose to her?
I didn’t propose; one day, I just told her that ‘from today, we are boyfriend and girlfriend’. She said, ‘ha ha, what kind of love is this?’ I said, ‘when we have been calling ourselves everyday, are we misleading ourselves? And it was on a Christmas Eve. I said to her ‘from today you are my girlfriend, if you have a boyfriend, get rid of him now because I must not see him when I get to your house’ and she laughed. That was how we started.
I am sure you don’t want to pull that off your mind so soon?
It is off. Like I said, I have a new life. I am staying with two of the mothers of my children; we all stay in the same house. I have a very good family. They are content, but they respect Funke. If Funke comes, they will excuse us. They are very respectful of her. Don’t forget we are in Africa; this is the way we grew up, so if she comes around they give her the respect. If I go to the church and she is there, if I say ‘please I have to sit with her’, they will accord her the respect. And I am sure she has her life. Can we ever get together? I can never say no, because something can happen that may be for good or bad and we’ll be together again.
Never say never! If you ask if I am happy right now, I am very happy not just with my relationship, I am also very happy with my children who are progressing, which is really my priority. At 52, I have experienced a lot. If I die today, I cannot complain in heaven that I did not enjoy my life. My biggest challenge is to ensure my children have a good life. I want the children to grow up very stable and that requires a lot of sacrifice on my part. I cannot use my selfish, jealous or whatever interest to disrupt their future, which is the same attitude I have with Made. He is doing very well. He is playing piano well. And probably if I use his mother’s problem as an obstacle in his life, it might just be worrying him. And you never know why children have psychological problems, but it is the parents’ duty to always protect their children. ‘Nobody send us message; we slept with each other, we born pikin, you now want to give the pikin problem.’ I don’t indulge in that. Since there is a child involved, I try my best to keep my reservations to myself by just facing the truth.
You don’t believe in monogamy?
Yes. I grew up in a polygamous home. I grew up wanting to be like my father. I grew up wanting to have many women; that was my training. I will not tell you it is right or wrong. You see my son, he believes in monogamy. He has one girlfriend that he has been following for many years, and they want to get married. I don’t pray for them to breakup. If they want to even get married in the church, I will not stop him. Whatever he wants to do I will not use my own life to rule, direct or control my children. They must have the liberty to choose because if they fail or succeed, they have to understand it is their life. I can always be a good father. I will have to teach them how to take good decisions because I love them.
I am not going to discourage my son by saying ‘what if she breaks your heart, so get ready for heartbreak’, because I don’t pray for it. I can only support him. If he is successful and even if he breaks up with this girl, he might still go for another person. But for whatever reason, this is the life he has chosen for himself and I love it that he is happy. Because of the way I was brought up, there is no way I can be faithful to a woman. I will not even try it. I wasn’t trained to do so. I didn’t grow up with that attitude. I grew up in the real house of Kalakuta where there were women and I loved it. So, I wanted the same thing for myself. Now, I don’t have the life of Kalakuta but I know that I can’t leave that dream and say I want to be faithful to one woman. I will rather be by myself; truth, I love my freedom. I don’t love the part that I owe anybody anything. Even the people with me know that I love my freedom. I like to sleep when I want to sleep, if I want to go out I love to enter my car and go on my own; I love my independence. I was brought up with total independence.
Did you give Funke a ring, that ‘with this I thee wed’?
No, she bought the ring.
And you put it in her finger?
Yes, in the registry.
That makes you a monogamist so you cannot marry another wife under the Nigerian law?
I am not a monogamist because we are divorced.
It looks like you sacrificed all when Funke was with you?
No, I didn’t. When we got married she was pregnant and I knew it was a boy. I didn’t know how I knew but I just knew. I told her ‘we will get married, but I will never be faithful to you’. She knew one of my dancers then was my girlfriend. I have been dating her long before I met Funke.. Funke’s mother and I are not good friends. When she (Funke’s mother) came back into her life, we started having problems. I don’t know if that is part of the problem or if it is Funke who is bored with the marriage or her friends were talking to her, whatever the reason, I tried my best to bring her back. I tried to even change my ways. Many things went on, those that are close to me know that I went out of my way, when I saw that I was wasting too much energy, I had to relax. Funke and I didn’t talk for a long time. It took us years to understand that there is a son in our midst. I didn’t want to open the can of worms because we have settled all these. It is something that we have left behind. I have forgiven her and I will not tell you that I was totally right, but was I sincere in my marriage? Yes be rest assured that I was. I wasn’t doing anything that she wasn’t warned of before. That I won’t have girlfriends? She knew that I was a very humble polygamist. I tried to be as discreet as possible but you know the more you are getting popular, the more people are taking your tales to your wife. She might find condoms in my car that I forgot to hide very well, who knows?
Why then did people blame your sister, Yeni, all this while…?
I will never reveal to you why our marriage broke up, but YK (Yeni) definitely was never part of it. YK and I even fought because she advised Funke to take Made along with her, and I said if she takes Made I am in trouble, because I love made and I want him to be with me. All my life was circled around Made, so if Funke had gone with Made maybe I would have committed suicide, because everything in my life in that marriage was based on Made. I saw Made as my inheritor; I saw him as the next Anikulapo to take the music to another level. So, my investment emotionally, financially, everything was stationed on Made. If Funke had left with Made, I didn’t have another child, and a politician had already threatened me that what if Made dies? So, I thought that was a threat from the government saying they will kill Made. I was very protective of Made, which was another reason I decided to have other children. What if I lose Made? What will I do? If you check the Anikulapo and Ransome-Kuti families, there are not many boys; everybody is just having girls. So, the only inheritor of the Kuti dynasty was Made. My cousin in America had a girl, Yeni had a girl, others also had girls, and Made was the only boy. I thought of protecting him or else the Anikulapo-Kuti clan will die. Seun also had a girl; the only person that recently had two boys was Kunle. He just had his own boys when Made was already a teenager.
We heard your father had a son in the US?
He didn’t have a son in the US; it is in Australia.
Have you met him?
What is his name?
How did he meet you?
I went to play in Sydney and he came to meet me there. That was about four or five years ago.
Did Fela ever tell you about him or how did you know?
Fela told us about one woman that probably got pregnant for him. She told Fela she was pregnant but she disappeared with the pregnancy. Fela now came and told us the story. He (Couney) met my sister on Facebook and told her the same story. And he traced his mother because his mother put him up for adoption, so when he met his mother, she then told him that his father was Fela.
How old is he?
I am a year older than him.
So, he is part of the inheritors of Fela?
Yes, but he doesn’t want to be known. He doesn’t want anything, he just wants to meet us, and case closed.
He answers Kuti too?
Are you not inviting him to Nigeria for a visit?
He will make his decision. He doesn’t want much publicity. It was his son who wants to know the family. He has met us, if he wants to go the extra mile that is his business.
What does he do, is he into music?
He is into drawing. I don’t know much about him. We talk once in a year. I went to Australia early this month and my sister told him I was there, but he didn’t come to meet me because he was busy. Don’t forget that 50 years of our lives have passed, where do we want to start the friendship. He is a very nice person. He is probably a Fela’s son, we cannot say for sure except there is a DNA to prove it. And to do that, would you have to bring Fela from the grave? But from my perception he looks like Fela
What is your opinion about the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) coming up later in the year?
Don’t be surprised that it will be very successful.
What can really make AFRIMA successful from your own perspective?
It’s total dedication and sincerity from all participants, not compromising the integrity of the award. AFRIMA must really be about talents, so when you win the award, it must be bigger than the Grammy. It must be Africa’s award but better than the Grammy. Everybody must be looking forward to it. It is all about the organization and dedication by everybody involved who will not compromise. If the Grammy is so big today it is because you can’t toy with the award, the Grammy is bigger than everybody. So, the same thing must apply to AFRIMA. No individual must say he is going to monopolize it. It must go beyond that; it must be Africans’ dream. It must be something that everybody must know that after our lives, it will continue and everybody that holds that torch must take it a step further.
Do you think money should be attached to any of the categories?
If you start to place money on it we are going to lose interest. The Grammy doesn’t give you money; you even pay. You pay for your lodging; you pay for everything. And I believe if you win the Grammy you will pay to collect it. They don’t give you the Grammy plaque to take away because it is pure gold.