"If you wan to go wash...If you wan cook soup...If your head dey hot...If your child dey grow...na water you go use. If water kill your child...na water you go use. Nothing without water. Water, him no get enemy! If you fight am, unless you wan die. I dey talk of Black Man Power."
This is a summary of lyrics from "Water No Get Enemy" by Fela Kuti.
I woke up this morning thinking about this song which I first heard at the biographical musical, Fela!, about the Nigerian musician and human rights activist. I went to see it twice--once in Houston and the following year in Dallas. It is a compelling bit of African history about a man who was inspired by the Black Power and Civil Rights movements in the U.S. to stand up to Nigeria's corrupt, oppressive government in the seventies.
His message "Water Get No Enemy" is so powerful in this song where he alludes to the work oppressed people must do to win fair treatment and justice. If water kills your child, you will drink it, cook with it and bathe with it the same day. Water makes no enemy. Nobody rejects water because it is too useful. Anyone who challenges water risks looking like a fool or death. Water is undeniably powerful. Relentless. Essential. Indispensable.
Here is the performance video of the song from the musical:
The second time I went to see Fela! I was with my best friend. She's a brainy academic and on our way back to the car, she was all I wanna research and read more about him and his story. I want to know more. At the time I was enriched by what I had learned about him from the shows and happy to leave it at that. Still, months after the second show, I listen to his music and watch youtube videos and remember the details from the musical and they stay with me. Now, like my bestie, I want to know more too.
Aside: I actually look forward to reading the autobiographies of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and an interesting biography of Jesus. I'm intrigued by people who were so bold during times when boldness was life-threatening. I digress.
Of course Wikipedia is the natural way to read a snapshot biography, so that's done. I also found this neat archive of programs and artiles on NPR related to Fela Kuti and Afrobeat music. I havent perused it yet, but plan to return to the link when I have time. Finally, here is a short list of books that I hope will satisfy my curiosity about Fela Kuti. Hopefully you will find them useful too:
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