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At 85 Years Ace Baritone Saxophonist Baba Ani Suddenly Blows The Wrong Note.



Lekan Animashaun, AKA Baba Ani, erstwhile baritone Saxophonist for FELA Anikulapo-Kuti’s Egypt’80 Band, turns 85 years old today. The Nigeria entertainment and arts industry had been in a weeklong frenzied celebration for the man, more for his perceived loyalty to FELA than anything else. While We also join all and sundry to wish him a happy Birthday, the saxophonist apparently has made up his mind to use the occasion to unsettle himself.

The octogenarian chose an Interview with Arise TV, to stand truth on its head. Answering a question on why he doesn’t visit nor perform at the Afrika Shrine, he said Femi Kuti, star musician and first son of FELA, barred him from the Afrika Shrine because he (Baba Ani) refused to work with FEMI.Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Close followers of the FELA story will recall that Baba Ani had been in a long drawn battle with FEMI. When FEMI started playing with the Egypt’80 band and FELA allowed him to open concerts for him with his (FEMI) own music, Baba Ani, who hitherto opened the concerts was not happy and kicked against it. For peace to reign, FELA decided on an alternating formula for the opener. So on tours, both of them chose different alternating days to open.

At FELA’s death, Seun Kuti, FELA’s last child was a minor, at 14 years. Femi Kuti, the eldest son, was already an established award winning artiste with his Positive Force Band. So after the funeral FEMI opted to teach Seun Kuti Saxophone but he met a brick-wall from most especially Baba Ani who insisted he and another member of the Egypt’80 band, Yinusa Akin, AKA YS, would teach him. So FEMI let go. He then offered to jam with the Egypt’80 band as much as possible whenever they wanted to perform FELA’s unreleased music since he had worked on those as a member of the band. Again Baba Ani shouted No, saying FELA left those sounds for Seun and The Egypt’80 Band. FEMI left them and dared them to release any of the music. The Courts later ruled and gave authority of FELA’s Estate to the administrators, Yeni, Femi and Kunle Kuti. Kunle was indeed chosen to represent the children born outside wedlock, by the mothers.
This was a big blow to Lekan Animashaun and others who wanted to corner these unreleased music using Seun as a front. Seun was too young at 14-15 years to read between the lines.

Still wanting to protect Seun, FEMI offered to bring his Positive Force Band to perform at the Shrine alongside the Egypt’80 Band so to help sustain FELA’s crowd. Again Baba Ani kicked against this. Late Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi had to intervene, but Baba Ani told him he wouldn’t be able to work alongside FEMI whom he described as not a complete Blackman with a white mother and has white blood running in his veins. FEMI then gave up trying to help his brother believing that eventually Seun would grow up and realise the truth. Now, that has come to pass.

When the Binitie family took over their land on which FELA’s Shrine was erected and the Egypt’80 became homeles, YENI and FEMI brought in their siblings to share in the spoils of the Old Shrine. With their own share, YENI and FEMI built The New Shrine. Perhaps out of the guilty conscience of his previous utterances particularly the racist abuse on Femi and his mother, Remi Kuti, Baba Ani couldn’t come to the Shrine. Or could be out of a permanent grudge against the Yeni/Femi led FELA’s family for non inclusion of band members in the Estate even as he is aware that they were paid staff of FELA.

It has taken the maturity and good nature of the FELA’s kids to keep these details from the public, respecting Baba Ani’s age.

So it was too, after the Arise Interview when FEMI decided not to honour him with a reply. KALAKUTA CHRONICLES initially wanted to tow same line, not to spoil the Birthday Party. But on a second thought, if a man decides to dance naked in the market place on his 85th Birthday Celebration, it is only proper to beat the drums for him. It might just be the sweetest music to his celebration ears.

But most importantly, it’s just as well he opened up now, enough time to put out the truth for him to contest or remain permanently quiet.

This 85th Birthday could have provided a golden opportunity for reconciliations and forgiveness. Yet Lekan Animashaun chose his hour of glory to fan the ember of controversy.
It is what it is.

Happy Birthday Ani Bay. We wish you well in truth.

— with Dotun Ransome Kuti and 17 others.

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