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Fela: This Bitch of A Life

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  358 ratings  ·  42 reviews
African superstar, composer, singer, and musician, as well as mystic and political activist, Nigerian Fela Kuti, born in 1938, was controversy personified. He was swept to international celebrity on a wave of scandal and flamboyance, and when he died of AIDS in 1997, more than a million people attended his funeral. But what was he really like, this man who could as easily ...more
Paperback, 290 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Lawrence Hill Books/Chicago Review Press, Inc. (first published 1982)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have always been fascinated by people who go out of their way to put together books, monographs, studies or biographies involving others. I often feel that in most cases such works are labours of love, as it were.

In the case of this book, the subject/protagonist, Fela is one of the most fascinating and flamboyant characters in African history. "Abami eda" (Fela) was a larger than life character, a spectacular musician, an "Africanist " - and what a polemicist!!

This is a comprehensive work foc
Jul 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
A fearless musician, activist, warrior and leader. Amazing that with every release came an arrest, beating, burning of his residence, etc. When I came upon his music, a style in which I had never before encountered, I had to learn more. His music in which he created, a style and genre all it's own back (when music seemingly could be put into genres) was really only the tip of the iceberg. His stance against colonialism and all that unfolded around him is as amazing as his music. They say he was ...more
Samuel Maina
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography, music
I knew I wanted to read this book from the moment I saw its title. In the recent past I got his full discography and now I fully understand Femi’s artistic streak.

I would say he was always an against the grain type of guy. He always looked at the other side of the coin…thought that is not always a good thing. His marriage to the 27 Queens is sort of unbelievable…..I kept wondering what would have happened if he was not sterile. Fela's lack of restraint and misogynism are appalling I do not know
Oct 01, 2014 rated it liked it
An interesting book about an interesting life. The interviews with Fela's queens left a bad taste in my mouth as I thought the interviewer was sexist and uninsightful. The epilogue was some of the better writing in the book and most enlightening. I think this is a decent start in learning more about Fela Kuti. ...more
Kojo Baffoe
Feb 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Fela Kuti has undergone a bit of a resurgence recently with the musical production around his life currently playing in Nigeria having been produced and performed in the US. Fela was a great unifier as a musician and activist because he operated as an African. The more controversial aspects of his life, like having about 26 wives at some stage, are often held up to overshadow his strong pan-african outlook. This book is written in his words and in the words of those around him, particularly his ...more
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Serendipity allowed Carlos Moore to put together this oral history of Fela in 1982, not long after the death of his mother, while an obsession with spirits and ongoing persecution pulled apart his extraordinarily fertile musical world. From here it was pretty well downhill, denying AIDS and slackening the tight control he had over his band and public image. The postscript written in 2008 is actually pretty harrowing, redolent of reading about what happened to Jimmy Page following Kenneth Anger's ...more
Aug 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
FELA is a biography of the Nigerian musician and political activist Fela Kuti, originally published in 1982. The Cuban ethnologist Carlos Moore spent hours interviewing Fela and produced an overview of Fela's life and values that Fela authorized. Generally the biography proceeds in the first person, a sign that it was transcribed from interviews.

Moore's biography doesn't speak much of Fela's music, but rather Fela's life and times, especially his numerous run-ins with Nigeria's military regime.
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Being Nigerian, I enjoyed reading about this man who shook up the country, and indeed a lot of the world. He was so different and so unapologetically himself. And he really suffered for it!
Shona Reader
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I loved Fela Kuti the artist and this is the sole reason I read this book. But after going through this biography, his questionable views have made me resent him. A few quotes from the book:

"But they’re not on the same level with men. Men and women are on two different levels. You can say different wavelengths. Man. Woman. Two points that can never meet...It’s as simple as that. You can’t compare them. Equality between male and female? No! Never! Impossible! Can never be! It seems the man must d
Aug 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Easy enough to get through! A glimpse into FELA's life but no real depth despite the sense of familiarity you get. Really an introduction for most or a re-evaluation for those who have an idea. Loved the photos that accompanied the interviews with his wives (beauties)! He lived a simple life and was a true activist. Any recommendations is some more telling biographies on FELA? ...more
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I wished this talked more about his music. I started losing interest when his wives were each interviewed - not because they're boring (they're not), but because Carlos Moore, the interviewer, keeps asking them all the same questions and they each give the same answers.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this account of Africa's foremost musical genius.
Phil Overeem
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very entertaining and informative book. Most chapters are "narrated" by Fela through edited interview transcriptions, which are plenty wild and fiery. Most notable, though, is the time given to some of Kuti's 27 wives and a few of his musical colleagues. Recommended. ...more
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
offered great insights and dispelled so many myths.
especially the sad tail-end no one seems to talk about.
nonetheless. the man, he lived.
Jan 06, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a disappointing read. I've been enjoying the music behind the man that founded his own musical style, Afro-beat, but this book didn't provide any insight into his music at all! Instead, it focused on his radical ideas, interspersed with commentary from friends and lovers.
He was a political dissident and his views on a single pan-African nation were pretty commendable. Fela was beaten and imprisoned by his own (Nigerian) government repeatedly due to these views. His own mother was thr
Morakinyo Beckley
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shocking, riveting, roller coaster, moving and sometimes pitiful, the book aroused a lot of emotions and thrusts one into the almost chaotic life of the contrarian popularly referred to as President of the Masses.

The author was able to gain access to intimate aspects of a man classified as iconic while alive, yet despised, told about how chaotic his life will be (through the medium that his equally iconic mother revealed in his early years) yet became more influential that all members of his ac
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, 2019
Parts of this book were difficult to read (especially the parts about Fela's Queens. Their decisions to stick with him despite the hell they'd been through is something only they would understand cause even the interviewer didn't capture sensible reasons.
Best way I can describe the man who's music I've come to respect is that he was human (more human than most people in my opinion) and also that he was greater than the sum of his parts.
Dayo Johnson
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this book because I knew there were parts of Felas life I was not aware of. This proved to be correct and I am grateful to Carlos Moore for filling in these parts.
Fela to me was not just a musician, he inspired me to do the right thing when it came to justice. I became a part of the Anti Apartheid movement whilst in university and was very involved in celebrating Black Culture, and this was in part due to Fela. A great man.
Of recommend the book to others.
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It open my eyes to soo much about Africas struggle and not just Fela's. ...more
Johan Martin
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
An amazing artist risking everything, not just album sales, to protest against injustice. Also inspired me to learn more about his mother and Nigeria.
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it

Love, love it. Can't say more than just to advice that if you haven't read this book, you are missing.
Karani Kimaru
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Some interesting parts but overall not as comprehensive and engaging as I thought it would be.
Omobulejo Olusola
Jul 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read with great expressions in Fela's voice. ...more
Davidson Ajaegbu
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book brought Fela to life and showed a side away from his music but touched on the inspiration for most of his songs. It was a good read all together.
Matt Terrell
Sep 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
Terrible book
Antonio Depietro
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
brilliant and troubled man who more people need to talk about!
Dec 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Does one rate an autobiography on the basis of the subject's world view and actions or on the narrative of their life story? I have chosen the latter.

"This Bitch of A Life" is a captivating insight into the life of an African enigma. I learned much about Fela's life, including worrying paternalistic views about women and sex. These were particularly glaring considering the powerhouse his mother Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was. In the epilogue Moore acknowledges the contradictions of Fela's life. In s
Rachel  Akil
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED this book! While it took my mind a while to get over the first person account given by someone other than Fela himself, I thoroughly enjoyed the true account and interviews of his friends and family. Best insight on Fela I’ve ever read or seen. Good read.
Lawal Salami
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was really an insight into the man and how that concept relates to everyone around him. Elevated with all the words available to man, even the words he himself will reject, none come close to appreciating this man's greatness. Ebami Eda. ...more
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Carlos Moore was born Charles George Moore Wedderburn in Cuba in 1942 to Rebecca Winifred Wedderburn and Victor Moore. The fourth of five children, Moore was raised by working class parents who struggled to support him and their other children. During his childhood Moore experienced economic and social hardship which accompanied his parents’ inability to secure regular employment in a rac

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