Wednesday, May 1, 2013

This Bitch of a Life: Book Review

Fela This Bitch of a Life by Carlos Moore was magnetic. As I dived deeper into the Fela Kuti biography, each page and chapter revealed a figure with many layers. Fela was all human; very intelligent and spiritual, with flaws and all.

I’d tread lightly in saying this book is an easy read. It’s written in Nigerian Pidgin; that’s how Fela spoke and Carlos Moore opted to write this biography in first person.  This adds to the authentic feel of the story. It’s as though the writer, Moore, was saying; ‘here is Fela love him or hate him…this is him’!

Much can be said about how Fela used music to challenge the Nigerian government. Much can also be said about why he is still relevant 16-years-after his death. And much can be said about how he lived among the poor and shared whatever wealth he had. 

But I’d like to focus on Fela the hot blooded man! Firstly I’ll confess that pictures of Fela reveal a very handsome man, blessed with a beautiful body. Now that my lustful thoughts are out the way…
Fela was a sexual beast and he knew it! Got pic from here!
The date was 20 February 1978; Fela Kuti married 27 women in a traditional ceremony! To put it in context the 27 women were part of his musical group Africa 70. This ceremony is seen as his second marriage because he had a first wife and three children with her.

My modern mind refused to believe that one man can love 27 women at the same time. What attracted him to his wives, his response, “Sex! I thought they were sexy and fuckable”.

Brutally honest, this was typical of Fela, he was not one to beat about the bush. He continued to explain, “I wanted a house where I could be fucking and I had it”. I couldn't help but laugh at this. I honestly didn't expect this from someone who is described as a human rights activist on Wikipedia

In this chapter he further explains how important sexual orgasm is to a human being. What he actually meant, I later realised, was that sexual orgasm was important to men and not necessarily women because they can live without sex.

“I fuck as often and as long as I can-o! Now, it’s not even a matter of choice. When I married twenty-seven women I knew what I was doing-o!”

When the book was written only 15 wives were still with him. Each woman was interviewed and they all shared about life with Fela. Were they happy? Were they satisfied? From what they said and what they didn't say one can’t confidently confirm whether these women were happy or unhappy with their chosen life. 

But I can confidently say these women sure did love having sex with Fela!

The wives complained about Fela denying them sex as a form of punishment and favouritism.

Although Fela claimed to have had something special with all his queens beyond sex, his view of women as a whole disturbed me a whole lot. 

When I got to the chapter he spoke about women, I pulled myself towards myself and remembered that Fela was of a time before mine and therefore viewed life differently. 

His view of women was simple: “Women got no other work than making the man happy. ‘Cause when the man is happy, he can move mountains. That’s all.”

He didn't believe in women’s liberation and said that the natural order of things was for men to lead. He thought homosexuality was unnatural. He thought religion was crazy.

His view of women can easily be seen as misogynistic but I think that’s a simplistic interpretation. I think it’s better to say he firmly believed in the patriarchal system. Fela didn’t hate women, he believed in genders staying in their lane. 

If a woman wanted to leave, he believed she should leave. And many did leave and they would visit. He held no animosity against them. 

Fela hated religion, homosexuality and women liberation but he didn't hate women. Maybe I’m being simple minded by separating misogyny and patriarchy. But Fela’s life story showed how they are not always in one pot.  

Unfortunately we lost this musical genius to HIV/Aids in 1997. This is an awesome read and not for the faint hearted. If you don’t like cursing – don’t bother. 

Read it with an open mind and remember this man lived, created and died. He made his own rules and broke them. Fela lived his believes, are you? 

Check the man out in action!!!

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