BY OGBONNA AMADI, Entertainment Editor
Yeni Kuti , the first child and daughter of late Afro beat king, Fela Anikulapo Kuti turned 50 years last Tuesday. She relives memories of her active years as a dancer, life after the death of her father and her desire to re-marry if she has the opportunity to do so, amongst other issues raised by Showtime Celebrity.
How does it feel to be fifty?
Laughs. I’m excited to be fifty.
What’s the excitement in turning fifty?
When I was younger and I saw people who turned fifty, I used to think they were very old. But now, that I’m also there, I feel older but not very old.
Looking back, do you have any regret in life?
I don’t dwell on regrets. Life gives you what it would but I don’t dwell on it. I believe in being positive. So, I don’t even think of any regret. All I do is work.
You keep talking about work, what kind of work do you do?
Well, it’s in the shrine.
How do you run the Shrine?
Ah! I don’t know. There are different things to do there. You have to do your books, balance the sheets, make sure there’s diesel for the generator. Like now, people are waiting for me- there are so many things to do there.
So what are some of the challenges?
I think electricity is the most challenging. We use all the profit we make in purchasing diesel to run our generating set.
You are a veteran dancer…
Yes, I’m retired but not tired.
What could bring you out of the Shrine?
If someone offers me millions of Naira .
What passes through your mind whenever you are on stage?
I just love to dance. So whenever they sing, I just translate their songs into dance and I enjoy it. Dancing is my passion.
It makes you shake your back side…
That’s Afro beat for you, it’s a sensual dance. I’m even thinking of a reconciliation so that we can join the band.
Where there times you wanted to give up?
Many times, especially when you have to dance for like five to six hours in a row, and you don’t get to rest and eat well. And when you finally get few hours of rest, you think it should all end right there.
It’s hard to leave what you have passion for. Do you sometimes miss dancing?
Definitely I do miss it.
And when that happens, what do you do?
I get the dancers and we start rehearsing.
Do you wish your father, Fela is still alive to celebrate your achievements as the first child?
I wish Fela was here for different reasons, not to assess me but I missed his company. Especially the way we shared our gists.
What’s the beautiful thing you still remember him for?
There are so many beautiful things to remember him for. I miss sitting and sharing gist with him, his lectures, going to his shows, listening and dancing to his music, him coming to our shows and playing guitar with Femi. So many things that I can’t remember. Fela was full of life.
Aside Femi and Seun, are you happy that many artistes are not playing Afro beat?
No, I’m not happy. Afro beat is hard, it’s not an easy to play music, it takes a lot of dedication. And in the whole of Lagos, there are only about three Afro beat bands and I always try to host them during Felabration.
I wish more people are taking up the mantle. We must see Afro beat as ours in Nigeria before foreigners take it away from us.
When you heard about the Broad Way show, how did you feel?
I was proud that my father made an impact on people’s lives and that a show was staged in honour of him. I remember the first time I ever travelled to New York to see the show and I saw Fela’s mimic live-I was so proud. But I was again sad because Fela wasn’t there to see it.
He never saw that in his life time. I loved the show and watched it several times. And there were young guys and ladies who heard about Fela and appreciated him for what he stood for. Hopefully, this will inspire the Nigerian youths to stop running away from his music and who Fela was.
And when it finally came to Lagos…
Yes, I remember when it was first staged in the Shrine-it was fantastic. Every one in the Shrine loved the show and the casts loved the Shrine. And when the casts got to Eko Hotel, they just loved the fact that when they were singing the song, Nigerians sang along . But the reverse was the case in New York because they couldn’t sing Fela’s songs there-they loved it and didn’t want to leave.
Do you have admirers?
And you have a man…
I don’t have anybody
How do you mean?
I’ve answered that. I don’t have anybody who wants to marry me
Or are you in a relationship?
Yes, I am
Don’t you wish to be married someday?
I’m happy the way I am and I’m in a very nice relationship with someone I love.
I have nothing against marriage. I’m just happy where I am. At fifty, you’re set in your way and not sure whether you’ll make a good wife material anymore. I’m a career woman, I face my career which is my life and it takes my time. I traveled a lot too. But for now, my life is in the Shrine. And like I said, I’m in a relationship and we’re both happy together. If it ends in marriage so be it and if it doesn’t, I’m happy.
What has motherhood done to you?
It gave me a daughter whom I love very much, She’s the most important thing to me. I remember that I used to smoke before she gained admission into the university. But then, I realised that if I should die as a result of my smoking habit, there would be no one to take care of her. And as much as I enjoyed smoking, I had to stop it. I want to live to see my grand children.