One of the best parts of writing this blog is the different perspective that I gather about a particular topic. When I started seeking personal accounts of interaction with Fela Kuti and what happens at the Shrine, I realized that while the accounts are very similar, I manage to come across some interesting accounts that I think are worth sharing with the readers. This particular conversation is with a Nigerian musician who attended The Shrine as an 18 year old boy. His accounts are quite interesting but also the format for this conversation is a bit different. I have incorporated the questions I asked the individual to give it a reporting feel. I might go with this format for the conversations going forward. His responses to my questions about Fela Kuti and The Shrine are below.
Femi Adeyinka (FA): Why did you attend / visit the shrine?
B. Williams (BW): I started going to the shrine as an 18 year old undergraduate so my answer will reflect my age and level of maturity then. My friends talked about the Shrine and I wanted to enjoy the new status of freedom in life. That being an undergrad. I also wanted to belong part of the [cool] group. Perhaps it had a lot to do with peer pressure. From the stories I heard, including the Yabis, I thought it was the place to be. And finally, it gave me the freedom to smoke weed.
FA: So you were a student at the time of your attendance?
BW: Yes, I was a student at the University of Lagos. I was around 18 years old.
FA: What is your fondest memory?
BW: I don’t have any specific memory that stands out per se. But I do remember the first day at the Shrine. Abami, a friend of mine said “we are going for a shot break” and being that I was a new person at the Shrine I had no idea what he was referring to at the time. When he said that, it was code for the end of show. I waited for the show to continue but it never did.
FA: Why is the Shrine symbolic to the overall mysticism of Fela Kuti?
BW: I personally was very grossed out my the pseudo spiritualism going on in the building. There was one character there by the name of “Okunirin” that was a little scary for me as a young man attending the Shrine.
FA: Why was attending the Shrine frowned upon by the society?
BW: The Nigerian society believed it was only rascals and ruffians that went to the show. There was some contradiction in what people said and did, for example, I dodged a few of my distinguished uncles there. They in turn pretended not to see especially when they came with women who were not their wives. The discussion never came up in our future interactions.
FA: Any final words on the Fela Kuti or the Shrine as a cultural site?
BW: Yes. I am a disciple of Afro Beat genre. The Shrine is already unofficially a cultural site and it has its value as we speak, even if it has not been recognized formally.
As remembered by a Nigerian Musician living in Toronto, Canada.