Arrest the Music!

Fela and His Rebel Art and Politics

By Thomas A. Hale, Tejumola Olaniyan
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Indiana University Press, 2004

ISBN 978-0-253-21718-9

256 Pages


finalist 2005 ARSC award

“Olaniyan has given us a profound and beautifully integrated book which culminates in a persuasive interpretation of the relationship between Fela’s apparently incompatible presentational selves. . . . The book’s accessible and evocative prose is in itself a kind of homage to Fela’s continual ability to seduce and astonish. . . . This is such an attractive book you feel like . . . ransacking your collection for Fela tapes.” —Karin Barber

“ . . . an indispensable companion to Fela’s music and a rich source of information for studies in modern African popular music.” —Akin Euba

Arrest the Music! is a lively musical study of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, one of Africa’s most recognizable, popular, and controversial musicians. The flamboyant originator of the “Afrobeat” sound and self-proclaimed voice of the voiceless, Fela used music, sharp-tongued lyrics, and derisive humor to challenge the shortcomings of Nigerian and postcolonial African states. Looking at the social context, instrumentation, lyrics, visual art, people, and organizations through which Fela produced his music, Tejumola Olaniyan offers a wider, more suggestive perspective on Fela and his impact on listeners in all parts of the world.

Placing Fela front and center, Olaniyan underscores important social issues such as authenticity, racial and cultural identity, the relationship of popular culture to radical politics, and the meaning of postcolonialism, nationalism, and globalism in contemporary Africa. Readers interested in music, culture, society, and politics, whether or not they know Fela and his music, will find this work invaluable for understanding the career of an African superstar and the politics of popular culture in contemporary Africa.

African Expressive Cultures—Patrick McNaughton, general editor


1. Introduction: "Living in the Interregnum": Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and the Postcolonial Incredible
2. The "Apolitical" Avant-Pop Hustler
3. The Afrobeat Moralist
4. Dissident Tunes: The Political Afrobeat
5. Fela, Lagos, and the Postcolonial State
6. On the Shop Floor: The Social Production of Afrobeat
7. Pedagogue, Pedagogy, and the Pedagogic Form
8. The Cosmopolitan Nativist: Fela and the Antinomies of Postcolonial Modernity
9. The Political, The Libidinal
10. Conclusion: Afrobeat After Fela


Tejumola Olaniyan is Professor of English and African Languages and Literatures at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is co-editor (with John Conteh-Morgan) of African Drama and Performance (IUP, 2004). He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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