In 1984, the military government of Muhammadu Buhari jailed Fela Kuti for allegedly smuggling foreign exchange outside Nigeria.


The late Afrobeat creator went on to spend 20 months in prison and upon his release, the musician was as defiant and bold as ever.

Fela spoke about his prison experience in an interview granted after he regained his freedom.

The interview, republished by Reelin’ In The Years, sees the Afrobeat legend talk about embracing boredom in prison, developing his thought process and arming himself for an encore behind bars.


Here is an excerpt from the sit-down.

“Prison didn’t change my life, it developed my way of thinking. I am very spiritually inclined. I am in prison, it gave me a lot of time to meditate and think about what this world is really about. It [gave] me knowledge about time. If anybody tells me 20 years is a long time, I will tell him no because prison has taught me that time is meaningless unless you want to understand what time is all about.

“I did not think about music in the prison but maybe a few times some sounds come into my head but I don’t write them down, maybe just hum them.


“What I did in prison was not to play games, I tried not to talk too much, I tried to remain by myself. I just tried to meditate. That’s all I did.

“You see, prison is supposed to get you bored. So when people go in there, they try not to get bored. So I tell myself, ‘okay, you want to make me bored. I am going to get myself bored so that I will not be afraid to go in next time.

“So I go in there to understand what boredom is about. So it gave me a knowledge about patience. Those are the kind of things prison has taught me. I am prepared to go back. I am really prepared.”

Indeed, Fela was prepared as he would go on to have more brushes with the law before his death in 1997.


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