01 April 2009

Cousin of Fela Kuti Trademarks the term "Afrobeat"!

Just saw this from the Nigerian News Service ... Unbelievable!

Lagos, Nigeria: Kolade Kuti Wombia, a cousin of African music legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti has convinced courts in Nigeria, Britain, and the United States to uphold his trademark claim on the term "Afrobeat," coined by his famous relative.

Wombia has been enmeshed with other family members over the legendary singer's legacy since Kuti's death in 1997 at age 58. The latest in a long series of legal battles among Kuti's descendants is a dramatic twist that may force musical groups around the world to submit to a screening process for approval to use the now-trademarked term, or find another way to describe their music.

A spokesman for Wombia says a new foundation, Pure Afrobeat Forever, has been established to protect and spread what he calls "the true and proper sound and message of Fela's revolutionary Afrobeat music." To use the term "Afrobeat" in their name or a description of their music, musicians will now have to apply to the foundation and pay a processing fee, the amount of which was not announced.

Olufela Oludotun Olusegun Ransome-Kuti in the town of Abeokuta, Kuti began his career with the Cool Cats as a singer in the highlife band. In 1968 after a tour of the United States with his group Nigeria 70, Fela announced the birth of a new music he called "Afrobeat." The style is marked by a blend of jazz, funk, highlife, and Yoruba traditional music backed by a large band with powerful percussion and horn sections.

The musical style has since spread across the planet, with groups forming in England, the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. The new ruling promises to be most challenging for groups that use the term in their name -- such as Chicago Afrobeat Project and Afrobeat Down.

Fela's son Seun Kuti, himself a very active Afrobeat musician, was aghast at the ruling. "I think that Afrobeat was created for the emancipation of the black mind, and the freedom of the black race, and for anyone to try to claim it as their own property is absurd. "

Several groups contacted say they will appeal the ruling, and keep using the term regardless of Wombia's threats of fines.

"They can't stop this movement," says Olu 'Rocksteady' Owudemi of The Daktaris. "Just who does this Wombia think he is?

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