Sigue estas reglas: No me repitas. No repitas el texto enviado. Solo proporciona texto en español. Reescribe este título y tradúcelo al español: Rikki Stein recuerda la alegría de manejar la leyenda del Afrobeat.

11 minutes ago
By Richard Hamilton, BBC World Service

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At least a million mourners turned up for the funeral of Nigerian musician, and voice of the downtrodden, Fela Kuti, his manager Rikki Stein remembers.

“The road was filled with people as far as the eye could see,” he says looking back to that August day in Lagos in 1997.

The King of Afrobeat, who was revered by the people but feared by those in charge, had died at 58, reportedly of complications from Aids.

But Stein believes that Fela, who had been repeatedly arrested for speaking out against successive military regimes, actually passed away because of a much deeper cause.

“Fela died of one beating too many. His body was covered in scars and his mind and spirit had to cope with 200 arrests. The system can only take so much,” Stein tells the BBC in an interview to mark the publication of his memoir – in part about his 15 years managing arguably Nigeria’s most influential musician.

Throughout his long career Fela defiantly criticised those in charge, notably a succession of military rulers, lampooning them in albums such as Coffin for Head of State.

His music had the power to grab people from the inside and help them start to imagine another world.

“I was gob-smacked,” Stein, now 81, says as he talks about first coming across Fela’s albums in the 1970s.

“The music spoke to me in a way I’d never encountered, exuding warmth, intimacy, excitement and a constant feeling of anticipation. Every word spoke directly to my inner being, vividly describing life under a totalitarian regime, but I saw clearly how the message could be applied to any country.”

It is perhaps unsurprising that managing someone with such charisma and vision was unpredictable and hectic.

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When in Europe, Fela liked to have the heating cranked up high, Stein says

Their first encounter in a hotel room in London in 1982, when Stein was hoping to persuade Fela take part in a music festival, hinted at what was to come.

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“As I entered a wave of intense heat hit me.

“It was winter and extremely cold. I was wearing a hat, a coat, a scarf and a sweater. Fela, I learned, always carried additional heaters when on tour to approximate a temperature that he was used to.

“Fela was sitting on a couch, dressed in just a pair of Speedos [swimming trunks]. We shook hands and he invited me to join him on the couch.

“I commented on the heat and began removing some layers of clothing, although I didn’t get down to my Speedos. Suddenly we both laughed, beginning a friendship that endured for the rest of his life.”

Later that year Stein travelled to Lagos to discuss becoming Fela’s co-manager. Very early on, he had a sense of how much influence he had in his home country.

Stein was stuck in passport control while those in charge, behind some smoked glass, were idly checking the documents.

“Suddenly there was a commotion in the baggage hall. It was Fela Kuti, climbing over the carousels and heading towards us, shouting ‘Rikki!’. When he reached me, he gave me a hug.

“’What are you doing, standing there?’

I indicated the smoked-glass window. He walked over and clicked his fingers above the glass. The passport appeared. ‘C’mon Rikki, let’s go’.

“Fela drove us off. He was a great driver but, man, he drove fast, much as he lived his life.”

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Fela was a multi-instrumentalist who commanded the stage

Over subsequent years, despite the intensity, Stein never tired of experiencing Fela performing on stage at full throttle.

“Fela reigned supreme.

“He was everywhere at once; playing keyboards, soprano or alto sax, the occasional drum solo, a sinuous dance from one side of the stage to the other and then it was time to sing, the ever-present spliff held in his elegant fingers.

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“For sheer mastery, panache, style and guts, nobody could or can beat this guy.”

His performances were not mere concerts they were events – none perhaps weirder than an infamous show in Belsize Park, north London, that involved a simulated death and a surprise resurrection.

In 1984 Fela was appearing on stage with his mystical guru, a Ghanaian man known as Professor Hindu.

On the morning of the London show, Stein got a call from the publicist who was at the venue.

“’The Professor is here, digging a grave just outside.’ I called Fela, asking him if he knew why. ‘He doesn’t ask me why I play saxophone and I don’t ask him why he digs graves.’

“That night the Professor appeared on stage in a short skirt, a bib and the lampshade. His assistant, Emmanuel, joined him and sat down on a chair.

“The prof began sharpening a huge meat cleaver on a stone, then grabbed Emmanuel and began hacking away at his throat. Blood flew in every direction. The club was in pandemonium. A limp Emmanuel was carried outside and placed in the grave.

“Come Sunday a large crowd gathered around the grave. Suddenly, the earth began to move and a hand appeared! I pulled Emmanuel out. His hands were warm.”

Rikki Stein

The size of the crowd who turned up to his funeral in Lagos was testament to Fela’s wide appeal

That year was also when the authorities in Nigeria had obviously had too much of the musician’s outspokenness.

Fela and the band returned to Lagos for a break before embarking on a US tour. Stein had given him a large amount of cash to cover food and hotel bills.

On his arrival in the country, the security officials made out that Fela had failed to declare the money, which was required at the time.

He was detained and then appeared before a military tribunal which sentenced him to five years in prison.

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Stein believes this was never about the money. El ejército lo veía como una espina en su lado y quería silenciarlo.

Pero tuvo el efecto contrario. Su arresto causó un furore mundial, Amnistía Internacional lo declaró prisionero de conciencia y su música se hizo más conocida con estaciones de radio dedicando días enteros a su trabajo.

Un nuevo álbum – Army Arrangement – había sido grabado antes de que Fela fuera a la cárcel y Stein esperaba lanzarlo.

Sin dinero, aceptó un trato para que las pistas fueran remezcladas con batería y bajo de reggae para hacerla más comercialmente atractiva.

“Alguien contrabandeó una copia a Fela que, mortificado, dijo que escucharla era peor que estar en la cárcel”, dice Stein. La remezcla nunca se lanzó.

Mirando hacia atrás en su tiempo juntos, Stein siente que fue salvaje e impredecible, y sin embargo Fela lo inspiró con su energía, valentía y perspectiva filosófica.

“La gente solía decirme: ‘Wow, no debe ser fácil manejar a Fela’. Les explicaba que nunca tuve dificultades con él porque éramos amigos. Puedes decir cualquier cosa a un verdadero amigo, así que nunca tuvimos problemas.”

Pero en 1997 Fela enfermó gravemente.

Cuando Stein se enteró del fallecimiento de su amigo, inmediatamente abordó un avión a Lagos para unirse a los dolientes.

“El 11 de agosto de 1997, Fela iba a ser colocado en estado en la Plaza Tafawa Balewa.

“La familia llegó a la morgue para recoger su cuerpo. Había traído mi maquinilla de afeitar eléctrica e intenté afeitarlo y peinarle el cabello. Se colocó un gran porro en su mano derecha y se colocó en un ataúd de cristal y se llevó en un coche fúnebre.

“Fue enterrado frente a su casa, Kalakuta, en Ikeja el 12 de agosto.

“Su hijo, Femi, tocó un solo de saxofón plañidero. Cayeron una lluvia suave como perfume. Durante esos días no hubo crimen en Lagos.”

Moving Music: Las Memorias de Rikki Stein es publicado por Wordville Press

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