Dede Mabiaku is an Afrobeat star who was trained and brought up by late Afrobeat King Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. When Fela was alive, Dede was always with him. At some point in his life, he moved in with Fela and began to live in Fela’s Kalakuta Republic because Dede’s wealthy father was opposed to Dede’s decision to follow Fela’s footsteps. Dede promptly made up his mind to relocate to Fela’s house to fully concentrate on his musical career with his mentor.
20 years after his passing on, Dede has remained the most faithful of Felas adherent. He has remained steadfast and committed to all that Fela represents. He has continued to propagate Fela’s ideals. Till today, Dede sings like Fela, dresses exactly like him, talks like him and lives a private life that is reminiscent of the great afrobeat King.
This is to be expected from a guy who is Fela’s prodigy. Dede had from a very young age, as far back as when he was in school, taken to Fela’s music. And then he met Fela in person at a show in Lagos and they hit off from there. That is how Dede began to perform with Fela before he eventually moved in with the man he calls his Master, when his dad tried to stop him. His dad threw him out of the house as a young man for choosing to be a disciple of Fela. Understandably so. Dede’s father, until his death, was the Iyasere of Warri which is the Prime Minister of Warri. He was a rich man who wanted his son to be an Architect or a Lawyer. But Dede didn’t want any of these. So he rebelled against his dad. It is a very interesting story.
Where was Dede born, he was asked when City People interviewed him months back. “I was born in Warri, “he says. “My father at that time was a big man. He was a member of the district council. He was the sole distributor for Nigerian Tobacco Company and Bisco Biscuit in the whole of Mid-West. He and the late Henry Fajemirokun all did multiple chain of businesses together. He was a Catholic. He loved vehicles. He loved good cars. We had lots and lots of cars in my home growing up as a kid. I started driving at 13. I had a good upbringing but I remember that I grew up in a home that had many children. I thought many of them how to drive. We had freezers full of foodstuff like meat, fish chicken, bush meat and all sorts.”
“We had a lot of children living with us. I grew up in a home where sometimes we can be up to 15 in the compound, with relations. Anything my father gives to one child, he gives to other children. I grew up in a home where there was hardly any discrimination. My father sent kids of our relations abroad, he refused to send us abroad. He didn’t send any one of us abroad. I grew up in a home where my father saw education as a guide to the future. He had one cliché he used to tell us then that sin is like a seed, covered it will grow, exposed it will die.”
“I grew up in a home where there were different mothers, and my mother was not there.”
“So, the description of having a complete home does not jell with me, because when you are the youngest from your mum and you are in the hands of 2 other women and their children and you self are in the same age bracket, your way to life is going to be extremely different”.
How did he cope? “I had to cope. I am a survivor,” he says. “I happen to be a rebel, which is the truth. That is what my life personified. I remember my dad used to call me, quite early, at that time, Dede Ijogbon. He beat me oooo. You don’t want to think about the beatings. There is no way you an dodge the flogging when you offend him.”
“My experience taught me not to beat my own children, because teaching a child a lesson doesn’t have to be physical, to be a point made. When they say don’t spoil the rod doesn’t have to be physical. I can flog generation he was coming from. And that generation believed so much in Spoil the rod and spoil the child. Then I finally linked up with Fela…”
How did his dad take Dedes decision to take up a career in music with Fela? “He didn’t like it. It was like a punch in the guts for him, because my father was the Iyashere of Warri. That is a big title.
That is the Prime Minister of Warri. He was very well regarded and respected. To him, it was like how dare he? Move to Fela’s place?
How? He said I forbid you. It must never be heard that you go to Felas place. You must never be seen with Fela, talk less of climbing the stage. I said haa!. This one he is saying I don’t agree with. I said to myself, I have done all my dad wanted me to do. School I have gone. Degree I have received. This one, this decision to go with Fela is for me. As at that time, I had already made up my mind, after I received a big award, I began to fill unfilled. I began to search. I was searching for this knowledge that I so wish to get. I looked at Hubert Ogunde’s place. I wanted to go to Victor Olaiya’s place. I now said to myself: Are you not a Fela Boy. You don call yourself Fela Boy. You don de among them since secondary school days.
Why don’t you go there and find out if any thing fit happen. Na there be your path.
And continue the soul searching. When I asked Fela if I can be coming to ask him, some questions about him, about life, and he was ok with it, I knew that was where I was meant to go, because in reality, there needed to be somebody in the midst of anything else, to be a participant observer to be able to share with the world at large that the essence of what they perceive, really isn’t up to the personae that the person Fela himself represent. There has to be somebody to learn the hows, the whys, the wherewithals. I think that is why Dede went to join Fela. That is why Olodumare sent me there. And that is why he himself took me in as his own deeply.
At that time, what did his dad want him to be? “He wanted me to be an Architect. Later, he said if you don’t want to, do Archietecture. Later, he said if you don’t want to do Architecture then do Law.
When I went to UNIJOS, I didn’t even want to do any of the 2. I wanted to do Fine Art. That’s the rebel in me. But by the time I got to UNIJOS, they had not started the Fine Arts department. So they gave me 2 options. Theatre Arts or Law? My uncle had a professor friend in UNIJOS then. They were colleagues in UI as lecturers. University of Jos was then University of Ibadan, (Jos Campus). My uncle wanted me to study Law and linked up with that Prof.
So, whilst we were about to do the registration, I just collected my registration form from the boy doing it and I said wait, please find out for me apart from Law which other one dey. He said Theatre Arts. I said I will take it. That’s how the journey started. Coming out and being the child I am to him and having them react to me the way they reacted to me at that time was sad. They threw me out. My dad threw out my things from up down, everything and then I went to live in Kalakuta with Fela. I went to Kalakuta with one shirt, one trouser, one shoe. I left my dad and I started living on my own till today.
Did he ever reconcile with his dad before he died? “Oh yes, he reconciled with me. It was an interesting experience. After 2 years of living with Fela, non stop, Fela now said he was going to do naming ceremony for me. And the naming ceremony was planned to take place after his Comprehensive Night show on one Saturday that year on Friday, 12 midnight Fela press bell that they should go and call me. So they came to call me and I flew to go and meet him. He said to me, Dede, dey say your father go send somebody to come meet you, to come beg you, to come back home. This he said in the presence of Seun, Botto, (who was working with him then) and one of the room boys. So, anyway, if them no come sha ooo, immediately we come back from shrine tomorrow, I go do your naming ceremony. By that time, he had started calling me Mabiakuti. So, we got to the Shrine and after divination, after prayers, after worship, Anugboro came to me and whispered something to me. I said Henn! and Fela turned round and asked me what was wrong, because the seat directly behind him was always kept for me. I said Fela, they say my brother they look for me ooo. Fela just laughed. He said, then, go meet am. It was my elder brother. I saw him at one corner inside the Shrine. I no fit laugh. I no fit talk. I got up, I waka small, I come look Fela again, he said go my friend, go meet am, go meet your brother. When I got to him I said, Yes, wetin. He said Daddy say make I come call you to come meet am .
I said hen. He said he say make I beg you, make you come see am early this morning. He said should wait for me so that we can go together to see him, I said No. Make him dey go. I go come. That was about 3 years then. I now told Fela. He now said let us play the last number. When we finished. He now looked at me and said go and meet your dad. So I came to meet him, here, in this house at Anthony. My father said to me. Dede, First of all I want to say sorry for the way I drove you away. Next is, I want to tell you that everything Fela is telling you is the truth. I hope you are listening carefully and learning properly. You have been gone for about 2 ½ years and I have not seen that there has been any stain to the family name from you, anywhere. To show the truth in all Fela has been saying about us, Africa and African, I just poured libation before you came and I am going to pour another libation that you accepted to come.” All these took place in his bedroom. And that began a new page.
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