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Afrobeat Language: 7 Words Fela Made Famous

by Dikos Nestaa

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Late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was not just a musical genius that ruled the entertainment scene for years, he was a master of words.  

Fela knew how to pass his messages across through his lyrics leaving words and phrases that stand out in the mind of his listeners. 

Over the years, Africans all over the world now speak the Fela language. They have adopted words from his music and infused it into their everyday conversations.  

You know what’s interesting, a lot of people have no idea these popular words and phrases came from Fela’s songs. 

Take a look at these words made popular by Fela that you probably use often. 

Shakara 

If you’re a Nigerian, you must be familiar with the word, ‘Shakara’. According to the late Legend, Shakara originated from Mushin but was as popular after he released a track, ‘Shakara (Oloje)’ in 1972. 

Go Slow 

‘Go Slow’ was Fela way of describing ‘Traffic Jam’. Traffic jam is very slow-moving traffic caused by roadworks or an accident. His song, “Go Slow” focuses on the infrastructural chaos of Nigeria. 

Shuffering and Shmiling  

In 1977, Fela and the Africa 70 released an album, ‘Shuffering and Shmiling’ and has a track with the same title. Fela addressed the plight of Africans in the hands of oppressors and missionaries.  

Follow Follow 

Fela focused on the lack of imagination of the Nigerian middle class where he asks them to follow their own path. Till date, “Follow Follow” is used to describe a person that lacks direction. 

Miss Road 

“He Miss Road” is one of Fela’s comical rendition where he refers to the way people have lost their way and the consequences. “Miss Road” has been largely used by Nigerians especially when speaking pidgin English. 

Original Sufferhead 

This refers to someone that is going through a state of poverty or severe hardship. The song, ‘Original Suggerhead’ was released in 1981. 

Yellow Fever 

Just like ‘Shakara’, “Yellow Fever” is originated from Mushin. Fela said, “ It was the people of Mushin who first called traffic wardens Yellow Fever, so I decided to call the skin bleaching people Yellow Fever”. Yellow Fever is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes.  

Even if you don’t use these words, you’ve definitely heard them being used by people around you.  

Get translations of Fela's songs by checking them out on Dyesek. Dyesek is your go-to platform for Afrobeats lyrics and translations. Do check out the lyrics of these songs on our website. Simply search for the song title or name of the artists. 

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Topceejoseph

Just a regular guy

8 months ago

This is Awesome!