It would be impossible to talk about Nigeria’s music scene without positioning Fela and his popular club, The Afrika Shrine, at the centre of the conversation. The creation of the band, Afrika 70, launched the rocket that would propel Fela to legendary fame and cement his status as a musical maestro—practically inventing a new genre of music—fusing traditional African polyrhythms with a play on American funk, rock, and jazz to create the powerful lyrical sounds known as Afrobeat. With these tunes, Fela dramatised his revolutionary political anthems to the dismay of successive military regimes.
In the beginning, Afrika 70 operated out of hotels and other residencies, but the need for a permanent space, a haven that embodied all of Fela’s liberal beliefs led him to build his own auditorium which he named the Afrika Shrine. It quickly became a musical temple and the symbol for all things anti-establishment, and freedom—free speech, sexual liberty, and self-expression. The Shrine was a frequent target for government censorship, and military raids like the 1977 one which saw 1000 soldiers raid the place and burn it to the ground on the order of General Olusegun Obasanjo, the then head of state.
The New Afrika Shrine was built by Fela’s family in 2000 to replace the old one, honour Fela’s legacy and pay homage to him. It is a place where performance meets worship, history, art, and culture. The Shrine is modeled after the original one—transcending beyond a physical place to represent ever-important ideas of freedom, reclamation, and expression. Everyone is welcome to take refuge within its walls and leave the frustrations of daily life at its doors.
The significance of the New Afrika Shrine to the Lagos’ cultural landscape cannot be overlooked as President Macron visit to the venue during his Nigeria trip clearly shows. This was not Macron’s first experience of the shrine, he frequently sought it out while interning at the French Embassy in 2002. “I can’t tell you everything that happened when I used to come to the Shrine, because what happens at the Shrine stays at the Shrine,” he said. According to him, “This place is an iconic place and it is a place where the best of music is given. I have to say my main memories of this place are friends, proud people, proud of their culture, proud of their art and music”.
On his visit to the Shrine, Macron witnessed an art exhibition featuring leading Nigeria’s contemporary artists Victor Ehikhamenor, Abraham Oghobase and Ndidi Emefiele; he was also riveted by a fashion show and musical performances. People from all walks of life were present, from celebrities and high profile people to the usual patrons, and Macron happily interacted with the audience.
For many locals, the Shrine is a favourite spot to hang out, enjoy a nice time, listen to good music played by Femi or Seun Kuti, and other artists for cheap. The shrine is open all day; however, things don’t really heat up until after 7pm.
There’s always drinks and food at the venue, so all you are required to come with is the desire to have fun. Whether you go alone or with friends, you are guaranteed to have a good time mingling with the crowd and soaking in the magical aura of the Shrine. Go as you are and be blessed.