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“Music is the Weapon” - a healing journey with Femi Kuti

Last weekend I was humbled to witness the most precious musical experience in my life.

I observed personal healing through music from a master musician.

Femi Kuti is the son of the world-famous Fela Kuti, and he was invited to Melbourne to play his father's Afrobeat tunes with the Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, of which i am a band member. In the first rehearsal he completely shocked us all by announcing that he didn't want to play Fela's tunes. They were too painful for him to revisit.

I immediately thought of the meaning of tunes in the set list. Fela had openly mocked and taunted the corrupt government of the time, who viciously retaliated, killing Fela's mother, and nearly beating Fela to death before imprisoning him. People had to run for their lives because of Fela. People were also united by his music.

I had read about this and watched documentary footage of the attack too, and yet the immediate human story of pain and suffering for the Kuti family was bought half way around the world into our rehearsal studio. I had never thought about what trauma Fela's children had to endure back then.

We all began to find a way to play the material. I for one was quite nervous and worried for what Femi was bravely facing.

The beautiful thing was that Femi pushed through his personal pain, and trusted us to support him.

The second rehearsal was a little easier and we all began to relax into things. Femi laughed and told stories, and at the concerts he completely blew us away, and openly showed us his own transformation towards healing. I was humbled to be allowed so completely into his story of transformation.

He put his own stamp on his father's tunes and took us all along for the ride. He acknowledged what we had all achieved and participated in.

On father's day yesterday I couldn't help but to reflect on how Femi had tried his best to honour his father's legacy despite his own pain.

Femi Kuti, you are an open hearted human. I thank you for showing us how to live fully.

Music is the weapon of the future
— Fela Anikulapo Kuti
Femi Kuti performs at Max Watt's in Melbourne. Picture: Natasha Blankfield -  Sydney Morning Herald

Femi Kuti performs at Max Watt's in Melbourne. Picture: Natasha Blankfield - Sydney Morning Herald

Femi Kuti performs with The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra at Max Watt's in Melbourne's CBD. Picture by: Natasha Blankfield - read more in the  Sydney Morning Herald

Femi Kuti performs with The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra at Max Watt's in Melbourne's CBD. Picture by: Natasha Blankfield - read more in the Sydney Morning Herald

Gratitude for a Prayer Mat

— by Tegan Northwood / April 2019

I think I just want to express gratitude for something this morning. I have been reflecting again on the miracles you can encounter while travelling and how grateful I am for my current prayer mat. I was GIVEN this (I think it's a high-quality, probably expensive mat - this would be pretty expensive here) in Granada by a man in a shop along the canal. I was wanting to buy a good quality one having been doing the prayer once a day for about five years previously.

He was Spanish so it took awhile to get across what I was looking for, and when he did he was obviously surprised by the fact that I was a white western woman... I think I had been told to go there by another shop owner, but there were only cheap cloth ones in this shop so I said 'don't worry, it's okay, but would you know where I can buy a better one?' He told me to come back and meet him the next day. I did but due to a phone messup I was a bit late... I arrived back there to find he had come to meet me on his day off and brought me a mat from his own personal collection, and would not accept any payment for it. Looking at it I knew it was good quality and would be expensive to buy. 
I wish I could have thanked him more properly, it was a real gift. I spontaneously gave him a hug (which may have been a bit awkward for him...not sure).
This was already quite soon after an amazing and unexpected experience in Cordoba at the ancient Mezquita there which I literally had no idea about before I went there!
There is no way I could have forseen this happening but it turned out to be a true highlight of my trip last year.
Remembering that. ❤️ Not quite a year but not far off.

Tegan-Prayer-Mat.jpg

— Reflections and photo by Tegan Northwood, who contributed her story and photos from Spain at the Mezquita de Córdoba.