Donald Duke has talked about the night that Fela Anikulapo Kuti got inspired to write the classic tune, ”Shuffering and Shmiling”.
The former governor of Cross Rivers State and 2019 presidential aspirant was a guest on Pulse Nigeria’s Loosetalk Podcast on Friday, July 13, 2018, where he gave an insight into the events that inspired the late Abami Eda into writing the 1978 album, ”Shuffering and Shmiling’‘.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Shuffering and Shmiling Art cover (YouTube)
”There was this day we went to the shrine, it was a Friday night and he had just been raided by the army. At that time, the shrine was at Moshalashi and across was Abati Barracks, and they were always having conflicts, Duke told Loosetalk Giants.
So on this day, we got there [and] they had thrown tear gas all over the place, into the shrine. We had to disperse, then we came back. The show that ought to have started at about midnight started about 2.30am.
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Donald Duke with Loosetalk Giants, Ayomide Tayo, Steve Dede and Osagie Alonge (Pulse)
He was angry that we didn’t stand up to the army, and as he was talking, he got the idea for ‘Shuffering and Shmiling’
”As he was talking, chastising that we have to stand up for our rights, he just stopped and said, ‘I have a song in my head and the name of the song is titled, ‘Shuffering and Shmiling’.
He said the band doesn’t know the song [but] in one month he will play it. Two weeks later, I went to his home and they were rehearsing it. He was actually singing about the event and you will see his mother there, she was in her late seventies, standing at 2am, 3am in the morning, watching her son play.”
Over the course of his career, Fela’s music evolved on several levels becoming a political and social force, and one of his most vociferous moments came with ”Shuffering and Shmiling”, an expansive project where he touches on police brutality, and also the two major religions, Christianity and Islam, which he berated for making the people weak to react to the situation in the land.
Singing,”Shuffering and shmiling, every day my people dey inside bus, 49 sitting, 99 standing, them go pack themselves in like sardine, them dey faint, them dey wake like cock, them go reach house, water no dey, them go reach bed, power no dey, them go reach road, go-slow go come, them go reach road, police go slap”, Fela’s music originated from a place of anger and echoed truth that prevails almost 40 years after.