Features

Fela Kuti: Father of Afrobeat’s Estate Signs to WME Legends Division

BY Abena Dzaka October 28, 2023 8:33 PM EDT

WME Legends division, WME announced on Tuesday that it had signed the estate of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti for global management.

WME Legends’ goal is to preserve Fela’s legacy for future generations through a range of initiatives, such as a definitive scripted biopic, a Fela Kuti stage musical franchise expansion, unpublished songs and master recordings, licensing and merchandising, endorsements, commercials, and more.

This partnership aims to expand focus on the estate and legacy brand management of Fela Kuti, a Nigerian bandleader, composer, political activist, and inventor of Afrobeat music, whose music was featured in the 2009–2011 Broadway musical, Fela!,

The music luminary passed away in 1997 due to complications resulting from AIDS.

Together with the current administrators of Fela’s Estate, the WME Legends team will oversee Kuti’s name, image, and likeness, as well as life, intellectual property, music, and publishing rights across all WME and parent company Endeavor departments and enterprises globally.

According to the agency, efforts to preserve the estate’s legacy for future generations will be prioritized.

Along with the legendary New York punk/new wave bar CBGB, WME Legends also represents the estates of Notorious B.I.G., Andy Kaufman, Eartha Kitt, Waylon Jennings, Peter Tosh, Charlie Sifford, and Ram Dass’ Love Serve Remember Foundation.

Many consider Kuti to be one of the most important musicians in Africa, having helped to create the genre known as Afrobeat—a fusion of American funk and jazz with West African rhythms—which in turn led to the explosion of African music. Beyonce and Jay-Z, Burna Boy, Missy Elliott, J. Cole, Alicia Keys, and Mos Def have all used samples of his songs.

Olajide Oyewole LLP, a DLA Piper Africa member, represented the Kuti Estate throughout the negotiations with WME.