Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti's former family home in Nigeria has reopened as a new government-funded museum celebrating his music, his social activism and his ongoing legacy.

Several of Kuti's children joined family members, fans and officials in opening the Kalakuta Museum on Monday, on what would have been the bandleader's 74th birthday and the start of an annual, week-long festival in his honour in Lagos.

"The museum is not finished, but we had to make the opening today," Kuti's musician son Femi said at the inauguration event. The launch "symbolizes his birthday and his struggle," he added.


The Kalakuta Museum, Fela Kuti's former home, is filled with bright murals, album artwork, photos of Kuti's life and his performances, African art and installations. (Sunday Alamba/Associated Press)

The multi-level family home, called Kalakuta by Kuti, has been filled with bright murals, album artwork, photos of Kuti's life and his performances, African art and installations, including a wall-mounted display of his flamboyant shoe collection. Kuti is also buried on the grounds, while his bedroom remains largely as he left it upon his 1997 death at age 58 from an HIV-related illness.

As well as a tribute to the music legend, the museum serves as a boutique hotel, complete with a rooftop bar and performance space.

"We didn't want a museum that closes at night and the life source leaves the building," Theo Lawson, the architect who worked on the conversion, told Reuters.

The government provided about $250,000 US to turn the home into a museum, according to Lawson.

"We are not a family that is supporting the government, because of what my father stood for," Femi Kuti said. He acknowledged, however, the local officials who are "brave enough to be identified with the name that many people fear and shy away from."

Controversial music icon

British-educated Kuti was the controversial bandleader, saxophone player, composer and political activist who in the 1960s and 1970s pioneered the Afrobeat sound: a blend of African percussions and traditional sounds with highlife, jazz, funk and chanting vocals.

The passionate, high-energy, dance-friendly musical genre continues to resonate through Nigeria, including at the reconstructed version of Fela's former music club The Shrine in Lagos, where his sons Femi and Seun now regularly perform.

Fela electrified international audiences with his music, but also shocked many with his voracious sexuality, free love lifestyle and multiple wives as well as his fondness for smoking marijuana onstage during performances.

An outspoken opponent of African military forces and despots in his music and in person, Fela suffered multiple arrests and beatings. During one late-1970s raid of his commune, an estimated 1,000 soldiers rampaged and set fire to the home, thrashed the bandleader and tossed his septuagenarian mother — a feminist activist herself — out of a window. She subsequently died from her injuries.

Renewed international interest in the life and influence of "the king of Afrobeat" was fuelled in recent years by the hit, Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Fela!, which counted Hollywood star Will Smith and hip hop icon Jay-Z among its producers and has toured around the globe.


Family, friends and fans of Fela Kuti gathered for the opening of Kalakuta Museum, devoted to the Afrobeat legend, in Lagos on Monday. (Sunday Alamba/Associated Press)