From 18 – 28 August 2023, The Africa Centre in London will present FUJI: A Opera, a multi-dimensional exhibition which tells the story of the fuji music genre – one of the most important in Nigeria’s history and without whom the Afrobeats artists who top the charts today (such as Burna Boy and Wizkid) would not be selling out stadiums across the world.

In collaboration with FUMAN, FUJI: A Opera will include never seen before archive footage and artefacts, explore the belligerent past of fuji music, highlight its founding footprints, and celebrate its rich subculture from the early 1960s to the present day.

The story will be told through fascinating archival footage of previous performances, audio installations and incredible memorabilia across the 60-year history of fuji music. Going headfirst into the history of fuji, it looks at the origins in the Yoruba-Muslim communities of Nigeria’s South-West and the vision of pioneer Ayinde Barrister, who dubbed his sound “fuji” after seeing an airport ad for the famous Japanese mountain.

The exhibition begins with a soundscape homage to Ajiwere, folk music for Islamic worshippers at Ramadan and the roots of fuji music on Lagos Island. On show will be rare instruments from Nigeria that have been played since the beginning of fuji music over 50 years ago. These have been donated by some iconic fuji artists, including musical pioneer Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister and King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall, who is largely credited with taking the genre to its highest heights from the early 1980s to the present day.

The sheer energy of fuji music will be brought to life with a listening gallery of archive recordings, a photography wall of album covers and live performances, and a collection of fashion pieces worn by fuji artists across its history.

Founder of FUJI: A Opera, Bobo Omotayo, said: “Now feels like the perfect time to celebrate the phenomenal influence of fuji music, how it began and its lasting impact. Without fuji there would be no Afrobeats. Artists such as King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall have given so much to music – it’s time we celebrate their legacy. With London’s huge Nigerian community and close links with Lagos, I’m proud to be bringing FUJI: A Opera to the Africa Centre this summer.”

The exhibition was first staged in 2020 in Nigeria, marking the longest showcase of the fuji subculture in modern times. FUJI: A Opera will make its international premiere in the UK at the Africa Centre, which has been the home of African heritage and culture since it first opened its doors in 1964.

With Nigerian artists Rema, Asake and Davido providing songs of the summer in the UK in 2023, Burna Boy becoming the first African artist to headline a stadium in the UK this year and Wizkid set to follow, now is a fitting time to look back on the country’s musical origins and witness its evolution and the international impact it has made on the music industry today.

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