Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, the renowned Nigerian singer and musician, believes that music can be a vehicle for social change. UNICEF appointed him a Goodwill Ambassador on 6 June 2002, calling him an important figure in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. Kuti’s appointment broadens UNICEF’s reach to young people worldwide.
“It is a natural partnership between one of the world’s most prominent activist entertainers and the most influential organization working on behalf the world’s children,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Carol Bellamy. “Femi Kuti is more than a talented and inspiring musician, he is a model for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world today.”
Raising the alarm
Kuti has been a vocal advocate of HIV/AIDS prevention since 1997, when his father, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, founder of Afro-beat music, died of the disease. Femi Kuti first became associated with UNICEF when he contributed an essay to The Progress of Nations, a UNICEF publication describing what becomes possible when nations invest in children’s well-being and protect their rights.
“Ever since I wrote [the essay], I have seen how powerful my cooperation with UNICEF could be,” says Kuti. “One of the most important actions for people in influential positions is to raise the alarm around AIDS loudly and clearly. Information is a powerful tool in the struggle to tame the pandemic’s rampant spread.”
Kuti was officially introduced as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador at the 2002 Banff Television Festival. UNICEF recently created a partnership with the festival to promote the issue of children’s rights in this annual international gathering of broadcasters. In his first official role, Kuti presented a special award to STEPS for the Future, an innovative television series on HIV/AIDS produced entirely by Africans.
In September 2002, Kuti attended the Africa Leadership Consultation on Urgent Action for Children on the Brink, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The purpose was to develop consensus on priorities for a scaled-up emergency response to orphans, other vulnerable children and children affected by HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
Femi Kuti was born in London and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. He started playing with his father’s 40-piece orchestra, Egypt ’80, when he was 16. Kuti’s music demonstrates a harmonious fusion of modern dance-music styles with jazz, funk and African blues. He has recorded a number of albums, the most recent being Fight to Win.
Kuti received top honours at the Kora All Africa Music Awards in September 1999 and won the Best-Selling African Artist award at the globally televised World Music Awards in May 2000.