Renowned talent agency WME has acquired the rights to represent the Estate of Fela Kuti, the iconic Nigerian musician known for his significant contributions to Afrobeat, under its Legends division.
WME’s Legends division, distinguished for its focus on estate and legacy brand management, strives to nurture and expand the legacies of iconic artists and brands. Fela Kuti, whose groundbreaking music was showcased in the Broadway musical Fela! between 2009 and 2011, tragically passed away in 1997 due to complications from AIDS.
Under this new agreement, the WME Legends team is poised to oversee all aspects related to Kuti’s legacy, including his name, image, and likeness. This management will also encompass life rights, intellectual property, music, and publishing rights. This will be orchestrated in collaboration with the administrators of Fela Kuti’s Estate, spanning both WME and its parent company, Endeavor’s various departments and global enterprises.
With a keen eye on the future, WME plans to amplify Kuti’s enduring legacy to resonate with the younger generation. This strategy involves multiple avenues, such as producing a scripted biopic, expanding the Fela! musical franchise, unearthing previously unreleased tracks and unpublished songs, and venturing into licensing, merchandising, commercials, and endorsements.
It’s worth noting that WME Legends’ portfolio boasts representation of other eminent estates, including Notorious B.I.G., Andy Kaufman, Eartha Kitt, Waylon Jennings, Peter Tosh, Charlie Sifford, and Ram Dass’ Love Serve Remember Foundation. The division also represents the iconic CBGB club from New York, a hub for punk and new wave music.
Fela Kuti’s monumental influence in the realm of African music cannot be overstated. He is credited with the birth of Afrobeat – a musical fusion of West African rhythms and American funk and jazz. Major contemporary artists like Beyonce & Jay-Z, Burna Boy, Missy Elliott, J. Cole, Alicia Keys, and Mos Def have incorporated his music into their own works.
For the negotiations leading to this collaboration, the Kuti Estate was represented by the legal firm Olajide Oyewole LLP, affiliated with DLA Piper Africa.
Originally reported on Deadline.