Kilimanjaro's Heritage Hall will host a musical and film tribute tomorrow to Fela Anikulap Kuti, the dissident Nigerian musician who has been in a Lagos prison since September 1984. Fela, originator of the Afro-Beat movement and one of Nigeria's leading cultural figures, has long been a thorn in the side of whatever government was in power, and his taunting lyrics have been aimed particularly at the military.
Detained five other times over the last decade, Fela had never been convicted of anything. But on the eve of his first American tour, he was arrested at the Lagos airport on charges of currency smuggling, and eventually sentenced to five years in prison by a military tribunal. Amnesty International quickly listed Fela as a "prisoner of conscience" and demanded either release or retrial.
When the antiapartheid "Sun City" project was coming together in early August, its organizers dispatched Fela's manager, Pascal Imbert, to Lagos with a letter asking the government of Gen. Mohammed Buhari to release Fela so he could participate. "Instead, they took me straight to jail," Imbert said, "under the security decree that they could keep me in jail up to three months without questioning me."
Imbert was released after an Aug. 26 coup. "The new president Gen. Ibrahim Babangida did quite a lot of talking about the previous regime being terrible on human rights, so they released a lot of prisoners, including me. They also said they would look at all the cases tried by the military tribunals, which were particularly tough with political people like Fela."
A review panel is set and Imbert is hoping that Fela, once described as a mixture of Malcolm X, Miles Davis and James Brown, will be released by mid-January. Besides Fela's grass-roots popularity, there's another encouraging sign: the new government includes Fela's brother as minister of health. Remembering John Lennon
Next week marks the fifth anniversary of the death of John Lennon. Monday, NBC will show "John and Yoko -- A Love Story," a three-hour movie featuring 32 songs by the Beatles, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Mark McGann, who plays Lennon in the film, continues to attract big crowds with the London stage show "Lennon." McGann, who snagged the film role after the initial choice's real name turned out to be Mark Chapman (the same as Lennon's killer), only plays the young, pre-Yoko Lennon in the stage show: another actor plays his older, post-Beatles self.
"Imagine -- The Film," made to accompany Lennon's 1971 album but rarely seen (parts of it were shown on television in 1972 and at the Whitney Museum in 1977), will be available next March, with two extra tracks from Yoko Ono's "Fly" album plus "Power to the People" with the Plastic Ono Band as well as some private footage. The "One to One" concert album scheduled for January release by Capitol Records also will be available as an hour-long video.
The Son Also Rises: Julian Lennon's long-form videobio, "Stand By Me," is about to be released. It features footage from his first -- and only -- concert tour in 1983, interspersed with interviews and backstage material. His first print biography (written by Yolande Flesch) already has hit the shops. It probably will not create quite the stir the upcoming Albert Goldman bio of Julian for Bantam will (Goldman, remember, did quite a job on Elvis, and he's reportedly spent at least some of his $2 million advance digging up some shocking new details about John Lennon's life). Other Ex-Beatles News
Ringo Starr and George Harrison, neither of whom does much playing these days, joined forces with Eric Clapton, Dave Edmunds and Carl Perkins in a London television tribute to Perkins' 30-year career and rockabilly roots. According to a London paper, Harrison, who's become more of a movie mogul these days, will be financing the first Madonna-Sean Penn film, "Shanghai Surprise," based on Tony Kenrick's "Farraday's Flower," a novel about a missionary in 1930s China.
Capitol, which recently signed Paul McCartney again, will be pulling 10 of the Beatles early American albums off the market and replacing them with seven British EMI originals. Capitol (and companies in other countries, as well) took some songs off those originals and compiled them on other albums, a procedure that reportedly infuriated the Beatles since it forced fans to buy extra albums. The 10 American albums to be pulled are "Meet the Beatles," "The Beatles' Second Album," "Something New," "Beatles '65," "The Early Beatles," "Beatles VI," "Help!," "Rubber Soul," "Yesterday . . . and Today" and "Revolver."
And finally, CD fanatics who have long complained that Beatles material was unavailable in that format are elated that Capitol is reportedly close to marketing the first Beatles compact discs early next year. Initial releases will probably include "Abbey Road" (available briefly this year on a Japanese CD), "The Beatles" (commonly called the White Album), "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and the two compilation packages, "The Beatles: 1962-1966" and "The Beatles: 1967-1970."