LAGOS, NIGERIA, JAN. 25 -- Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, a Nigerian dissident who is one of Africa's most celebrated musicians, was charged today with murder and conspiracy in the beating death of an employee over $138.

Deputy Police Commissioner James Danbada said an electrician was killed by Fela's bodyguards Thursday after he accused the musician of cheating him. The beating allegedly occurred at Fela's home.

Fela's brother, human rights leader Beko Ransome-Kuti, said by telephone that Fela was arrested Thursday night. He said that the judge ruled today that his brother -- who is known by his first name -- should be held until the case is heard March 15, but that an appeal would be filed seeking to free Fela on bail.

The 52-year-old musician, who has recorded more than 50 albums and is known for lyrics critical of military governments like the one now running Nigeria, has been arrested many times. In 1977, his house was burned by troops after he released a song that likened soldiers to zombies.

In 1984, Fela was convicted of illegally exporting foreign currency and sentenced to 10 years in prison. A year later, the military government of Gen. Muhammed Buhari was overthrown by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the current president, who freed Fela.

After the 1984 conviction, the international human rights group Amnesty International declared Fela a prisoner of conscience.