DJ Jumbo Vanrenen’s flyer from Professor Hindu’s London show, via thisisafrica.me
A few years ago, Suzanne Moore devoted a column in the New Statesman to her memories of a special event Fela Kuti once hosted in London. Inside a small club in Belsize Park, Fela’s favorite sorcerer, Professor Hindu, was slicing out his own tongue; out front, men were digging a grave. “Some poor guy had volunteered to be killed and resurrected,” she writes. After doing some card tricks, Professor Hindu slit the volunteer’s throat and buried him in the cold, cold ground.
Not only had she been there, but she’d gone back to see the dead man raised. He’d jumped out of the grave in a suit all covered in earth and propositioned her. “Being buried alive makes you horny,” he exclaimed. That makes sense, when you think about it.
Fela’s death and resurrection show made its debut at his Lagos club, the Shrine, in May of ‘81. According to Michael E. Veal’s Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon, during Professor Hindu’s first engagement at the Shrine, the magician “reportedly hacked open one man’s throat and fatally shot another.” In both instances, the victims were revived after apparently spending days and nights buried in the ground. Veal reproduces the text of an ad Fela took out in the Nigerian newspaper Punch, trumpeting Hindu’s powers:
On Wednesday 6th of May 1981 (at) 10 P.M., Professor [Kwaku] Addaie [a/k/a Professor Hindu] shot and killed a man at the Shrine. The body is buried right in the Shrine, you can go there and see; the body is still in the tomb. At 7 P.M. today Friday the 8th of May, 1981, the body will be resurrected by Professor Addaie himself. We hereby invite all press, doctors, Police, C.I.D. [Central Intelligence Division], N.S.O. [National Security Organization], Presidential Guards, etc. to come and see true Afrikan powers with their own two eyes. With this, there is no Jesus—THERE IS AFRIKA.
These were not the easiest years of Fela’s life. Only a few years had passed since General Obasanjo’s troops stormed his commune, the Kalakuta Republic, raping, stomping and otherwise brutalizing those inside. For an encore, they threw Fela’s 78-year-old mother from a second-story window and burned down the house. (Fela’s courageous response to Obasanjo’s goons is the subject of his Coffin for Head of State LP.) Again, late in ‘81, soldiers beat him with their gun-butts and left him for dead in the gutter.
After the latter attack, Fela credited his survival to Professor Hindu; others were skeptical. Fela’s son Femi Kuti (quoted in Veal’s book):
Fela changed when Hindu came into his life. Everyone now got worried because Fela wouldn’t listen to anyone except for Hindu. My mother said I should come out of it because it was getting too diabolical and deceitful. But I told her “If I leave him now, it is possible he will get killed and we will lose him forever.” I felt this because Hindu once told Fela that if he wore a special African bulletproof vest, they could shoot him and he wouldn’t die. To prove it, Hindu got a gun and put the jacket on a goat and fired six shots to show it really worked. Later, we found out he had used blanks. But my father thought this was wonderful and he wanted to put the jacket on himself. Luckily, his elder brother said “Let’s try it on another goat, just in case.” So they took this double-barrelled gun–and the goat died. And Fela cried and cried. Obviously, they were cheating him.
Watch Professor Hindu in action in the unsourced (Finding Fela?) documentary clip below, which includes footage of the Belsize Park throat-cutting, burial and resurrection. In a review of Finding Fela at This Is Africa, Ben Verghese writes that the footage of the Country Club performance aired on a TV show called Back in Black. He says he heard it from DJ Jumbo: “the freshly dug grave wasn’t occupied when everyone had left.”