UNICEF names Nigerian musician Femi Kuti as new Special Representative

12 June 2002

The United Nations Children's Fund today officially introduced internationally renowned musician Femi Anikulapo-Kuti as its newest Special Representative, lauding his critical support in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

The United Nations Children's Fund today officially introduced internationally renowned musician Femi Anikulapo-Kuti as its newest Special Representative, lauding his critical support in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

“It is a natural partnership between one of the world’s most prominent activist entertainers and the most influential organization working on behalf of 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.”

Welcoming his new role, Mr. Kuti said UNICEF’s publication in 2000 of an essay he wrote, entitled “My Song against AIDS,” had demonstrated the potential power of partnering with the agency. “We have the same goals, and they give me the opportunity for even more ways to help young people, especially regarding the HIV/AIDS emergency,” he said. “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.”

The appointment of Mr. Kuti, which was made official during the 2002 BANFF Television Festival in Canada, aims to further broaden UNICEF’s outreach to young people. The Nigerian musician has used his popularity as one of the stars of Afro-beat music, founded by his late father Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, to send clear and strong messages on preventing HIV/AIDS to young people in his home country and around the world.

The younger Mr. Kuti has been a vocal advocate on HIV/AIDS prevention since 1997, when his father died at age 58. The next day, Mr. Kuti and other family members announced AIDS was the cause. In revealing this, they helped to break the silence that existed around the devastating disease. “My father denied the existence of AIDS until the very end,” said Mr. Kuti. “And he was an educated man, famous artist and humanist – imagine how difficult it remains to get this life-saving message on prevention out to people who don't have the education and opportunities he did.”

UNICEF said Mr. Kuti intends to be active on many levels, from spreading his messages to young people through his concerts to lobbying his fellow artists to join him. Born in 1962, he started playing with his father's 40-piece orchestra, Egypt '80, when he was 16. Both a saxophonist and singer, he quickly became a star of Afro-beat music, which combines African rhythms with jazz, hip-hop and funk. His latest album, “Fight to Win,” was released last year.

 

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