This past Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to go to the opening night of FELA!, the broadway musical. For those who are not familiar with Fela Kuti, this amazing broadway musical will make people fall in love with his music. The play is beautifully written. The musical is told via Fela’s last concert at the Africa Shrine. Although, one feels like one is attending a Fela concert, the play does a great job at giving the audience a background on how Fela pioneered the sounds of Afrobeat, how Fela was inspired by his revolutionary mother, and how the Black Panther movement in the U.S. inspired him to become a catalyst in Nigeria.
As a fan of Fela’s music, I think the play did an amazing job of giving people a brief historical background of Fela’s life and music. The scene where his compound gets raided by military officials is followed by audience members seeing pictures of Fela’s associates describing the torture and atrocities that were done to them. The torture that Fela’s associates went through is too painful to even write. Just thinking about it really pains me. Stuff like military officers dragging someone from their testicles, a woman’s pubic hair being pulled from her, woman being raped, and horrible stories of this nature.
When the musical is coming to an end and the song, Coffin for Head of State, is playing, I was happy to see the performers carry numerous symbolic coffins. Some of the ones that I enjoyed had names such as; L.A. Uprising, I am Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Fear, Doubt, Respect, Power and Sudan to name a few.
I highly recommend people see this great play. One will come out inspired and appreciating Fela’s music and his contributions to raising people’s consciousness through his music. Fela understood that music is a weapon and can be used to bring profound change not only in Nigeria but in the world. I am attaching some of the pictures I took of the play. I have also included couple videos of the performance so people can get a sneak preview.
Here is Billy T Jones explaining more about Fela Kuti and the musical.
Here is one of my favorite songs from Fela. I wish they had a way to get this song into the broadway musical.