looking for a way to ring in your new year…
i missed this show the first time around when it opened on broadway in new york in 2009 and to say my disappointment ran deep was an understatement. this time i’m on the ball and dialed in for what promises to be an amazing event! if you’re not in the know, fela kuti was THE father of afro beat and i’ve been shaking my money maker to his music since being turned onto it as a kid via my parents. hugh masekela, sonny okosun, tony allen, nigeria 70. not familiar? how about antibalas, the daktaris, the pharoahs (who became earth, wind and fire) or david byrne? all touched by fela.
olufela olusegun oludotun ransome-kuti came to the states from nigeria as a young man in ’69 to tour los angeles and record. he toured america for eight months during which he was able to witness firsthand the transformation of african american r&b, soul and funk. not only that, being a political activist in his own right, he received a close up education of our civil rights movement via the black panther party.
upon his return to africa, he was a thorn in the side of a corrupt nigerian government and a hero to the disenfranchised surviving multiple vicious attacks by the military, one of which led to his mothers’ demise after she was tossed from a window. an unabashed polygamist who reportedly married 100+ wives and formed the independent kalakuta republic to circumvent the government, i can only wonder why a movie hasn’t been made of his life as it’s rich in it’s stories of political resistance layered with the deep, funky beats that underline his messages of civil disobedience.
(note: i just found out a fela biopic is in the works as a focus features vehicle with chiwetelu ejiofor playing the lead!)
unfortunately fela passed away in ’97 (on my birthday no less) but we do have his sons femi and seun to carry on the afro beat tradition. seun played in downtown’s california plaza as recently as this past september and femi never fails to impress as he carries on his father’s trademark show of tight musicianship coupled with the most amazing back up singers/dancers i’ve ever seen!
the musical originally opened in 2008 off broadway as a collaborative workshop between antibalas and tony award winner bill t. jones. with subsequent backing from jay-z, will smith and others, it went on to broadway in november 2009 and became a multi tony nominated success.
now playing at los angeles’ ahmanson theatre through 22 january 2012, i strongly suggest you check it out and after which, be sure to give a listen to the artists that were mentioned above as masekela, okosun, allen and the daktaris are not to be missed.
get your tix here at the centre theatre group.