Monday, March 8, 2010

MUSIC MONDAY: Fela Kuti and 'Fela!' on Broadway

If you are a fan of Hugh Masekela, whom I have written about previously, you will love the music of Fela Kuti, one of Masekela's friends and mentors. Kuti was a revolutionary, both musically and politically. Musically, he is generally considered as the first person to mix traditional jazz music with both James Brown inspired funk music and West African musical styles to create what is now called Afro beat. Politically, he created his own separatist commune within his home country of Nigeria (which was viciously attacked by the Nigerian Government) and was arrested over 200 times.

Though he recorded over 70 albums and gained international acclaim, Kuti's African identity always remained centrally important to him (which is evident in his music) and he chose to remain in or around Nigeria instead of moving to the west, where he could have become an international superstar. As a result, he became a local leader (he tried to run for president of Nigeria twice but was prevented by the government) but only maintained a small, but very strong, cult following in the United States and never received massive international success and popularity.

This is one reason why I am very happy that there is a (relatively) new broadway musical 'Fela!', which has enjoyed much critical and popular acclaim. I have not seen it (though I have seen the preview performed on The Colbert Report embedded below) but I very much hope to do so soon. The non-Colbert videos were posted by the the show's producers on Youtube. They briefly and succinctly explain more about Kuti's musical sound and personality. Enjoy!!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Fela! - Zombie
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorSkate Expectations

For tickets and more information of the musical, please go to

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