Back on Broadway for 32 performances from now to August 4 only, Fela! is a phenomenal show. Directed and choreographed by Tony-winner Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening) and produced by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, FELA! brings a high-energy mix of dance, theater and music to tell the true-life story of the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti.
With a score featuring Kuti’s pioneering Afrobeat music — a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies — FELA! powerfully explores Kuti’s controversial life as an innovative artist, civil-rights champion and revolutionary musician. This acclaimed show won three 2010 Tony Awards, including Best Choreography, and has toured nationally.
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Performances are at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, Between 8th and 9th Avenues (302 West 45th Street New York, NY 10036)
A spectacularly inspiring and triumphant tale of courage, passion and love, FELA! is based on the life of Fela Kuti, who created Afrobeat—a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies—and mixed these sensual eclectic rhythms with simple but powerful lyrics that openly assailed Nigeria’s corrupt and oppressive dictatorships. Featuring many of Fela Kuti’s most captivating songs performed by a combined cast of the original Broadway production and the Royal National Theatre production all under Bill T. Jones’s visionary staging, FELA! reveals Kuti’s life as an artist and human rights activist and celebrates his pioneering music in what has been hailed as one of the most exciting, exhilarating and vital stage experiences in recent memory.
FELA!, the most critically acclaimed musical of the 2010 season, received three Tony Awards®: Best Choreography, Best Costume Design for a Musical and Best Sound Design of a Musical! His story inspired a nation. His music inspires the world. FELA! tells the true story of the legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, whose soulful Afrobeat rhythms ignited a generation. Motivated by his mother, a civil rights champion, he defied a corrupt and oppressive military government and devoted his life and music to the struggle for freedom and human dignity. FELA! is a triumphant tale of courage, passion and love, featuring Fela Kuti’s captivating music and the visionary direction and choreography of Tony Award® winner Bill T. Jones.
Fela had used his extraordinary big-band music as a medium in which he created biting, satirical diatribes against the excesses of successive military regimes in his native Nigeria. Any form of injustice, oppression, mismanagement, corruption was fearlessly and ferociously attacked, using eloquent harangues that specifically named the perpetrators.
He had paid a steep price for his bravery in the face of powerful and implacable enemies, with 200 arrests and countless beatings that left scars all over his body. But even these beatings didn’t stop him. “Ah well, they didn’t kill me,” he would proclaim as he wrote yet another acerbic lyric and gave inflammatory quotes to the press.
Fela died in August 1997. AIDS, they said, but as far as those close to him were concerned, he died of one beating too many. He was a giant of a man, but a man nevertheless. The system can only take so much. One million people attended his funeral.
His legacy was a testament of incredible courage, together with almost 50 albums of music that are now available globally through Knitting Factory Records. His message of transparency, honest government and justice for all is still as relevant today as when it was when first released 4 decades ago—not just in Nigeria, but globally.