Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fela! is Burning Down Broadway

I still am vibrating from the sax, sakere, and drums that I rocked to as I lived the new Broadway show, Fela! Three words, Go See It!

You know how a black movie comes out, and you reluctantly go check it out because it will probably be trash, but in the name of supporting a rare occurrence on the silver screen you go anyway.

You know what I'm talking about, a film that has more than 1 black character not acting stupid, so you waste an evening and about $20 bucks.

For example, I was very hesitant about seeing any more Tyler Perry Films because I paid money at a theater to see him dressed as an old, fat, black woman and I absolutely vomited in the middle of the show. I did not care if Cicely Tyson was in it or not. It was ga-bage. Needless to say, I did like "Why Did I Get Married," but I wonder if it is because I am selecting the lesser of evils out of all his trash.

On the other hand, Fela! was soooooooooo different.

I was totally unprepared for my first experience viewing a Broadway production. Song, potent political statements that were upgraded to today's issues, and dance, I mean straight up-and-down funky shit caught me off guard. I did not see Fela! I became part of the show while I moved my ass from 12-o'clock to 6-o'clock.

Energy, passion and depth packed into 2 1/2 hours. I enjoyed the innovative and powerful way that the creators told the story of a complex and controversial musical-cultural-political icon that many in the US do not know. But in Africa, Europe, and other places, Fela Kuti the man, IS the Bob Marley of the Motherland.

(Above photo is of actor Sahr Ngaujah playing Fela)

And I am glad of the layers of narratives that were wrapped in this show. First, you had Fela's phenomenal journey from Nigeria, to London, the America (specifically black America), then back home.

Fela, played by the ingenious Sahr Ngaujah is exceptional. And the screenplay's writing and direction masterfully interweaves the African Diaspora and touches upon the intricacies of perspectives of the various black people all affected by world colonial powers and neo-Imperialism. But the movie connects everyone through a medium that has been used before it was termed, music. Ahh, the sweet stankness of music.

But Fela the man is just a medium, like his music because he explicitly talks about the ones who cultivated his character, the women of his life. First his mother, Funmilayo, then his black-powered lover, Sandra Isidore in Los Angeles. And finally, his group dancers, the Queens of his social/performance clubs, and some of them his lovers.

These women become the ones who craft him into a being that learns to transcends government oppression, constant harassment, police torture and frequent beatings, and finally death. (Photo of the real Fela Anikulapo Kuti)

Then you have the story of dance, specifically African dance and the African Diaspora. Being someone who danced for years in many African dance classes, I was able to understand the most of the dancing was from the Senegal, Guinea, and Mali region, due to these dominant dance forms in African dance in the US.

However, there were elements of Orisa dancing from an Afro-Cuban and Yoruban perspective. Then you had another facet, tap-dancing, an African-American classic. The fusions showed the fluidity and natural marriages involved in these movements.

A real photo of one of Fela's wives who were noted for their elaborate facial adornments. It was interesting how some people at the Broadway show commented on how they liked the "face paintings" of the women in the show. Honey, that is not costume markings that is make-up just like the overpriced, toxic shit you buy at Macy's. Matter fact, it is one of the ancient forms of make-up)

And to make it all the sweeter, my sister and I took our two nieces, ages 8 & 11, and all of us LOVED the show. Music, it is the pacifier and also the fuel to learn and fight.

Check out the real Fela perform with his group in Calabar Nigeria in 1971 by clicking the photo below. Blog him and read his fascinating biography. Then when you are in New York, check out the show!Modupe Egungun Fela Anikulapo Kuti!

2 ish talking intellectuals holla at a sista:

Reggie said...

Sounds rather interesting. If I still lived in Jersey I'd have to go check this one out.

Bankole said...

Many Thanks for the review. I'm mostly wary of broadway kinds of programs too. Good to get a sharp report and also the acknowledgment of the Sister in California that helped to politicize Fela.

Keep up the good work, Sister.

There is always something that is distinctive on your blog.


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