A Sneek Peek at FELA and the Kalakuta Queens

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Yinka Olatunbosun

Perhaps, it is no longer news that the Fela spirit will be revived once more in December as the theatre production powerhouse, Bola Austen Peters Production stages the musical, “Fela and the Kalakuta Queens’’ in December.

What is really new is what the musical is all about. No doubt, the Fela story has been told from both the cinematic and theatric sides. However, there is no stage drama that has unraveled the world of Fela’s Queens. For those familiar with Fela’s biographical tales, the legendary Afrobeat musician married 27 wives shortly after his commune was besieged by unknown soldiers.

Since the death of Fela, not much has been said about these women who were loyal to Fela and helped to develop a strong music brand in Afrobeat. The musical which debuts in Lagos at Terra Kuture Arena is a story of the joy, pain and uncommon love of these women that decorated the life and times of this enigmatic musician.

Starring Kunle Afolayan, the sneek preview of Fela and the Kalakuta Queens took place at the rehearsal hall with the famed jazz artist, Adeniji Heavywind playing Fela. With a man that has sound knowledge of this genre of music, Heavywind brings some substance to his rendition of Fela’s music. Quite striking too, his voice is a match with the great man he is cast to mimic.

And the queens- they are a mash up of different temperaments accommodated in a carefree musician’s commune. At the risk of being a musical spoiler, one can reveal that some of the scenes in the play were closely tagged to Fela’s major hits such as, “Yellow Fever’’, “Democrazy’’, “Sorrow, Tears and Blood,’’ “Zombie’’, to list a few.
Perhaps the actors who play “Duro’’, Fela’s pianist and Heavywind will shed some weight to visually satisfy the physical characteristics of these legends.

Sponsored by MTN Foundation, the show will run from December to January for 10 days during the holidays. There will be 18 shows and the cast is massive. The producer of the play, Bolanle Austen Peters revealed how the play was conceived before the press preview of the musical.

“About a year ago, we started compiling the story of Fela and the girls. No one had even told the story of Fela’s girls. These women are fashion pacesetters. Their face paintings are global styles copied by the likes of Beyonce. The Kalakuta Queens brought a prowess to African dance,’’ she said.

While expressing gratitude to the Estate of Fela for letting the production company access the works of Fela, she particularly commended the convener of Felabration, Ms. Yeni Anikulapo Kuti for her willingness to assist in telling the true story of the Queens.

One of the Queens, simply known as Lara, was present at the press briefing. She was one of the eight writers of the story of “Fela and the Kalakuta Queens’’ who described Fela as “a fighter’’ and “a great man’’.