POETRY IN APRIL – How FELA the Musical Blew My Mind!

ImageImageLast night I was hungry and thirsty for a concrete live depiction of Fela Kuti’s life story. I had received this once before when his son, Femi Kuti performed live in Cleveland, Ohio at the Beachland Ballroom. Femi did an excellent job of bringing forth the style of Afrobeat that his father had so carefully and wonderfully created. Combining Yoruba tribal music (which involves advanced drumming, mainly using the dundun), jazz, highlife, funk, and chanted vocals, he brought us a ravishing upbeat style of music that we let loose and danced to! I especially loved the chanting and the dancers. You have to see it to know what I mean. It is like poetry- exciting, igniting, and hypnotizing.

Every single time I watch a video of Fela, I get so excited! It is some of the best free-flow dancing you’ll ever see- performed only by authentic dance Queens! This past summer I had gone to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan and seen the exhibit on Fela Kuti. It too, was awesome. It isn’t there anymore, but if you can see it, please try to find it! Since then, I have been following the musician.

  1. Seeing his son perform live,
  2. seeing the exhibit,
  3. watching videos of him,
  4. listening to his musicians CDs (especially Fela’s drummer),
  5. and now seeing the musical, I am officially FELA crazy!

Fela, the musical was excellent! Although it was not advertised well in Cleveland, it still drew the most diverse crowds of people that the city has to offer. I saw so many of my wonderful Elder Sistahs and Queens, even some coming from Columbus, which is two hours away. It was worth every penny!

The acting was good. I loved DUAIN RICHMOND, who played Fela,

He was awesome and his lines were comical in all the right places. I was more than happy to get up and dance when he requested that the audience stand up and take instruction from the dancers. We danced in clock positions, moving our rear ends in 12 o’clock, 6 o’clock, up and down motions! You do yoga, while I do the Fela workout!

I appreciated the storyline, which was simple and told without “fillers.” Michelle Williams, the singer from Destiny’s Child did a good job. I think she has potential to excel on Broadway. She wasn’t the best dancer, but I wasn’t really expecting that. She did what she could. Overall I give her a 6.5 out of 10.

I loved that Fela’s mother, Funmilayo (played by MELANIE MARSHALL) was a central part of the story. The large screen displayed on the right hand side of the stage revealing her picture added so much definition to the play. The lighting, sound, projection, and graphic parts of the performance were on point. The costumes were inspiring (if you are looking for style ideas).

The singer playing Fela’s mother and the dancers brought the musical home!

ImageThe Afrobeat band, the Antibalas, were flawless. THE VIBRATIONS THAT THIS PLAY SET OFF made it hard to leave the theater after the 2.5 hours. I wished it would go on! Honestly, I live for these moments where culture gets so real! The movement of the women was spiritually inviting, not sexual at all. It forced the audience to become part of the Fela experience. There was one dancer who I could not stop watching, her name is ONEIKA PHILLIPS- gotta say she was powerful!

Check out the cast and go see it in its last stages if you can. If you like African culture, it will definitely blow your mind!

Peace and love,

Queen Duafe for African Essence