Fela and the Kalakuta Queens Made Nigerians Proud in South

Africa

By: Olaniyi Thevoice Abodedele
28th March, 2019

Column: Home and Abroad

Pretoria: South Africa: If you have never heard about Fela Anikulapo Kuti or have no knowledge of who he was and you wanted an unfiltered view into the mind of one of Nigeria’s most iconic musical exports, Fela Anikulapo Kuti popularly known and called Baba 70 or Abami Eda (The Spirit) then Fela and the Kalakuta Queens did Justice to his personality.

Fela and the Kalakuta Queens drama production crew were in South Africa from Nigeria in collaboration with the South African State Theatre (An Agency of the Department of Arts and Culture, South Africa) to showcase the masterpiece to the South African audience.

The Nigerian Voice Newspaper got complimentary invitations from the South African State Theatre to be one of those to watch the opening performance of Friday 29th March, 2019, and indeed every minute was worth it. There was never a dull moment from start to finish. Impressively it was indeed something to be proud of seeing a Nigerian theatre production with so much professionalism of world class performance.

Interestingly, the musical drama opened up to the world what Fela’s 27 wives who also doubled as his dancers were to him; indeed they were more than his wives and dancers, they were part of what made Fela great. They were practically his ROCK!

Fela and the Kalakuta Queens drama production crew presented a musical which chronicles the complicated life and times of the late legendary musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, also known as Fela Kuti; from birth to life as a defiant and uncompromising social activist, a flamboyant musical maestro and his historic marriage to his 27 dancer-wives know as his QUEENS. 

The story of Fela and his Kalakuta Queens is a compelling one, while at the same time deeply moving and emotionally engaging. It travels through the honest and selfless love the icon had with his dancers (Queens) who left their homes to follow him, believing in his vision of building a better community through arts and music”.

The musical also explores the lives of the women who constituted an integral part of his band and gives a unique insight into the negotiation of gender and power relations at Kalakuta Republic, while also show casing their unique fashion, dance and African Identity, and unmasking common misconceptions about them”.

“Following a successful premier in their home country in Lagos in 2017, Fela and the Kalakuta Queens musical has without a doubt become a sensation across the globe.”

The musical made impressions among movie goers that attended the show. Among Nigerian celebrities who attended the show was Betty Dibiah a seasoned Nigerian Journalist, broadcaster and Channels TV  country representative in South Africa. She described the musical drama production as “Colourful and bold.”  Amazing to see a Nigerian production going on world tour. The energy of the Queens were amazing. And for us always homesick, it was fun singing along to the many songs,” Dibiah stated.

Miss Matome Maribeng a South African who watched the musical drama production with her Nigerian Fiancé said the musical show presented her and her fellow South Africans the opportunity to know about the late legendary musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti.  Matome expressed that the show was full of life and the audience, including herself, really enjoyed themselves. “The show was based on Fela and his 27 wives. The story of Fela is deeply moving and emotional as we got to see how selfless he was and that his home was open to everyone who needed a place to stay,”  Matome narrated.

Marome continued; “I was really moved by the show because there was so much enthusiasm, joy and colour starting from the hair, makeup and different attires worn by Fela and his Queens. The show told us the story of how Fela and his Queens lived in KALAKUTA, and how each and every one of them stood by him regardless what the community and people said about them, and labeling them as prostitutes”. 

“The Musical show presented us a beautiful story from the beginning till the end. Each character had their own abilities, moves and definitely passion as they sang and danced their hearts on the night. Seeing my partner singing and dancing showed how much fun he had and how deeply the show meant to him. It was a great production and definitely learned something from it.” she enthused. 

Dr Emeka Ugwu President, Nigerian Doctors' Forum, South Africa watched the production with his entire family. To him, “Fela in his own right was an unstoppable freedom fighter, a consummate revolutionist, an ardent believer in fairness and justice for all”.

Dr. Emeka Ugwu expressed that “Fela challenged various governments, religious and other constituted authorities, to be people-oriented, exemplary and to be above board in all their dealings. His bravery at these was legendary. Fela was incessantly arrested and jailed, on trumped up charges, albeit never gave up”.

“In his chosen career, he was a pace setter, a trailblazer. He was a quintessential legend, who firmly believed in the unity of Nigeria, Africa, and indeed the entire world. Fela was the man who saw tomorrow”.

“The continuous celebration of his legacies always presents an opportunity to encourage people to emulate him, and hold their leaders accountable at all times, more so in Africa”. The Doctor’s Forum President added.

Kunle Ayo a sensational South Africa based Nigerian musician who watched the show with his wife was short of words to express his experience of the show.  “Fela and the kalakuta queens is a phenomenal show that made me proud to be a Nigerian. An all Nigerian cast that tells the story of Fela's queens in such a way we've never seen before. The way the story weaves into the music is quite commendable,” said Kunle Ayo. 

Kunle Ayo paid homage to the cast and crew of the musical production. “To the producers, actors and crew of this wonderful production, I salute each and every one for the selfless work that they've done. Words fail me to describe this wonderful stage explosion of the story of Fela from the eyes of the queens that made Fela the greatest African icon.”

Another attendee of the musical was Fakiyesi Opeyemi (aka- Yemite) a Nigerian contemporary South Africa-based musical artist. Yemite said it was dope to see such a great production with such amount of band perform professionally. “I was impressed to see a dope performance from the band. I never knew a band of that number of band members can rehearse and display the life and time of the great Legend Fela, with music and dance so professionally. Also it made people know and understand what Fela went through, during the military era in Nigeria”. Yemite lauded.

Just maybe it is true that Fela is still alive and lives forever. After all they refer to him as Abami Eda (The Spirit) and his second name Anikulapo, with its true meaning when translated in English meaning “The one who has death in his pouch”. Let the spirit of Fela live on! 

 
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