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Fela! On Broadway

Featured Artist

The musical Fela! opened on Broadway in January 2010, and won eleven Tony nominations and three more awards later in the year. Now in Fall 2011, Fela! is hitting the road, opening in Washington D.C., New Haven, Detroit, Toronto and other cities. Fela! is an unprecedented landmark for African music in mainstream American culture. This is all the more amazing when you consider what an edgy, controversial character Fela Analukapo Kuti really was. In this program, we hear excerpts from the cast recording, and new Fela reissues. We meet the star of the Broadway show, Sahr Ngaujah. And we hear from two of Fela’s children, including bandleader Seun Kuti, on the man, the myth, and the musical. [Produced by Banning Eyre. Originally aired 02-15-2011]

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  • Mabinuori Kayode Idowu

    by Mabinuori Kayode Idowu on Friday, July 27, 2012 at 10:51am ·Dear
    Fela’s heirs; fans, friends, and enemies -like we say in Yoruba a human
    being cannot exist without enemies, “the time don come for me to
    talk….” apology Femi Kuti ’97. Yes; the time has come for me to add my
    voice to the on-going debate, about the long awaited restoration work in
    Kalakuta Republic III. Before going any further in this debate, it is
    important to note that despite the thin line, that separates the words
    heritage and legacy it is an un-questionable fact that Fela’s heritage
    belongs exclusively to his heirs to do whatever they choose or not do
    with it. Equally; without second-guessing the reason behind the
    motivation of those @ Fela Story, who brought the issue of the
    restoration work in Kalakuta Republic III to light, the icon’s legacy is
    the domain and right of his fans, friends and foes alike to comment and
    judge. This simple fact cannot be brought home better; than by the
    declaration of the Felabration Festival Organizing Committee, in
    justifying the creation of a ‘Fela Debate’ as part of the annual
    festival in honour of Fela declared in 2009: “The Fela Debates, an event
    that will gather together every year a selection of notable speakers;
    invite the public to choose a defining topic which will always reflect
    Fela, his philosophy, his career, his politics and whatever else. The
    social and political influence of Fela on our Society’, how it affects
    our paradigm for social awareness and mobilization, how has he made the
    consciousness of the average Nigerian to understand political and social
    issues” – talk about all these is talking about Fela’s legacy. For
    those who do not know, a little historic digression is necessary at this
    point to put everyone in the right perspective. Fela, named his Kuti
    family home; situated on 14A Agege Motor Road Kalakuta Republic in
    1974, after the ‘famous’ Police attack at his residence. In 1978 Fela
    moved to Atinuke Olabanji Crescent apartment of his friend J.K. Brimah,
    and for fear of not suffering the same faith as experienced by Fela in
    the burning down of Kalakuta Republic I in 1977, JK’s neighbours vacated
    their apartments – all belonging to Mr. Adesanya a former school mate
    of JK in Ijebu Ode Grammar School. With a promise that Fela would
    pick-up the rents of the vacated flats, the land-lord had no option but
    to let Fela and his large entourage occupy the two buildings containing
    six apartments – thus was born Kalakuta Republic II where Fela resided
    until he was jailed for alleged currency traffic in 1984. Shortly before
    Fela was deported from Ghana in 1978, while working on the re-dubs
    required for the restoration of the sound-track of his epic film Black
    President burnt in the Kalakuta Republic I, Fela delegated me to return
    to Lagos from Ghana to collaborate with his brother Beko, to process and
    present the architectural design of his Gbemisola Street land required
    in order to obtain building permits from the Lagos State Ministry of
    Housing and Planning. During the almost six months it took for me to
    process the architectural plan for the necessary permit for
    construction, I was lodged in the ‘boys quarters’ allocated to Beko at
    his Glover Road Ikoyi residence, while he was working as a General
    practitioner at the Lagos State General Hospital. My two other friends
    Duro Ikujenyo and Tunde Orimogunje, from what was left of the proscribed
    Young African Pioneers (YAP) after the infamous ‘Unknown Soldier’
    verdict of Obasanjo’s Government Tribunal, would later live with me in
    the tiny room. I did all the leg-work and obtained the building permit
    for Kalakuta Republic III. Mr. Emdean, the Lagos State official that
    signed the building authorization, can bear witness to this if he is
    still alive. I invited him many times, to the Pepple Street Africa
    Shrine after this collaboration. When Fela bought the land in 1975 from
    Pa Allen, the father of Africa 70 erstwhile drummer Tony Allen, Ikeja
    was more like a village in the suburbs of Lagos City. Apart from the
    beverage factory Cadbury Nigeria LTD, Coca-Cola office and ware-house on
    Agidingbi Road and the famous Airport Hotel, most of Ikeja was bush and
    not the capital of Lagos State that it is today. Again without
    second-guessing the motivation of those @ Fela Story; if the claim is
    true that Lagos State Government is spending billions of tax payer’s
    money, in turning Fela’s residence into another drinking joint, instead
    of an institute of ideology and theology leaves much to be desired. The
    absence of official communication from the Lagos State Government and
    Fela’s heirs, of the intentions with the renovation works going-on in
    Kalakuta Republic III, creates space for speculations and to spread
    false information. The disappearance of Hotel Bobby, the edifice that
    symbolized Nigeria’s highlife music maestro Bobby Benson’s legacy from
    the landscape of the famous Ikorodu Road is a perfect example of the
    absence of a maintenance culture in the lexicon of Nigerian and indeed
    African officials – particularly; in this gloomy landscape of general
    demobilization, lack of a maintenance culture, and corruption
    characterizing the actions of Nigerian and indeed African officials. An
    important point why there is an urgent reason for an official
    clarification of the intentions behind the renovation works is for
    example, if there is a library in the new edifice what kinds of books
    will be available? This question is important giving the fact that, I
    saw in a museum in1992 in Zurich Switzerland, an exposition of a Yoruba
    wood carving with hieroglyphic works of art dating back to the 12th
    Century AD from radio carbon dating test information available at the
    expo. From my enquiry with the Curator of the exposition, the wood
    carving like other objects exposed are properties of the Nigerian
    National Commission of museums and monuments, yet this organism as far
    as I am aware has done nothing yet to correct the misinformation in our
    school’s curriculum and history books that attributes an 18th Century
    origin to all Yoruba history and Kingdoms. One of the reasons why Fela
    resigned his membership of Nigeria’s national participation committee
    for FESTAC ’77 was his demand in the nine points programme he presented
    to the committee that the activities of the festival and the ideas
    behind them should be channelled through the education curriculum in the
    country to benefit future generations. More than three decades after,
    what do we have to show for all that money spent to host the festival.
    Thanks to Gboyega Adelaja’s alarm on the social media, we know that
    thousands of hours of film reels from the festival are disintegrating
    where they are stored. There are many groups and movements calling
    through the social media, for the return of African heritage today in
    the pocession of Western museums. If the idea is to transform Fela’s
    house into a museum, what efforts are being made to name and pay a
    Curator who can improve the Fela legacy that would be on display? What
    efforts are in the making to contact for example, the team from the
    Journal of African Civilization created by the late Dr. Ivan Van Sertima
    author of the epic work: “They Came before Columbus” – African presence
    in the Americas before Christopher Columbus and other structures that
    can give concrete direction to the establishment of a Fela museum? Other
    initiatives that deserve to be indicated; is the Institute dedicated to
    researches on Bantu people (The Institute is headed by Théophile
    Obenga, a great disciple of Cheikh Anta Diop). Also in existence; the
    radiocarbon laboratory of the Institute Fundamental of Black Africa
    Dakar Senegal (Le laboratoire du radiocarbone de l’Institute Fundamental
    d’Afrique Noir) founded by Cheikh Anta Diop. This Institute; could
    serve as a base for future research, and training African scientists
    covering all disciplines. What steps are in place for Fela Museum to
    open contact with all these Institutions? In this gloomy landscape of
    in-action from officials who should make change, one should salute the
    Lagos State Government for spending tax payer’s money for the
    long-overdue renovation of Kalakuta Republic III given the deplorable
    state it was degenerating into. Three years ago; a Nigerian Punch
    newspaper journalist raised the alarm about the ruins Kalakuta Republic
    III was turning into. I wrote a piece in Facebook in support of the
    views expressed by the journalist. I received a mail from someone close
    to Fela’s heirs (won’t name the person as it was a private message),
    asking me where I intended to lodge Fela’s widow, son and daughter,
    living in the house if I support the idea of turning the house into Fela
    museum. In reply I said I believed that from the sale and re-sale of
    Fela’s back-catalogue, plus brand-name, Fela’s heirs could build or rent
    a comfortable apartment to live in today in order to make space to
    transform the building into a befitting museum. Today; I hate to
    speculate but I believe that all those mentioned above would have to
    move-out to transform it into a museum like I had suggested. In order to
    avoid being accused of second-guessing, at this point it would be
    appropriate to ask what has changed since three years. Has provisions
    been made for Fela’s widow, son, daughter and hanger-on’s? If the
    answers to these questions are yes, it would be appropriate to ask by
    whom? For Fela’s heirs to avoid the possibility of being accused of
    conniving with those their father named ‘Authority Stealing’
    transparency is absolutely necessary here. It is not enough to just say
    after completion, the building would be equipped with a library, etc. It
    is important to know what books, what publishing arrangement have been
    entered into to make such books available not only in Fela’s library but
    in other institution of higher learning in Nigeria. Again if it is true
    that this initiative has the blessing of current Lagos State Government
    elected officials, since in a democracy their mandate has term limits,
    what steps would be put in place to ensure continuity after the
    officials leave office to avoid Fela’s heirs going cap-in-hand to the
    next officials. I believe a Fela Museum is self sustainable without
    going cap-in-hand to those in government. Africa 70 photo agency has
    enough material to finance the museum. A little precision is necessary
    here, as many of us may not know about the agency. In late 1975 when the
    idea of YAP was in the making, Lemi, Duro and I suggested to Fela the
    need to have a permanent photographer for the organisation in view of
    using the pictures in our YAP News publication. Until then pictures from
    Fela could only be bought from established photo agency such as that of
    Peter Obey. Fela agreed to our suggestion and Femi Bankole Osunla (aka
    Femi Photo) was employed and equipped with a camera. He is dead now but
    if contacted; his heirs must posses more than 5000 picture from the
    Africa 70 photo agency collection. I believe he has about the same
    amount of negatives that probably are fast becoming in-exploitable.
    These pictures and their negatives can be digitalized and commercialized
    as posters, post-cards, books and various other forms of multi-media
    products. Without second-guessing anyone, I believe pictures we have
    been seeing on facebook credited to those @ Fela Story come from the
    collection. Yes today the question of intellectual property and rights
    will have to be solved. Fela museum can give a percentage to Femi
    Photo’s heirs from the sale of the pictures while what is left would be
    used to finance the maintenance of the museum and her staff. Same for
    Fela’s style of suits and shoes, tailors and shoe makers can be employed
    on a permanent basis to re-produce customised versions for visitor to
    the museum. Visitors can be fitted with finished suits and shoes Fela’s
    style during their visits to the museum. One week before the burning
    down of Kalakuta Republic I, the African-American Minister Luis
    Farrakhan -leader of then Black Muslim Organization warned us that ”the
    word circulating within high-up Nigerian military officials was that
    something has to be done to stop Fela because the youths of the country
    dress, the way he dressed and smoke what he smoked”. A week after,
    Fela’s Kalakuta was raised to ashes. What better homage to render him
    than make everyone dress and think like him and also the commercial
    advantage that will come with the re-production? Finally, this is a
    message to the new generation ‘Area Boys.’ If you can smoke your Igbo
    without getting hustled on Nigerian streets today, you must give thanks
    and respect to Fela. Since he is no more around, that respect must be
    extended to his heirs. Fela’s children should not be targets of your
    armed robbery attacks because Fela has sacrificed for that – if you want
    to operate go to Abuja and not Kalakuta Area. Granted that the
    atmosphere in the New Africa Shrine; where youths instead of watching
    film slides, videos of great engaged leaders of the African struggle
    like Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley, etc., they are watching
    Chelsea play Manchester United or Barcelona playing Real Madrid. The
    task ahead in my view for the Curator of Fela Museum, is not only to
    show-case Fela’s life in glass, rather take advantage of all what Fela’s
    heirs have managed to put in place for example the Shrine – holding
    seminars, lectures, debates and raising the consciousness with students
    from all institution of higher learning in participation.Every-body say: Yeah! Yeah! Short Break!