Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fela! on Broadway

Ben Brantley has published a very enthusiastic review in today's New York Times of Fela!, the Broadway musical (recently promoted from Off-Broadway) about the life and music of Afrobeat creator Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

Brantley says that "there has never been anything on Broadway like this production" and that the musical "doesn’t so much tell a story as soak an audience to and through the skin with the musical style and sensibility practiced by its leading man." The music for the show is by Antibalas and therefore is no doubt of high qualithy.

In an article from the Sunday New York Times, Jon Pareles describes Fela and Afrobeat:
In Africa, Fela, who died at 58 of complications from AIDS, is a figure to rival Bob Marley as both a musical innovator and a symbol of resistance. Afrobeat, the style he forged in the early ’70s, combined African rhythms and messages with the jazz and funk that Fela absorbed during his education in Britain and the United States. Ghanaian highlife, Nigerian Yoruba rhythms, Afro-Cuban mambos, James Brown, John Coltrane, Nina Simone and, yes, Frank Sinatra all flowed into his music, which sounds exactly like none of them.
WKCR DJ Brian Linde used to play lots of Fela on the overnight funk show Night Train, and I distinctly remember getting my Fela-groove on the one time that I hosted the show and having an excited caller -- at 3:00 a.m., mind you -- check in wanting to know what was on the air.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it to the Broadway show, but I hope that I can.


Ms. Kimball said...

It also might interest you to know that the assistant stage manager for Fela is an Amity grad. . . apparently, according to her mother, opening night festivities were a blast.

Ellen Stanley said...

Matt, you have to see this so I can live vicariously! I also had read about this in the Times was actually planning on posting something about it here on the blog...but you beat me to it. :)

Ms. K, is the student anyone we know?