By Prisca Sam-Duru
It was hot, revealing, super entertaining, amusing as well as energetic. Three hours nonstop entertainment that’s what ‘Fela and his Kalakuta Queens’ turned out to be. The show was a musical, which came courtesy of Bolanle Austen-Peters (BAP) Productions, premiered at the Terra Kulture Arena, Lagos, last Sunday.
For the first time, a production outfit has taken a bold step into a different angle on Africa’s iconic music maestro, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s narrative.
Whereas other producers have focused only on Fela’s music and his revolutionary politics, BAP has gone further by taking on his bevy of women, who essentially made Kalakuta Republic what it really was.
The Musical which opens for viewing from December 17,till the new year, chronicles the activism, lifestyle, language and philosophy of the Afrobeat legend while telling the story of his wives and the influence they had on his music.
While many would comfortably refer to the Abami Eda as a musical legend, a freedom fighter and a chain smoker, not many know him as a gentleman, disciplinarian and a lover man. Yes he was a loving husband. And speaking of the Afro Beat king’s disposition as a caring husband, any wonder why he wedded his 27 queens at the same time?
Revelations from the musical show that it was the need to ensure that his queens were respected rather than being labeled prostitutes and loafers, that he wedded them all in one day.
Interestingly, the queens acted as Fela’s army. Attesting to this he said, “I love all my queens, they are unpretentious like me, they are ready to battle with me and without them, I’m nobody” No wonder they hailed Fela as their Black President but that didn’t stop him from throwing defaulters of the laws of Kalakuta, into Kalakuzo(prison) while making sure that obedient queens are rewarded with their due chop money and good times at Kalakundo (the other room)
As earlier mentioned, the musical featuring Laitan Adeniji as Fela, Nollywood big shots; Kunle Afolayan ( Priest), Desmond Elliot (Judge) etc, was hot and quite humorous, especially with the back-stabbing that came from struggling to earn a space in Fela’s Kalakundo, instead of following their time table. “I no bi Gentleman at all”, Zombie ‘, Follow Follow’, Beasts of No Nation’, Yellow Fever’, etc, were some of his tracks performed by the actors cum dancers.
Representing the real Fela’s queens during the show were Mrs. Olaide Babayale and Lara as well as Fela’s original Pianist, Duro.
While Lara appreciated Bolanle for using the musical to celebrate Fela and his wives and also, show the entire world that they were not prostitutes, Olaide said, “It’s a very nice thing that we are all here to celebrate the late Afro Beat King, my own husband. All Fela said in his music is still happening now; there are lots of people suffering on the roads, poverty is hitting everybody hard. The government should listen to Fela’s music and learn from it to rearrange the present and the future of this country.”
Founder, Terra Kulture Arena and the Executive Producer, ‘Fela and the Kalakuta Queens’, Mrs Bolanle Austen-Peters, harped on the importance of Africans telling their stories and histories by themselves. According to her, the story is real as research dug deep into the inside world of the Legend.
“These women played a fundamental role in making Fela and his music a matter of public interest. They were part of his music, revolution, struggles and strife. They actively collaborated with him in fighting against political injustice and social ills,” she added.
The exclusive private viewing had in attendance, too many dignitaries but to mention a few; Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister for Information and Culture; Mr. Herbert Ingo, German Consul General, Laure Beaufils, British Deputy High Commissioner, etc., as well as stakeholders in the movie and entertainment industry.