The multi-dimensional story of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the late Afrobeat icon, will continue to dominate musical, literary and theatrical discourses in the new decade and for a long time to come, Lagosians were told last night.
Key members of the Anikulapo-Kuti clan joined thespians and theatre enthusiasts to salute the greatness of the legendary Afrobeat creator and to demand that more about his enigmatic life and creative offerings be told and marketed in cultural forms.
This happened last night at the grand finale of Fela’s Republic and the Kalakuta Queens, the sold-out musical by Bolanle Austen-Peters.
Sunday night’s performance at the Terra Kulture Arena brought to a close a fantastic yuletide run of the acclaimed stage play. The spectacular performance drew eulogies from Fela’s children and grandson, two of his surviving dancer-wives and several Fela adherents.
One after the other, they spoke glowingly on stage at the end of the performance about the great musician who dominated the afromusuc scene for decades and has continued to be relevant more than 22 years after his death.
For Femi Kuti, who is Fela’s eldest son at 57, the late Afrobeat icon will continue to inspire great creative works and adoration.
“What we have seen today represents a key aspect of my father’s life, especially his battle with the authorities. As Fela’s children we suffered greatly due to his issues with government. We were denied several things. It took a great deal for me to be out of his shadows but we are grateful that in the end, everyone has a success story to tell. So we must continue to tell Fela’s story. We can’t exhaust his story and there is so much to share with the younger generation.”
An obviously emotional Femi also proudly introduced his son, Made, on stage. “He is 24 and studied music at the Trinity College in London, the same institution where Fela studied Music. His debut album will soon be out,” he announced to the audience, which responded with a loud applause.
Smart and eloquent, Made Kuti said he was only two-years-old when his grandfather died and because he did not personally witness the troubles that Fela had with the state authorities, he relies only on the stories of Fela being told.
“When I see videos like the carnage of his house being burnt and how people were maltreated, I do not feel sad. What I feel is anger. I’m angry because although I did not witness the injustice against Fela, 20 years down the line, i see similar injustices being perpetrated daily. It doesn’t seem like much has changed and I thank Terra Kulture for bringing to life this type of story,” he said.
Yeni Kuti, Fela’s eldest daughter who will be 59 in April also said Fela’s story would continue to be the soothing balm for many peoples’ troubled souls. “But it is sad that many years after, justice is yet to be served. This is why we must continue to tell the Fela story as a reminder on what transpired and what we have left uncorrected.”
His half brother, Kunle, 48, who manages the Kalakuta Museum in Ikeja, spoke in a similar vein, saying Fela’s story is the people’s story that must continue to be told.
Like Yeni and Femi, be also acknowledged and thanked the lead actor, Laitan Adeniji (Heavywind) who played Fela so wonderfully well, for a job well done.
Laide, one of Fela’s surviving dancers, who had to be assisted unto the stage limping, said her condition was as a result of the brutality she suffered in the hands of the military police when Fela’s Kalakuta Republic was burnt down in 1977, a trsumatic occasion that led to his mother being thrown down from a three-storey building and many, including Fela, brutalized and arrested.
For Bolanle Austen-Peters, who directed and produced the musical, it was a personal fulfilment to have had the honour of telling an important aspect of Fela’s life in an entertaining way.
Looking stunning in a black Fela Kuti-styled outfit, which was designed by Ituen Bassey, Auten-Peters said “We are proud to be telling an important story of an important music icon; we are proud to have had a cordial working relationship with Fela’s family and we are proud with the response from our sponsors and audiences. This is encouraging and this is one good reason to continue on this path of telling our own stories to the world.”