Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Fela! international musical currently featured playing in San Francisco. This was my second time seeing the show, the first being in New York. And I was still moved, inspired and transformed by the entire experience.
The Fela Anikulapo Kuti's music connected me to my father and to a culture, thousands of miles away. When my parents immigrated to the United States in 1979, they worked hard to create a Nigeria community with which they could surround their children with. Other families that we could share tradition with, break bread with, dress-up in tradition clothes with and be proud about everything that it means to be a Nigerian.
As we traveled around the United States, we were not always surrounded about other Nigerians. People would look at our food funny, make jokes about my parent's accents, and call our tradition clothes "costumes." It got to the point that one of the few ways and places that we could celebrate and embrace our Nigerian culture, was in the privacy of our own home blasting Fela's music throughout the entire house.
Fela is what Jimmy Hendrix was to the United States and Bob Marley was to Jamaica, but for Nigeria and actually, all of Africa. Fela's music bears witness to testimony that Nigerians are not just residuals from our imperialist occupiers, but that we were a great people before they took our people, our oil, our minerals and that we can still be great again.
Just like when I was growing up, there are still few venues in which Nigerian and African culture is celebrated and embraced on a regular basis. I can count the number of African restaurants on my hands, and am patiently waiting for the days in which African festivals return to the East Bay. Most people can tell you a few things about Nelson Mandela and a few about Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but even less have heard the names of Kwame Nkrumah, Miriam Makeba.
So when the Fela! musical arrived in the Bay Area, it was so grounding and reaffirming, to see people dancing clapping and celebrating the music and life of Fela Kuti and his family. The way in which people were to eager to shout "Yeah! Yeah!" together and great one another, in a spirit that sits at the heart of the Bay Area, but sometimes a side that we don't show one another.
If you can, go see Fela! while it is still in San Francisco. If you can, listen to songs like "Water No Get Enemy," "Zombie," and "Everything Scatter." Sit and listen closing the words. They are just as relevant now as they were back then. Wait for the drums to drop the beat and set the scene, as the guitar line dances onto the stage, building the sound. And then just sit and wait for it....wait for it...then in come the horns creating a full body infectious sound, that you can't help but move your body to.
UPDATE 12/12/11: Fela! is now playing in Los Angeles. Get discounted tickets now.
Mar 01, 2013
Dec 10, 2012
Jul 19, 2012
Jul 12, 2012