Fela and Wole Soyinka - Part II


I really wish I had made it to the event last night, but my writers' workshop ran overtime. I didn't get home till midnight coming from Bklyn back to the Bronx. Either I am a very dedicated writer or I am a fool. I can't figure out which one and I'm sure none of you would tell me the truth. Eish. I wouldn't have had the courage to speak to Wole Soyinka anyways.

Below is an excerpt from his memoir that deals with the passing of his late great cousin. You can read the entirety of the excerpt here. As I stare at Opera Wonyosi on my bookshelf, an old copy I picked up at Left Bank bookstore, I am left wanting for a Fela play by Soyinka. I wonder what he thought of the show?

I realize that I must have sounded angry and somewhat bitter in my blog yesterday. It's just that I work at a theater company for a rich white male producer who trades in stories of black and brown people, while seeking as much distance as possible from them (ie, fame and celebrity). Every day I face the same frustration, thoughts about the means of production and how we can tell our own stories.

Sometimes I think of epic stories I'd like to tell and shrink away at the thought of trying to capture so much, of appropriating, in a certain way, experiences or histories I didn't live through. At times like these, I secretly wish for a heavy dose of rich white male entitlement. Used sparingly, I imagine it can be employed for enormous good. --AL.

Update: So it appears that Soyinka slipped out before the reception and even missed the cast singing happy birthday for him and bringing out a cake. He wanted the show to be about Fela and not him, or some such. Ah well, guess I didn't miss anything after all! ;)

"The news came on my portable radio and it sounded so strange, a floating contradiction that was at once detached from, yet infused with the world from which I had myself just earned a lover’s rebuff. My young cousin, the abàmì èdá1 that the world knew as Fela, was dead. He had not yet attained his sixtieth year.

A naked torso over spangled pants, over which a saxophone or microphone would oscillate on stage, receiving guests or journalists in underpants while running down a tune from his head, in the open courtyard at rehearsals or in any space where he held court – all constituted the trademark of his unyielding non-conformism.

Fela loved to buck the system. His music, to many, was both salvation and echo of their anguish, frustrations and suppressed aggression. The black race was the beginning and end of knowledge and wisdom, his life mission, to effect a mental and physical liberation of the race."

-- From You Must Set Forth at Dawn, by Wole Soyinka

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  1. Eish! Why wouldn't you have the courage to speak with Mr. Soyinka? After all, you could have found out by asking what he thought about the show and if it stirred him in any particular way. There's no substitute for first-hand experiences. So in that regard, I think you lost an opportunity. But considered against the background of your dedication to writing, I don't think you're a fool. But still... lol

  2. I didn't know Wole Soyinka and Fela were related. You will probably get another chance to meet Soyinka, if you're determined to meet him, that is.

  3. More than any other writer, I would say Soyinka has the best voice on paper. Just something about that certainty makes you wonder if he's ever doubted himself in his entire life.

  4. @saratu: what a wonderful observation. my writing instructor this week spoke so much about confidence and conviction. i do wonder if he never doubted himself, or whether he's better at hiding it?

    @nanasei @jaycee: by grace i hope to meet him one day, perhaps once i get this dayum book done! then i'll really have something to say. ;)


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