Fela and Wole Soyinka


NollywoodNYC is planning a group outing to see Fela! on Broadway (Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 at 7pm), at which Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka will be in attendance. After the show, they will be hosting a reception in honor of Soyinka next door at Serafina (224 West 49th Street, NYC 10019).

This would be right up my alley if not for my writing workshop tonight and the fact that I've seen the show twice already. I've been meaning to congratulate Bill T. Jones, Sahr Ngaujah and the rest of the Fela! crew for the 11 Tony noms and one win. I have my reservations about the show, which I've been loathe to get into on here, but maybe I will write that blog someday.

In a Times article about his father's legacy, Femi said, "I'm protesting for [Fela!] to come to Lagos, so if I see it now, I will lose that fight." Frankly, I don't think the show could play in Lagos. The story is a thinly-veiled attempt to educate Americans about a largely unknown and controversial man. Most Nigerians would say, Tell me something I don't know already. Unless I'm the only one with a thing against docudramas.

You could call it a renaissance of afrobeat with the U.S. finally discovering his music. But I've had enough of American portrayals of Africa and Africans. I have a problem with the white man who bought Fela's story and hired Bill T. Jones and cast a show absent any Nigerians. I also have a problem with the white man who wrote it ("hey, guys, i learned all i could about this really cool musician and wrote a show about it!"). It never ceases to amaze me how appropriation never goes out of fashion. And I think to myself, Damn, the Egypt 80 are still performing, and they're not in it?

I'm not gonna dig in to Bill T. Jones. He was hired to choreograph the dances and he did his job well (the man's gotta eat, right?). But I just wish that it had come together differently because there will never be another Fela! on Broadway. The story, as far as the West is concerned, has been told.

Thankfully (a glimmer of hope on the horizon?), Chiwetel Ejiofor is starring in a biopic directed by Steve McQueen, with the help of Naija-Brit novelist/playwright Biyi Bandele. Perhaps history CAN be re-written? --AL.

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