Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Fela! The review
Fela! The review Fela! The review Fela! The review Fela! The review

Fela! The musical is a fascinating musical odyssey highlighting one of Africa's most famous sons Fela Anikpulapo-kuti. Commonly regarded as the godfather of Afro-beat. The play traces his turbulent life and exactly how this mesmerising musical artform was devised (a dash of jazz, a splash of Yoruba drumming, chanting, politicised lyrics and a whole heap of James Brown's attitude, for one thing!)

The production is set inside the last concert of the shrine, (Lagos Nigeria the summer of 1978) which was Fela's own live venue complex and principality! Star actor, the testosterone filled Sahr Ngauh, gives an absolutely towering performance as the main man, lithe, charismatic and wholly believable talking to the audience teasing them and making them gyrate their hips, so beware! This is an interactive show as Fela says "leave your shy at the door!"

Bolstered by a stonking 12 piece live band led by Soothsayers bandleader Robin Hopcraft,the ghost of Kuti comes alive with thunderous versions of his global hits such as "Trouble Steep, Teacher Don't Teach Me No Nonsense,International Thief, Zombie" and many others,the musos definately shine in the shrine!

The booty-shaking,hot women dancers looked dazzling in their colourful and traditional dress, which get changed regularly (just spare a thought for the wee backstage costume girl!) Bold black and beautiful it's no wonder Fela snapped them all up in one fell swoop as wives (and with that amount of wives who needs concubines!)!
Director/choreographer Bill T Jones has excelled here also with his indefatigable energy and leadership. The dancing is spellbindingly stylish and sexy and just watch the guys backflip! It's like a saturday night goal celebrations on Match Of The Day!

Strong performances too from actress/singer Melanie Marshall who plays the spectral ghost of Fela's mother, pricking his conscience as he tries to live up to being her son (she was the first radical in the family!) Paulette Ivory impresses too as Black Panther and Love interest Sandra Izsadore who turned him onto Malcom X and the civil rights movement. Paulette owns the stage when she sings 'Lover' and 'Upside Down'. A sassy, seductive performance from this striking performer

The set is magnificent too and I loved the little tour bus making it's way across the horizon, a lot of thought and hard work has gone into this production and hats off to the National for being bold enough to put this on (even if Larry would be turning in his grave!). So peeps don't let xmas get in the way go and see it . Fela! The Musical (brought to you by producers Jay-Z and Will Smith) is running now til the January 23rd 2011

Words Emrys Baird

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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