The Queens Of Kalakuta Rise Again!
The legend of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti will undoubtedly be told from generation to generation of how he was one of the strong voices opposing the government at the time and fighting for the rights of the common man. We can identify a Fela song by the length of the musical interlude before the main song and have seen his strong fashion sense influence some music artists today.
Yet, for a man so idolised, not so much is known about the women who stood with him throughout his life. And that indeed is what the Bolanle Austen-Peters produced Fela and the Kalakuta Queens aims to achieve.
Bolanle Austen-Peters Production has a track record of producing some of the best stageplays that Nigerian theatre has ever seen. Saro The Musical and the popular Wakaa The Musical, which is the first Nigerian musical to transition to London’s West End, are some of the many productions the company has embarked on in the past.
The play was borne out of an inquisitive desire to know about the twenty-seven wives that nobody ever speaks of. What drove their decision to marry one man and their passion displayed on stage? In the past, Fela’s life and music have been the subject of various stage plays and dramas, notable of which was Fela! Musical on Broadway, in the late 2000s. However, none has thrown this much light on Fela’s women.
The play reflects on life in the Kalakuta Republic, the communal compound that housed Fela’s wives, band members and recording studio. These women were backup singers and dancers who left their homes and families, of their own accord, to live with the musical legend. As in most polygamous homes, they fought one another, but still stood strong together to fight the opposition.
Despite the public’s perception of them as harlots and being ostracised by their families, these brave women stood with Fela and can be regarded as the very soul of his music.
Fela and the Kalakuta Queens is a celebration of the life of the late legend and the queens of Kalakuta. It pays homage to the queens who helped popularise Fela’s music and negotiate power. It paints these women in the right light: as strong women who were not brainwashed, or under a spell, but were a source of strength and inspiration for Fela. The respect and love were mutual as Fela married them all to protect them from the spiteful society.
The three-hour production boasts of a stellar cast including Patrick Diabuah, Osas Ajibade, Dolapo Philips, Inna Erezia and Lilian Yeri. The performances are energetic, from beginning to the end, with a lot of dancing and singing. The costumes are well thought out and are reminiscent of the late Abami Eda’s fashion sense. Every other thing from make-up to stage design, as well as sound and lighting makes it easy to appreciate the amount of work put into the play.
In all, the play is absolutely iconic and a beautiful story that is an integral part of the legend that is Fela. Fela and the Kalakuta Queens continues throughout April at Terra Kulture.