Saturday 11 November 2017

'Fela and the Kalakuta Queens'...exhuming dancers who reigned ahead of time

Casts of Fela and the Kalakuta Queens, a musical by Bolanle Austen-Peters. Pic: c/o BAP.
When a musical biopic, Fela and the Kalakuta Queens, opens on December 23, 2017 at Terra Kulture Arena, Victoria Island, Lagos, Africa's biggest musical export, the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti's  untold story of dancers will be exhumed. It is the story of Fela's ladies, whose dance steps, fashion and styles have sowed the seeds of contemporary African culture ahead of their time.
 Produced by the Bolanle Austen-Peters (BAP) Production house, the musical biopic asserts that indeed, Africansare capable of telling their own stories better. The BAP, in quick succession has given the Nigerian arts and culture space two productions in few years: Saro and Wakaa the musicals,
 During a preview of 'Fela and the Kalakuta Queens,' on Thursday, the producer, Austen-Peters dis losed that about a year ago she and her crew started compiling the details of the ladies. She described the ladies as those "who lived with Fela's music over  the decades," noting that "these ladies were ahead of the time in fashion and dance," by bringing the art of dancing to a new level then.

  Biopic are among the most controversial subjects to produce. To get details of the ladies, Austen-Peters has many living witnesses as resource persons. Among them are Fela's daughter, Yeni Kuti and three of the real dancers . "Yeni is an incredible woman; she gave us parts of the story and brought three of the Fela dancers," Austen-Peters told preview guests.

Yeni, who was present at the preview with one of the dancers, Lara, enthused, thanking the producer "for telling our story."

 Austen-Peters assured that "we have taken our time to get the details about the ladies." She also promised that "It's a beautiful story to watch."

 And that beautiful story of the Kalakuta Queens was watched by select guests in a few minutes live preview inside the Terra Arena theatre. The drama that generated one of Fela's popular songs 'Shakara oloje' was re-enacted by the lead actor, Laitan Adeniyi (Fela), and other characters.

 What a daily drama in Fela's house! Another conflict about theft of bleaching soap - between Funmilayo and Jibike - generated the Yellow Fever song.

 Next was 'I no be gentleman at all... and 'teacher no teach me nonsense', viewed live at the preview

(L-R): Laitan Adeniyi (Fela), Yeni Kuti, Dennis Okoro (Director MTNF), Bolanle Austen-Peters (Producer and Director), Nonny Ugboma (Executive Secretary MTNF) and actor, Kunle Afolayan during the media preview of a new musical, Fela and the Kalakuta Queens,
Pic: c/o BAP.

Earlier, Dennis Okoro, Director at MTN Foundation, had flaunted his knowledge of Fela and Lagos entertainment scene of the 1960s/1970s. After noting that "art and culture is also communication", Okoro recalled  MTN Foundation's history in supporting the creative industry. Fela, as a brand, he said, grew in Lagos during his younger years of the then entertainment scene. Among highlights of Okoro's knowledge of the legend's early days were the common stories of Fela and Koola Lobitos Band.

 As regards the story of the ladies, he said "Bolanle is trying to recreate the past." He also argued in favour of the "Nigeria of the 'Kakadu' years" as being glorious. "Bolanle has started a revival of what used to be recreate the past," Okoro added.

The Executive Secretary, MTNF, Nonny Ugboma who lauded the growth of BAP assured that "we like to continue this even with other production houses in Nigeria."

 In a press release, BAP argued that "Fela was popularised by not only his deep political songs but also the women in his life." The women, it was noted "helped play a significant role in making him and his music a matter for public interest."

 Excerpts: "They collaborated in his music, his revolutions, his struggles and his strife. Their collaborative fight against political injustice and social ills matched with their exotic costume and makeup made a profound impact in the society and culture that can still be felt today. Through the trials and travails, through the military ransacking and bulldozing, they were on ground from Kalakuta Republic to Dodan Barracks.... Sadly, these women simply were not recognized by the society. Their roles can't be ignored. Their untold story must be told; Strong, brave, bold and loyal. They are the Kalakuta Queens!"

 Details of the shows:


Saturday 23rd – 3 and 7pm;

Sunday 24th – 3 and 7 pm;

Tuesday 26th – 3 and 7 Pm;

Wednesday 27th – 7pm;

Thursday 28th– 7pm;

Friday 29th – 7pm;

Saturday 30th – 3 and 7pm.


Monday 1st – 7pm

Saturday 6th – 3 and 7pm

Sunday 7th – 3 and 7pm

 Fela and the Kalakuta Queens has been made possible by the support MTN, Bank of Industry, Dormanlong, Lagos State Government, Nigerian Export Pomotion Council, the Nigerian Ministry of Culture and Information, Africa Magic, Beats FM, Ebonylife, IBST, MIXTA, Access Bank, Standard Chartered Bank amongst other partners.  

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