Watching a theater performance is becoming a thing in Lagos and we are here for it. West End and Broadway shows are pretty huge and their districts are popular tourist attractions in the London and New York respectively. Your visit to London is incomplete without seeing one of the shows. Lion King will forever be a favorite.
Back in Lagos, Nigeria, the shows aren’t nearly as frequent. Shows will usually pop up during festivities ( Easter, Christmas or Muslim holidays) and run for a short period of time. The longest being between 3 weeks – 1 month.
This Christmas Holiday brought us Fela and the Kalakuta Queens by Bolanle Austen-Peters production(BAP). Initially, we were worried it will be a knock-off of Fela on Broadway but it was far from it. We started reading great reviews after the first few shows and it got difficult to secure seats. Seats were selling out in 24 hours!
We were bummed we couldn’t make it during the festive season but the BAP team was gracious enough to extend it by one more weekend. We got complementary tickets for the finale scheduled on 14th January, 2018 at 7.00pm. This show was worth every hype we read or heard. We sang and danced through every performance. It was truly phenomenal.
and of course some dissenting views…
My sis & I might just be the only ones who were underwhelmed by the Fela & the Kalakuta wives play. Costumes, set, dances, songs, production were great, epic. The content (story line), however, bland. It centred Fela & there was no character development of the women ?
— pops (@IkepoAbiru) January 12, 2018
THE MAN FELA
This show made us view Fela in a totally different light. A musical genius, the unbeatable king afrobeat. Yes he was a fearless activist fighting for the rights of the poor and down trodden. He was also an abusive “husband” and he had no regard for women. Domestic violence, polygamy and male dominance were characteristics of his relationships. We also found out that one of his queens was a 15 year old minor. Very disturbing.
All his songs were inspired by real life issues either happening in his household or in the society. We were shocked to discover that the “yellow fever” song was inspired by one of his queens who was bleaching her skin.
He was arrested 200 times by various regimes and has many near death experiences. The show ended with him marrying his 27 queens as a way of “honoring and respecting” them.
I love my women. Without them, there will be no Fela. End of story.
They were the stars of the entire show. Strong, fearless women who stood by Fela through thick and thin. They were all hopelessly in love with him; all fighting for alone time in the “Kalakondo”. They were beaten, brutalized and raped. They sacrificed everything just to be with him and they worked hard. He also gave them their wages after their performances and he paid them well. They had a great business relationship.
It was a great show to honor the women in Fela’s wives who had been rejected by their family and the society. They were often labeled as whores, prostitutes and drug users/abusers simply because they were in love with Fela. A very uncomfortable and unconditional love.
The women who played the queens were excellent actresses and dancers! Their make up and costume = superb! They would have otherwise been forgotten but thanks to the BAP team for reminding us of the importance of these queens in the life of the Afro Beat Legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
The icing on the cake was seeing one of the Queens, Laide, live. She addressed us and thanked the production team for putting such a fantastic play together.
I’m so happy that this woman had the common sense to think about we, the queens, that suffered. We went through a lot for Fela. The show is as real as it gets. When the house got burnt some of us died in that fire. The rest of us were pulled out of it naked, some beaten others raped. It was horrific and Fela decided to honor us and he did. – Laide