This is Fela Kuti's Time

by Sean Murphy

17 December 2009


You may have heard that Fela Kuti is now on Broadway. No really

I’m not sure what to make of a musical celebrating the life of this great man, but its heart seems to be in the right place. And regardless of its ultimate artistic merit, bringing even a few additional ears to Fela’s music could only be a positive development.

Fela was ahead of his time in many ways, and in his prime he was equal parts Nelson Mandela, James Brown, and Bob Marley (if you think that is hyperbole, track down the ‘69 Los Angeles Sessions and/or read a little about the beatings and imprisonment he endured, resulting from his repeated defiance of the powers-that-be).

We could do worse, given the current state of affairs, than to pay overdue attention to an artist who decried the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of many (Put another way, 1969 is 1979 is 2009: Fela’s music is timeless, in no small measure because the injustices he decried remain alive and unwell). Sure, that sounds pretty cliche; but then, so does the notion that Fela’s music is as relevant and applicable today as it was more than three decades ago. Lamentable as it may be, this is Fela’s time.

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