An audio adaptation of the popular Broadway musical FELA!, nominated for 11 Tony Awards in 2010, will premiere on May 15 and 16 on drop-in audio chart platform Clubhouse.
The adaptation, titled Fela Ten Twenty, was written and directed by filmmaker Funa Maduka. “Fela’s music, the foundation for Afrobeat, demanded global engagement with African political thought,” Maduka explains in a statement.
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“In the aftermath of the October 2020 #EndSars protests against police brutality, his message still achingly resounds. This production is a love letter to those fighting for a better Nigeria.”
FELA! is a musical based on Fela Kuti’s music and lyrics. It mostly focuses on the life events of the father of Afrobeat and portrays him during the days when he was the target of 1,000 government soldiers assigned to end his performances at the legendary Lagos nightclub The Shrine.
Fela Ten Twenty will feature a new interpretation of Bill T. Jones and Jim Lewis’ original FELA! script, framing the ongoing #EndSars movement in the context of Fela Kuti’s legacy.
The premiere of the audio adaptation was announced by Stephen Hendel, the original lead producer of FELA!. “Fela belongs to Nigeria, Africa and the world,” says Hendel. “It is a thrill to have the show reimagined by a team of young, creative Nigerians. I’m proud to support these artists who have come together to honor Fela Kuti’s legacy with such immense commitment and dedication.”
The spark for the audio adaptation came when a group of four friends — Eniola Mafe, Omolola Adele-Oso, Chinedu Enekwe, and Audu Maikori — were inspired to host a table read of FELA! on Clubhouse to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the close of the show’s run on Broadway. They approached Maduka to direct; she pitched reimagining it, and the audio play adaptation was born.
The production will feature a cast of actors from Nigeria, the UK and the US such as Sir Marcell as Fela Kuti, Jumoké Fashola as Funmilayo Kuti, NC Grey as Najite, a Kalakuta Queen — among several others.
Stephen Hendel will retain his role as producer alongside Funa Maduka and Ọlabimpe Ọlaniyan, daughter of the late renowned Fela scholar Tejumola Olaniyan. Kingsley Okorie and Benjamin James of The Cavemen are music directors, while Marcellus Wesley is both a technical director and sound designer.
Proceeds from Fela Ten Twenty will support GEANCO, whose David Oyelowo Leadership Scholarship provides full tuition, healthcare as well as social and psychological support to young female survivors of terrorism and gender inequality.