Fela Kuti on Broadway? A shocking, highly educational and funk-filled biography that intertwines the real story of the Nigerian musician and the musical about his life. Polygamy, rebellion, protest and departure. Questlove and Tony Allen, among others, celebrate the reckless king.
Fela Kuti on Broadway? Finding Fela! is a shocking, highly educational and funk-filled biography that intertwines the real story of the Nigerian musician and the musical about his life – Fela! – which Will Smith and Jay-Z produced in 2009. Impossible! Some would say. Sacrilege! others would cry. Neither one nor t'other. The documentary hangs – at times perilously – like a tightrope across all its scenes. It's an original but consistent mix of Fela's declarations, stark footage of his performances and colorful theatrical fanfare. All aspects are covered, prickly or otherwise: polygamy (his harem of 15 women), rebellion, protest and secession of Nigeria (he founded his own country, Kalakuta); his legendary sexual appetite and certifiable bravery ("He wasn't afraid", affirms Questlove, of The Roots, "I can't even imagine what it would be like to go to jail"); The reason he sang in English, his time in London, the debate nights and ladies nights, James Brown's influence, the return to Lagos... With one foot in the dancers' shoes and the other in the harsh reality, this film triumphs where many others would fall short. Paul McCartney, Tony Allen and many others collaborate in this superb dissection of the African counterculture hero.