Fela The Concert Review

Fela! The Concert opened last night in spectacular energetic African fashion celebrating the songs of Fela Kuti, the 1970’s Nigerian musician and the founding father of Afrobeat.

If you’ve never heard of Fela don’t worry as this show will let you get to know the man and his music, as well as his historical context. He was well knowen for using his music for political activistism  saying “With my music, I create change…I am using my music as a weapon.”

He openly assailed Nigeria’s oppressive dictatorships through his music, and within his nightclub in the Empire Hotel called the Afrika Shrine. As a consequence he was beaten and imprisoned by police numerous times throughout his life. In 1997 he passed away from an AIDS-related illness aged 58, and was mourned by a million attendees at his funeral, and many more around the world.

Fela! The Concert has helped the revival and awareness of this African star globally. Unfortunately his lyrics of bribery, corporations, war and political injustice are just as familiar today as they were in the 70’s.

This show really is a non-stop, the band was playing as we took our seats and they never stopped for the 90 minutes of their performance.

Fela is played by Adesola Osakalumi, who narrated the key story and performs with such passion and electricity that if felt like it was hard for him to leave the stage.

The musical arrangement is fantastic. Not once does the energy waver during this euphoric anarchy of  a funk, African drums, bass and jazz that epitomizes this Afrobeat sound. Wonderful harmonies accompanied each number, with each of the many talented singers on stage all worthy of their time in the spotlight.

The dancing is phenomenal!! There’s great choreography that feels authentic and glorious to watch. The dancers’ energy oozes off stage so you can’t help but get infected by it.

The set and costumes are equally energetic; with bright colours, beads and embroidery brightening the stage. The huge backdrop behind the band displays FELA in huge letters next to a picture of his mother. The rest of the canvas is used to project key moments for Nigeria and Fela during his years fighting the regime by being outspoken via his music.

We all became absorbed in this rhythmic musical celebration enough to dance and applaud for the last 15 minutes of the show.

An inspiring resurrection surrounded by eclectic sounds and thumping beats.

Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar

Fela! The Concert is at Auckland’s Civic Theatre until Sunday 22 March as part of Auckland Arts Festival 2015.