Film

Andrew Dosunmu Directing Fela Kuti Biopic

The Fela Kuti biopic will be directed by Andrew Dosunmu.


Okayafrica last caught up with Andrew Dosunmu ahead of the theatrical release of his gorgeously photographed debut feature Restless City. Now, Focus Features have announced the hiring of the Nigerian filmmaker/photographer — whose second feature Mother of George opened this past weekend — to direct the Fela Kuti biopic, which itself has a bit of a long-winded history.

Back in December 2009 the project was given a green light to be directed by 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen. McQueen was to co-write a script along with the upcoming Half of a Yellow Sun director Biyi Bandele based on Michael Veal's “Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon" [2000]. The most recent life form of Fela Kuti will see Dosunmu directing from a more recent screenplay (also adapted from Veal's book) penned by Nigerian poet Chris Abani and Focus CEO James Schamus. Needless to say, we're excited for this one to come to light!

Music
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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