News Brief
Image courtesy of BAP Productions.

Renowned Nigerian Musical 'Fela and the Kalakuta Queens,' Is Heading to South Africa

The musical, which highlights the lives of Fela Kuti's 27 wives, will make its debut at the South African State Theatre next month.

Bolanle Austen-Peter's unique retelling of the story of Fela Kuti and the 27 women he married in a single ceremony in 1978, known as the Kalakuta Queens, is set to make its debut in South Africa next month.

The acclaimed musical, which first opened at Lago's Terra Kulture Arts and Culture Center in December 2017, will be showing at the South African State Theatre—known as the largest theatre complex in Africa. The play's 36 member cast will be led by Laitan "Heavywind" Adeniji and Patrick Diabuah who both portray Fela in the play. They'll be backed by a fifteen-piece band.

Aside from being an exploration of the life of the storied Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti and the Kalakuta Queens also focuses on the life and contributions of the women who played a major role in his musical rise and "gives a unique insight into the negotiation of gender and power relations at the Kalakuta Republic, while also showcasing their unique fashion, dance and African identity, and unmasking common misconceptions about them," according to a statement shared in Broadway World. The showing of the play in South Africa is in line with the State Theatre's Pan-African mission.

READ: Take an Exclusive Look Inside "Fela Kuti and the Kalakuta Queens" the Musical


Fela Kuti and the Kalakuta Queens during its Lagos run. Image courtesy of BAP Productions.

"Nigerians form a strong community in promoting Nigerian and African culture in notable cities around the globe," says Austen-Peters—who is also the woman responsible for bringing the first Nigerian play to London's West End. "We believe that a historic and cultural production like Fela and the Kalakuta Queens will be received well in South Africa—considering Fela's iconic status and the increasing interest in afrobeat internationally."

The accomplished playwright, producer and director spoke to BBC Africa last year, about the musical, and her decision to highlight the women in Fela Kuti's life. "It just occurred to me that nobody ever talked about the 27 wives that he had," said Peters. "And I wondered who they were? I wanted to understand what informed their decision to marry one man, and what drove them. You know, what was their passion?" We highlighted Austen-Peters as part of our #Goals series back in 2017.

Fela Kuti and the Kalakuta Queens will show at the South African State Theatre from March 27 to April 7. For more, revisit our exclusive look inside the musical during its 2017 Lagos run.

Interview

Interview: Terri Is Stepping Out of the Shadows

We talk to the Wizkid-signed artist about the story behind the massive hit "Soco" and his latest Afro Series EP.

Certain afrobeats songs have made in-roads in international markets and paved the way for the genre's ceaselessly-rising widespread recognition. Among these history-defining songs were D'banj's "Oliver Twist," Tekno's "Pana," Davido's "If" & "Fall," Runtown's "Mad Over You," and of course, Wizkid's "Soco." Wizkid released "Soco" under his label imprint, Starboy Entertainment in March 2018, and the song spread like wildfire across Africa and beyond. "Soco" was an Afro-pop wonder delivered at a time when the 'afrobeats to the world' movement was gathering steam, further cementing its electric nature. The Northboi-produced song was co-signed by celebrities across the world like Rihanna, Cardi B, and Paul Pogba and has accrued well over a hundred million streams across streaming platforms worldwide.

"Soco" was not only a trailblazer amongst mid-2010s afrobeats records, it was also the introduction of the first Wizkid-signed artist, Terri. Just weeks before "Soco" was released, Terri was discovered by Wizkid's longtime producer, Mutay, who saw him covering the song "Oshe" on social media.

Before "Soco," Terri Akewe was well on his way to fame. At fifteen, he had performed at street carnivals in his neighbourhood and, one time, was carried all the way home by neighbours after winning a Coca-Cola sponsored singing competition. Before his life-changing meeting with Wizkid, Terri had a seven-track EP ready for release, as well as a viral song titled "Voices." "One time I was on set with the video director T.G Omori, he told me that 'Voices' was the first time he heard of me" Terri tells me as we settle on a plush couch at his home in Lagos.

Regardless of Terri's initial career trajectory; signing to a label headed by afrobeats' biggest superstar was bound to accelerate his musical journey, and at the same time, cast a huge shadow of expectation on his career, especially given a debut as spectacular as "Soco." With his latest EP, Afro Series, powered by the sensational single "Ojoro," one thing is clear: Terri is stepping out of the shadows into his own spotlight and he is doing it on his own terms.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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