Performance Art

"Fela!" Performer and Musical Director Aaron Johnson on Afrobeat and the Life of Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti was a man of many hats: Afrobeat pioneer, revolutionary, and outspoken crusader for political justice. Music was his weapon, a driving, pulsating, often hypnotic sound mixing jazz, soul, funk, blues and rock with Nigeria's indigenous rhythms, which moved people spiritually and to action as much as it moved them on the dance floor.

With lyrics pointing out corruption, government mismanagement, and an abusive military, Kuti was frequently subjected to beatings and lengthy prison sentences. The Tony Award-winning musical Fela! begins in Lagos in 1978 at a time when Kuti is contemplating leaving his homeland following another oppressive crackdown against him and his followers. Though a series of flashbacks and "flashes to another realm," Kuti's life dramatically unfolds against a colorful club-like backdrop set to near-constant live music.

See also: - "Sign Painters" is a Visual Portrait of an American Tradition -John Barrowman (a.k.a. Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood) Is Coming to Phoenix Comicon