November 6, 2009
The Fela revival–CD, DVD and MP3 re-release in one package–continues.
Fela is having quite the extended moment indeed. And rightly so, considering the reach of his influence. The WSJ ran an interesting article on 11/6 about how African American musicians and filmmakers are rallying behind the Broadway show to save from closing because of weak ticket sales. It would be a shame if this show closed because it's very much worth seeing. I saw it when it was off Broadway and recently in previews. Despite the weak book, director Bill Jones's strong choreography and sure direction as well as the music of those peerless Fela disciples, Antibalas, suceeds in evoking the inspired lunacy of Fela's genius.
ekapa: are we living in the same house?
I read that piece early today and was going to blog about how Fela, who was hardly popular here among blacks when he was alive (Bob Marley had that same fate in the US; he was more popular among whites–my Jamaican historian friend Matthew Smith was doing some work Bob's US period) and whose politics would hardly appeal to the African American celebrities now championing him (i.e. Fela's disdain for Christianity and Islam as not African religions and inventing his own religion, his regrettable treatment of women, AIDS denialism, etc).
But you've put it up already.
I tried to see the play when it was off Broadway last year. I even had tickets. Then the performance got canceled. I am still hoping to by tickets to the current season.
* For those who missed the article, here's a link:
P.S. Talking about African Americans celebrities and continental politics/culture, I'll link soon to a post about Jay Z's links to the Bongo family in Gabon, a position at odds with local rappers.
Sure looks like we do Sean. I gotta stop following you around!
You are right that African and other diaspora music is a tough sell to Af-Ams for a variety of reasons – distribution patterns, the fact that a lot of African elements are already incorporated in Af-Am music, insularity, the fact that a lot of the music is brought over by white promoters as exotica(I wrote an article about that a lifetime ago) and marketed to white audiences almost exclusively, etc. Marley's case is interesting because he started out somewhat in RnB mode when he lived in the US, not very successfully, hit his stride in reggae when he went back to Jamaica, became a major international star via the UK, and when he came to the US he was marketed almost exclusively to white audiences on the strength of his popularity with white British youth. On the occassions that he played for black audiences his music didn't catch on partly because of unfamiliarity since there was virtually no airplay on black radio.
In the late 80s as a wannabe promoter I put together a tour for Lucky Dube, the late South African reggae star and ran into this complication. White college audiences loved him, but other than Lincoln U and Howard, HBCUs didn't bite because they felt , correctly, that he did not have much of an audience on their campuses.
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