If you missed the riveting FELA! musical during its recent run on Broadway, a couple of heavy hitters in the world of movies and music have partnered together to bring the play back to New York as part of a multi-city world tour beginning on July 9. Jay-Z, Hollywood power couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson have all banded together along with financial backers Ruth and Stephen Hendel to reignite the Fela Kuti-inspired and Tony Award-winning play and produce a run of 32 performances in New York’s Al Hirschfield Theatre.
FELA!, which features the music of late Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, was conceived by director and choreographer Bill T. Jones. The featured band for the play is the Brooklyn-based Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. One of the most critically acclaimed plays in recent time, celebrities from all realms have given the musical heavy and well-deserved praise since its initial 2009 run. There exists footage of Hip-Hop wordsmiths Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey onstage at FELA! and the legendary Stevie Wonder has attended the play as well.
FELA! has also teamed up with the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation (TASF) recently. TASF, based in Georgia, works primarily with the youth and gets young people interested and entrenched in the arts. The foundation also offers scholarships to young students pursuing graduate degrees and offers a variety of arts-related workshops as well.
For those who aren’t familiar with Fela Kuti’s music–which has been sampled by many Hip-Hop producers–Knitting Factory Records has reissued the celebrated entertainer’s entire catalog via digital means and CD. Fela’s sons Seun and Femi also have released work on the label.