African Cinema: Music of the fist

2014-05-25 15:00

Since his death in 1997, Fela Kuti has morphed from Nigerian superstar to African megastar to global icon.

Between the musicals and tribute albums, the remixes and museums, his voice and his fist continue to rise.

It’s inevitable then, that the documentaries, feature films and TV series are also starting to flicker into life.

The latest of those to arrive on our shores is Finding Fela, a new documentary directed by Alex Gibney. It takes a fresh look at the iconoclast and thought leader.

It places Fela the musician, Fela the polygamist and Fela the sociopolitical activist in the context of the history he lived through.

Gibney starts the voyage of discovery by interviewing Bill T Jones, creator of the Broadway show Fela! Also interviewed is Sandra Smith, Fela’s African-American girlfriend who was instrumental in his radicalisation and political transformation.

Fela is a man who took on Nigeria’s military power and almost won.

The film also makes an effort to find Fela within the pantheon of other icons of his era, like Bob Marley. Marley also made music of the clenched fist?–?music that challenged the European imperialist establishment.

The controversies surrounding Fela’s relationship with women are looked at through the voices of his children, their mothers and others who knew him.

Finding Felais also the story of how Afrobeat was developed as a genre. This part of the narrative develops a fascinating study of creative and cultural conversations that stretch the global black experience.

For new fans or seasoned Felaheads, this is a must-see.

» Catch Finding Fela at the Encounters documentary festival. Visit encounters.co.za for more info

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