There is no doubting of the fact that the successful outing of Saro the Musical and Wakaa the Musical has been pivotal in restoring the culture of musical back to the Nigerian arts and culture scene. It has also helped to place art mogul and top producer, Bolanle Austen-Peters at the front row of musicals in Nigeria.
This December, Bolanle Austeen-Peters Production (BAP) will launch FELA and the Kalakuta Queens, another musical that showcases different phases that culminated in Fela’s marriage to 27 ladies, at the state-of-the-art Terra Kulture Arena. They were a source of strength and inspirational support to Fela. They endured intimidation and torture from the Police and the general public.
The musical is a story about the young women who left their families and friends to live with the Abami Eda (weird one) and help popularize his music and negotiate power. In this exclusive interview, the Kalakuta Queens, speaks on their role as Fela’s wives.
Is this your first stage performance together as a group?
Some of us have performed together before, but this particular group is performing together for the very first time. Most of us met on the set of the production and we have already formed a unique bond, one that has helped us grow into our role as Fela’s wives.
This is the first time the story of the Kalakuta Queens is being told extensively, tell us about being the debut actors?
Bolanle Austen-Peters production has put together an amazing musical to talk about the life of Fela and the role the wonderful women in his life played. It is an iconic play that showcases the expertise of BAP productions after the success of Saro and Wakaa, and we are all proud to be a part of the production. It’s a beautiful story about Fela and how his queens shaped both his life and his music.
The Kalakuta queens were a source of strength and inspirational support to Fela. They endured intimidation and torture from the Police and the general public. The story is about the young women who left their families and friends to live with the Abami Eda (weird one) and help popularize his music and negotiate power. This production centers on their trials and tribulations while also showcasing their victory as strong women.
What were your experiences taking on the role of a Kalakuta Queen?
It was a bit challenging playing the role of such pivotal personalities in Fela’s life. It has been a bitter sweet experience; absolutely fantastic because most of us grew up listening to Fela’s music from an early age and frightening at some points to see the level of degradation they felt. To be a part of his life in a musical production has been a dream come true. Meeting his children and colleagues as well has been incredible.
What is the most interesting aspect of the role?
The freedom. Freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom to act and dance to entertain. It allowed us to be a bit crazier, and at the same time be our normal selves on stage. Let’s just say crazy raised to another level. For some of us it’s also about stepping into a life and time that till date is still a part of our history.
Your biggest challenge taking on the roles
For most of us it has been difficulty of separating our personalities and then staying true to the role. We all come from different backgrounds and we have had to immerse ourselves in the role as wives to such an iconic character but working with Bolanle Austen-Peters has helped us to find a unified voice.
To your knowledge, what impact did the Kalakuta queens had on Fela’s life?
They influenced his music, his performance and of course his life-style. They were his everything. His sound, strength and essence; they kept him on his toes, and ensured that he stayed true to himself, and to them (us) of course.
The Kalakuta Queens became indispensable symbols of the Afrobeat industry, how has this shaped the women of today?
Nowadays, women are bolder; especially when it comes to performing arts, dance in particular. There is more freedom of performance now. On the other hand, many women still shy away from being associated with the Afrobeat industry, as they often tend to believe that they will be seen as harlots, and irresponsible.
Do you think the women of today offer this same kind of support like the Kalakuta queens did to Fela?
Yes they do, however, in a different way. Women today are a lot more independent and don’t want to be tied to the fate of any man. Education and Women empowerment has played a big party in today’s society, as opposed to back then so women have a refined role in terms of supporting their men in the modern society.
What’s the last thing you all do together before you step out on stage and when the curtain goes up?
We pray together and prepare to kill it! We warm up to loosen up our muscles by doing little exercises right before the curtains go up.