Veteran Nollywood actress and filmmaker Genevieve Nnaji has joined the cast of an audio adaptation of the Broadway musical “FELA!” premiering on the Clubhouse app this weekend.
The production highlights the struggles of Nigerian music star and Afrobeat pioneer, Fela Anikulapo Kuti who was an outspoken critic of Nigeria’s military regimes and was frequently arrested for his troubles.
The director and producer of “Fela Ten-Twenty” Funa Maduka, while speaking to CNN said: “While the audio adaptation is a nod to the original Broadway musical, “Ten Twenty” represents the date of the shooting of protesters by security forces at the Lekki Toll Gate in October 2020, in the wake of the nationwide #EndSARS anti-police brutality protests.
“The Clubhouse adaptation will frame “the #EndSARS movement in the context of Fela Kuti’s legacy”, she added.
“Fela’s music… demanded global engagement with African political thought. In the aftermath of the October 2020 #EndSars protests … his message still achingly resounds.
This production is a love letter to those fighting for a better Nigeria,” she further stated.
Genevieve Nnaji will play the role of one of the musician’s dancers known as the ‘Kalakuta Queens,’ in Fela Ten-Twenty, the organizers said. Fela famously married all 27 women in a single ceremony in 1978.
Nnaji in a statement told CNN that she was “honoured to be part of the production.”
In her words: “The contemporary issues highlighted… are what sold me. This is an artful retelling of Fela’s story and I’m honoured to be a part of it,” she said.
“I grew up on radio plays and the experience is nostalgic for me the power of voice to influence minds and touch hearts is undeniable,” she added.
Nnaji’s directorial debut “Lionheart,” was Nigeria’s first Netflix original film, and was the country’s first submission for an Academy Award, although it was later disqualified.
Nnaji herself spoke out during last year’s #EndSARS protest against police brutality which held across many Nigerian cities, as she criticized President Muhammadu Buhari’s silence during the demonstrations.
Maduka who added that focusing on women in this adaptation was essential said:
“I tripled speaking roles for women by bringing the voices of the Kalakuta Queens, women who fought and performed alongside Fela, to the forefront. Women have long been at the centre of political movements, especially in Africa. To have a woman of Genevieve’s calibre play a Kalakuta Queen, only elevates this legacy of leadership, fortitude, and grace,” Maduka said.
Proceeds from the show on Clubhouse on May 15 and 16 will go in part to support the GEANCO Foundation, which provides scholarship to young female victims of terrorism and gender inequality, Maduka added.