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Fela vs Fela w/a side of Bill T. Jones

December 19, 2009

The new Fela! Broadway musical has been buzzing with critics and audiences since it opened in late November.  And as surprising as it was to see the show make the initial jump from the 37 Arts to the Broadway stage, Bill T. Jones‘ and companies epic Afrobeat tribute took it’s official place in pop culture history last week  when Jones and the cast appeared on the Stephen Colbert show.

It could be argued that you ain’t hit the mainstream till you’ve been lampooned by Colbert or John Stewart, and while big name notoriety isn’t always the best thing for a creative work, it looks like Fela! has jumped into the category with last year’s Passing Strange and is helping to usher in a wider spectrum of African Diasporic life and arts.  And I’m sure the buzz is music to the show’s investors-Jay Z , Will and Jada Smith.

In the clip above the cast gets down to a rendition of “Zombie” with ‘ography by Jones and music by Antibalas.  When I 1st saw this the 1st thought was “those don’t look like Bill T. Jones dance moves” then I remembered, well, they’re based on a pretty specific and well documented style, and after comparing this vid to others of Fela and his bands Africa 70 and Egypt 80 you can see where the inspiration comes from.  The doc below was filmed in 1971 at the original Shrine nightclub and offers a glimpse into the energy and action of the sacred dance and music space.

The interview with Bill T. Jones and Stephen Colbert talking about the show is over at the Colbert website.

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