Pretoria – The cast members of Fela and the Kalakuta Queens are ready to dish it out hot, hot, hot to South Africans when the musical premieres at the South African State Theatre tonight.
The cast, from Nigeria, touched down in the country on Sunday and have been hard at work rehearsing all week. The musical will make the theatre it’s home until April 7.

The show explores late legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti’s life as a defiant social activist and flamboyant maestro. It also tells of his marriage to 27 wives, known as The Queens, whom he married in a single ceremony in 1978. As a cherry on top, six local female actors feature.

The Queens left their homes to follow Kuti, believing in his vision of building a better community through arts and music. They form part of his band and give insight into the negotiation of gender and power relations at the Kalakuta Republic, while showcasing their distinctive fashion, dance and African identity in the musical.

This week, the Pretoria News caught up with the vibrant Queens during rehearsals at the theatre.

Dopalo Phillips, 39, plays Laide, one of Kuti’s favourite wives: “We are ready. We’ve done the show over and over again, the only challenge we had was getting used to the new stage, but we’ve had rehearsals and we are fine.”

She said they were excited to have been working with local actors – who had only three days to rehearse.

“We were impressed, they learn very quickly and we love their energy and expressions.

“The girls are extras; we have the main wives and the other wives. It’s also good for us to inject few locals, we tend to do that every time we travel, just so we involve the community in our work,” she said.

Another queen, Lilian Yeri, who plays Kike, said the story was told from the wives’ perspective.

“Whatever you know about Fela, you are going to know more. People tend to tell Fela’s story through his eyes, but this is Fela’s story through the eyes of the wives, through the eyes of The Queens.

“There’s a lot of history, the relationship with the women and the people that really influenced his music and his power, so there’s a lot to look forward to.

“And, obviously, Fela’s music is amazing. We have a great band, so you should expect to be ‘razzmatazzed’ to the fullest. You get lost in the story because of the music, the acting. Just understanding Fela in a different way would really captivate anyone, it draws you in,” she said.

The musical, directed by Bolanle Austen-Peters, first opened at Lagos’s Terra Kulture Arts and Culture Centre in December 2017.

The cast said it was warmly received when it premiered back home. Kuti’s real wives would come at the end of the show, speak up and relate to some of the scenes.

Tebogo Ntswe, 27, is one of the six local female actors added to the cast.

“It’s very exciting because I’ve seen Fela Kuti’s documentary, and to feature in such a big show, it’s an honour, really. I didn’t understand why the 27 wives, and why he was acting that way, but now, during the rehearsals, I have got a better understanding,” she said.

Kuti, a multi-instrumentalist, pioneer of he Afrobeat and human rights activist died, in 1997 at the age of 58.

Tickets range from R150-R350 at Webtickets.


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Nigerians in South Africa
Nigerians in South Africa 12335 posts

We are about democracy, human rights, public opinion, political behavior, civil rights and policy aimed at improving the human condition, with a focus on African countries.

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