(AllHipHop News Feature) The current Broadway production of the play Fela! has been supported by thousands of theatergoers over the past few years, and notably, it has received some all-important co-signs from the Hip-Hop community.
From Jay-Z to Busta Rhymes and Questlove and beyond, rappers and Hip-Hop musicians are singing the praises of the onstage depiction of the revolutionary life of the late African civil rights activist, Fela Kuti.
Principal to the nightly spectacle they’ve beamed over is percussionist Rasaan-Elijah “Talu” Green, a four-year veteran of Fela!, who, from his onset, brought an essential rhythm to the story of Kuti.
“At the time, [Fela! directors] weren’t specifically looking for a Djembe drummer; they were looking for a percussionist who could also move with it, an athletic kind of thing,” said Green in a recent interview with AllHipHop.com. “With the musical director, it was kinda like trying to mesh the style that I play – which is a traditional West African style or Djembe – with this “Afro-Beat” style that was created by Fela Kuti.”
“Talu,” as the native New Yorker is less formally known, is a former student of Long Island University whose pre-Fela! experiences include the Afropop Worldwide Gala, Russell Simmons’ Diamond Empowerment Fund Benefit, Dance Africa, National Black Arts Festival, the Creative Outlet Dance Theatre of Brooklyn, and more.
LISTEN: Questlove Speaks On How Fela! Has Impacted Him
That rap resonates with Fela! is no wonder to Green, who explained, “If you think about it, most times, history repeats itself. A lot of what Fela was talking about back in the ‘70s, as far as the social injustices and the corrupt government and just all those sorts of things that were going on back then throughout Africa and throughout the world, I mean, it’s kind of repeating itself today.
“That connection with rappers? That’s the same kind of thing they rap about; those who are conscious enough about what’s going on, they talk about that stuff in their lyrics, so I think that connects it,” Green adds. “And also, just the sound – they like those horns blasting and, you know what I mean, just the rhythmic patterns. Any person who loves music would want to be connected to that.”
Green notes that Fela!’s popularity and Hip-Hop’s embrace have afforded him some meetings he may not otherwise have had. He has spoken with Questlove backstage, and just last week after a show, received an invitation from Busta Rhymes to record together in the studio.
About the usefulness of Fela Kuti’s legacy for himself and the Hip-Hop generation, Green proclaimed, “Just stand up and let your voice be heard, no matter what your instrument. That’s what Fela stood for. He didn’t want to let anyone take him down; he knew what he believed in was right, and he wasn’t going to let anyone tell him otherwise.
“That’s the biggest thing for an artist or musician…just do what you have to do. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but the biggest thing is standing up and believing that what you know as right is right for you.”
Fela! continues its run on Broadway this week, then moves on to the next city. For info or tickets, visit www.felaonbroadway.com.
Watch the trailer for Fela! below: