FEATURE-Fela Kuti returns on eve of Nigerian election

Fri Apr 15, 2011 1:19pm GMT

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Profanity in paragraph 14)

By Joseph Penney

LAGOS, April 15 (Reuters Life!) - Musicians lament corruption, marijuana smoke drifts past the "no drugs allowed" sign and the smell of spicy grilled meat wafts across a dingy Lagos nightclub.

One would be forgiven for thinking that Nigeria's late king of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti, had risen from the grave.

The cast of the smash-hit Broadway musical "Fela!", which chronicles the life of one of Nigeria's greatest musicians, brought the show home on Thursday night to the New Afrika Shrine, Fela's famed Lagos nightclub where much of the production is set.

Cultural stars, bohemians and "area boys" -- gangs of neighbourhood youths -- crammed into the club in a working-class district on the outskirts of Lagos for the celebration of Fela Kuti's music, whose anti-establishment lyrics have taken on a renewed poignancy ahead of presidential elections on Saturday.

Kuti's son Femi, an Afrobeat star in his own right, said the show was key to reviving a critical and conscious political message through the infectious rhythms of Afrobeat.

"It's what (Patrice) Lumumba died for, what (Nelson) Mandela stood for, what Malcolm X stood for, Martin Luther King," Kuti told Reuters.

"All those great fighters are still coming alive again through my father, through this play, through the Shrine."   Continued...

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