On Monday, the Tony-award winning musical “Fela!” comes to the Belk Theater for a two-day run. The show features Destiny’s Child Michelle Williams plays love interest Sandra Izsadore. Actor Adesola Osakalumi plays the title role. He talked with Radio One about the groundbreaking musical and it’s connections to hip-hop.
How familiar with Fela were you before musical?
I was very, very familiar with his music. I was a big fan from the first time I heard his music. (My father and uncle knew Fela and had done business with him.)
What did you love about his music?
Once you started paying attention to his content and what he was saying. I thought he was pretty bold in what he was saying.
What hip-hop artist reflect Fela’s consciousness?
What I think connects Fela with hip-hop more so is the overall being a rebel not going with what the norms are. That’s basically what hip-hop started on, finding and doing your own thing. It was protest music.
How has the hip-hop communities responded to the musical?
A lot of people haven’t been that exposed to Fela. Having the involvement on the production side of Beyonce and Jay-Z and Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith helped.
What can hip-hop artists learn from Fela!?
Hip-hop is not a monolith, there are ways to stand up for what you believe in and you can use music as that tool. Hip hop has gotten away from it a lot. It’s about bling, chicks and kicks which have their place. There is a whole other world and whole other aspect that going on in the world that are affecting people.
Hip-hop artists have that potential to be changers, tastemakers and trendsetters. We see it in liquor, jewelry. The same can be said about social issues, humanitarian issues that affect their communities. It doesn’t have to be worldly it can start out on in your own ‘hood like the violence in Chicago, Trayvon Martin. The difference is Fela would write about that. He would sing about that. There’s a level of taking responsibility for what’s going on in your world in your area.
What did you learn about Fela! In preparing for this role?
Learned about his mother’s power and commitment. She had as a woman created a really complex man that created such intersting provocative music. His people were very, very powerful intelligent people as well. He was a lot more than met the eye.”
What was the biggest challenge in playing this role?
It was an incredibly physical role. It was the most demanding role in theatrical history. This was another level of endurance of vocal preparations, meditation and being grounded to play the role.