Digging the real “Fela!”

Director-writer-choreographer Bill T. Jones’ hit musical “Fela!” is up for 11 trophies at this year’s Antoinette Perry Awards ceremony, which will air on CBS this Sunday from Radio City Music Hall in Gotham. The play takes its inspiration from the life and music of Nigerian rebel Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the bandleader and political firebrand who died in 1997.

Fela’s astonishing Afro-funk catalog is currently being reissued by Knitting Factory Records, which has also released the B’way show’s original cast album. The African titan’s albums are all great, but his live show was something else again. The above vintage footage, shot in a Calabar, Nigeria, club in 1971, gives an idea of what an unfettered Fela concert was all about. In the clip’s opening moments, Fela can be seen embracing rock drummer Ginger Baker, who recorded with Fela’s group in ’71; Baker shot and narrates the footage.

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