Loraine Ballard Morrill is the award-winning Director of News and Community Affairs for Clear Channel Radio in Philadelphia. She's the host of Insight which airs on WDAS FM Sundays from 6:00-7:00 AM and on Power 99 FM from 7:00-7:30 AM.
WDAS FM - Sundays, 6:00-7:00 AM
Power 99 FM - Sundays, 7:00-7:30 AM.
The extraordinary musical Fela! based on the life of political activist and internationally acclaimed Afrobeat artist Fela Kuti has returned to Philadelphia for a week. I caught the opening night performance at the Merriam Theater yesterday and was reminded of how relevant his music remains. Fela was one of the first Afrobeat artists I came to know, whose music made powerful statements about political oppression and corruption, violence, corporate misdeeds and police brutality. He released the album Zombie in 1977 using the zombie metaphor to describe the methods of the Nigerian Military. It was a smash hit that so angered the government that they attacked his compound, threw his elderly mother out of an open window killing her. Fela himself was almost killed. He continued to make politically charged music and his life is captured brilliantly in the musical Fela! playing through Sunday at the Merriam Theater.
Sitting in my seat at the Merriam Theater I listened as slowly instrument by instrument the distinctive Afrobeat sounds built up with the polyrhythmic drums to the blasting horns. Dancers entered the stage one by one and finally the actor Adesola Osakalumi who plays Fela appeared. From that moment on the audience was all in - joining in the call and response moments, joyfully dancing and in my case wiping away tears not only because of Fela’s suffering and tragic death by AIDS but by the names on the little coffins placed on the stage that represented the troubles and challenges of the world. One bore the name Trayvon Martin. For info about the artist Fela click here. For my interview with Adesola Osakalumi click here and by all means see Fela! before it leaves Philadelphia.