MEMO TO THE MEDIA: FORGET YOUR FOCUS ON POLITICIANS.
HOW A TEEN SUMMIT AND A BROADWAY SHOW SHOWCASE WHO THE REAL CHANGEMAKERS ARE
By Danny Schechter,Author of the Crime Of Our Time
One of the most popular lines about New York is still "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." So imagine the surprise that visitors from Africa have when when they discover that one of the most popular shows on Broadway is a tribute to a rebel musician from Nigeria who many governments on the Continent loved to hate.
The show is FELA, an incredibly musically charged and entertaining tribute to the musical legend and political dissident Fela Anikulapo Kuti who was known for mocking Nigeria's military dictators, and living what many considered an outrageous lifestyle. It was leavened with ganja smoke and over 27 wives he dubbed the Queens. (He later had only 12 but then divorced them all) They were all beautiful dancers who performed nightly in a club he called a shrine. He also visualized it as a capital of his own country--actually a recording studio the Kalakuta Republic. (John Lennon and Yoko imagined their own land, too. They called it Nutopia)
Fela's "Shrine" has now been recreated as a theatrical piece that the critics loved and audiences flock to. It draws one of the most racially integrated audiences in town where the music and dancing is as inspiring as it is non-stop. If you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for?
Fela believed that " music is a weapon," and wrote danceable "Afrobeat" songs including some lampooning looting by companies like ITT--International Telephone and Telegraph--calling them "international teef teef." (Thief, Thief!) Another political tune challenged educators to teach the truth about the country and its corrupt government. His memorable lyric there was, "Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense""
This show is no period piece, and, in fact, points to how social change does not just come out of the barrel of bombast from either the White House or the Congress. It is, instead, often driven by cultural figures like Fela and the young people who adored his music and courage as a fighter for human rights. Fela did try to run for President but the military would not let him run, fearing his popularity.
The press still doesn't get it. As we have been seeing in the health care debate, the media looks up, focusing on people in power assuming they are the architects of change, but then ignores the real grassroots change makers and shakers down below.