Rappers Jay-Z and Will Smith are among the investors in a Broadway play about the life of Nigerian singer/activist Fela Kuti. The heavyweight Hip-Hop duo are backing an $11 million dollar production of Bill. T. Jones’ musical “Fela,” which will open in November. The original version of the play opened off-Broadway last September, starring actor Sahr Ngaujah, who will reprise his critically acclaimed role as Fela Kuti. Financial concerns due to the recession briefly halted production of the play, which was written and co-produced by Steve Hendel. Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones choreographs and directs “Fela” using the pioneering Afro-Beat style of music Kuti created with his Black-Panther inspired group, Africa 70. Kuti was one of Africa’s most well known musicians and activists and was eventually imprisoned and released by the Nigerian government on a currency smuggling charge. The singer died in 1997 due to complications from AIDS.
Check out the legendary Fela Kuti below.