Fela | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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It's hard not to be impressed by Nigeria's formidable pop star and folk hero, Fela Anikulapo Kuti--if you can deal with the sight of his female chorus getting down on hands and knees, shaking their scantily clad butts at the audience. It might seem contradictory that a guy who once boasted a harem of over 30 wives and then divorced them all would also be one of the most outspoken (and persecuted) critics of black-on-black political oppression in his homeland. But Fela--like Richard Wagner, Sun Ra, and James Brown before him--is simply a larger-than-life figure of enormous talent and vision who constantly risks being done in by his own ego. It's reflected in the sheer proportions of his stage show--a noisy, thrilling thunderstorm of drums and dancers and saxophones presided over by the invariably bare-chested "Black President" himself. Fela walks a psychic tightrope, illustrating how big vision and big ego are often two sides of the same coin. Sometimes you can't have one without the other. Wednesday, 9 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 929-5959.

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