Religious and Cultural Syncretism in FELA
Since its debut in 2008 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York City, the Broadway musical FELA! has met critical acclaim. Critics, enthusiasts, and scholars alike, have read it as an ingenious blend of Greek tragedy, Yoruba mythology, and numerous other genres. This article adds yet another dimension to the musical: Christianity. Read alongside Bill T. Jones's Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin/The Promised Land, a play which is replete with Christian motifs, and Tejumola Olaniyan's Arrest the Music!: Fela and His Rebel Art and Politics, which delineates Fela's Yoruba religious and cultural life, the main character of the musical, Fela, emerges as a Christ figure who proselytizes something other than Christianity. I demonstrate that, in FELA! the frenzied and tumultuous religious and spiritual life of Fela is eclipsed by a Christianized version of it in order to deify the musician in the minds and hearts of viewers, and to frame his Shrine not merely as a space of music and entertainment, but as a platform for proselytization into a new religion.