The Nigerian musician and activist was also a passionate artist and showman, who knew how to entertain.
The same could be levelled at Serge Aimé Coulibaly, founder of Faso Danse Théâtre and choreographer of Kalakuta Republik.
This performance may not be exactly what people were expecting – leading to inevitable disappointment – but Coulibaly has a sharp eye for theatricality and an almost wild approach to movement.
The show derives its name from Kuti’s home in Lagos, a compound filled with musicians and family, which he declared an independent republic from the rest of Nigeria.
Coulibaly was inspired by this, embracing the idea of creating your own space and doing whatever you want in it.
The crucial word here is ‘inspired’, as this is in no way a biographical depiction of a musical and political legend.
There are no explicit references to Kuti’s remarkable recording output, to his activist mother, or indeed to his 27 wives.
Instead, Coulibaly focuses on atmosphere, generating a kind of laidback, anarchic hotbed, where anything could grow.
During the first half, (titled ‘Without a story, we would go mad’) we see seven dancers stop and start at Coulibaly’s command, as if he’s conducting their bodies.
An epic 30-minute long track by Kuti drives the choreography with its steady beat.
After the interval, everything changes. Entitled ‘You always need a poet’, the stage is strewn with upturned chairs.
One dancer gyrates on a case, another blows cigarette smoke up a dancer’s dress, and Coulibaly fills the space with ceremonial white powder.
By the end, we’re no closer to knowing Kuti’s story, but are perhaps a little closer to feeling his spirit.
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