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On Fela! and The Book Thief.

First, FELA!

courtesy Victor Ehikhamenor

Amazing. The dancing, the music, the sheer energy! Out of this world! The storyline itself, meh. But then again, I didn’t go to see Fela’s biography enacted. I went to see a Broadway production. And it was spectacular.

The turn-out was lower than expected; I heard the play was shunned because peeps were miffed at the thought of a wholly American cast and (horror of horrors! *said in his pseudo-Nigerian accent*) an American/Haitian Fela. Haha! Please! Stop with the beef already. Why didn’t a Nigerian Director hit upon the idea? What stops a Nigerian from still producing a Fela play? Let’s face it: we let Fela die in our hearts, in our minds. He’s an international icon! They celebrate him, his music is taught in schools! And we, we rejected our prophet, reduced him to much less than a symbol. We forgot him and put him on the shelves, the back burner, the archives or wherever the hell it is we relegate our “heroes past”. It really is shameful that it took foreigners to remind us about the value of what we have and we should be applauding them, not hating.

In other news, I read a book called, “The Book Thief.” Apart from the fact that I learnt some pretty interesting German swear-words, lol! This book is easily the best book I’ve read in a long, long time. It made me cry. And I was calling myself silly, and trying to remind myself that it was only a book. Only a book, Osemhen. But … exquisite. You can imagine my relief on finding out that the writer, Markus Zusak, too, cried as he wrote the book. 🙂

It tells the story of the 2nd World War from the other side, from the non-Nazi German side. You know how you always hear of the millions of Jews who died and Dachau, and Sobibor and Auschwitz and you hate the Germans? Well, then you read this book, about Germans, old and young, who were flogged for giving bread to starving Jews as they marched on their way to the concentration camps, Germans who hid Jews in their basements, Germans who were discriminated against because they said NO! to a tyrant’s demands, Germans who suffered, suffered because of Hitler’s hatred, Germans that just gave WWII-Germany a human face…and you read about an illiterate child who stole books even though she couldn’t read…I just broke down.

It wasn’t all tragic. The narrator of the book is (wait for it!) … Death! Extremely funny. “Rudy Steiner was one of those audacious little bastards who actually fancied himself with the ladies. Every childhood seems to have such a juvenile in its midst and mists”. The boy in question, is less than ten. Death also keeps on and on about the stereotypes we attach to him. (“I like this human idea of the grim reaper. I like the scythe – it amuses me…I should have a broom in those illustrations…I only wear a hooded cloak in the winter”). Crazy stuff!

It’s a beautiful book and hopefully, I will be doing a longer review of it in the next issue of Klorofyl. I’m grateful to Isimeme for lending it to me. Now I know why you said I had to read it!


  1. Good one…not what I was expecting from you on the FELA! bit…but it had d Osemhen stamp on it…so it’s aight…Guess I will have to get down and write bout my experience…N d book…hmmmn…I would love to see it.

    • lol!

      What did you come to see? A blow-by-blow account? You want me to run-down. I don’t think I could do justice to it…it had a lot of “muchness”… 🙂

      The Book, grab your copy at the nearest book store. Try Laterna or Debonair.

  2. The Fela show was very energetic. You are also right about Nigerians relegating their “Heroes past” to their book stacks. The Americans have cashed in on our story, and it’s good for them cos they know the essence of sacrifice and the importance of preserving history. I would also love to read about the book thief.

  3. Sir Fariku says

    Interesting, I live in Abuja so I wont get to see Fela, however the fact that Nigerians shy away from a show about our own son is a shame, in fact it is “tribalistic” sef. Werent the cast even if they werent Nigerians, werent they black? arent they descendants of people our ancestors sold to slavery? Arent Haitians largely descended from Yoruba people. Instead of people to come and enjoy and appreciate that our own Fela is the subject of a broadway play they act silly, they dont know that you can never take away the Nigerian-ness of Fela.

  4. Abiodun says

    As regards Nigerians not coming up with the Fela Broadway idea ! God knows that was the first thing on my mind
    when I learnt it was conceptualised by a non-Nigerian…
    From reviews I heard and am still hearing , about the Fela show ,
    I feel like I betrayed Fela for not going especially since I listen to Fela like everyday!
    As regards the book thief superb review , can’t help but want to read it after your “promotion” ( Infact , I am downloading a soft copy as I type!)
    Keep writing Sultana!

    • NOOOOOO!

      Lol! Downloading? Buy the book, now. Ahn ahn. The author spent three years writing such a beautiful book, and you can’t give him your 1000 naira? Chei!

      If you could have afforded, it you should have gone. If not for anything else, the music. It was lovely.

  5. Pingback: Team I-Read-A-Great-Book-In-2011 | eurekanaija!

  6. Hi Osemhen, I didn’t read the book (The Book Thief), watched the movie instead… and thoroughly enjoyed it..

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