ON NOVEMBER 9TH Amelia Hill of Guardian reports “An award-winning American musical based on his life – lavishly praised by a string of American celebrities, including Madonna, Spike Lee, Toni Morrison, Oprah Winfrey and co-producer Jay-Z – has been hit with a $5m lawsuit. Carlos Moore, the musician's only official biographer, claims the producers of Fela! breached his copyright by failing to credit his book, Fela: This Bitch Of A Life, as a source for the production.”
Mid morning at a café in the piazza surrounded by high end boutiques at 44 stanley avenue in Jo'burg. I’m sat with Carlos Moore and in his hand Carlos holds the class action, the law suite filed in Manhattan on November 8th against the following: FELA! Broadway Limited liability company, Fela Kuti NY LLC, Jim Lewis, Bill T Jones, Stephen Hendel, Knitting Factory Records Inc and The Fela Cast album LLC.. Pictures of the action and our meeting can be obtained on my face book page.
The suite claims “The FELA! Musical copies portions of Moore’s book verbatim. Entire portions were simply copied from Moore’s book and inserted into the script of the musical.” The evidence is compelling nor is it rocket science. The play directly lifts from his text and from specific devices and inventions for his plot lines. Not evidence but in tune with events Moore was approached in 2007 and offered £2,000 for the rights to his authorised autobiography to which he refused.
So far the musical has grossed over £50 million pounds with backers such as Will Smith, Jade Pinkett, Jay Z and Beyonce: Fela Kuti’s family have a three percent stake in gross takings. At the root this story is about intellectual property theft. You may here Kuti's family pleading for Moore to drop the case. This is saddest of all – that the people whoa re making the real money – who throw kuti's sons and daughters three percent of gross are encouraging them to challenge there own family friend Carlos Moore, their fathers close friend. The question is simple, whose side are you on. For me, truth wins over dollars any day of the week. And I guess it would be the same for Fela if he was here today? (Continued in next blog)