Somewhere in a locked vault is a Beyonce album with about 20 tracks on it, and it might sound a bit different than what is playing on mainstream radio, as every song is inspired by the music of Fela Kuti.
According to Genius.com, producer The Dream wrote that he recorded an entire, unreleased album with Beyonce prior to 2011 LP 4. “We did a whole Fela album that didn’t go up,” Terius Nash (his real name) wrote in a lengthy annotation to the lyrics of “End Of Time.” “It was right before we did 4. We did a whole different sounding thing, about twenty songs,” he continued. “[Beyonce] said she wanted to do something that sounds like Fela. That’s why there’s so much of that sound in the ‘End of Time’.”
Beyonce’s connection to the music is more than just as a casual fan; her husband, Jay-Z, was one of the producers of the musical, and former member of Destiny’s Child, Michelle Williams, was Sandra Isadore in the national tour.
A bit of backstory; Fela! is a musical with a book by Bill T. Jones and Jim Lewis, based on music and lyrics by the late Nigerian singer Fela Kuti, and is based on events in the life of groundbreaking Nigerian composer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti. It portrays Kuti in the days when he was the target of 1,000 government soldiers assigned to end his public performances at the legendary Lagos nightclub The Shrine.
In Fela!, according to producers, “audiences are welcomed into the extravagant, decadent and rebellious world of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Using his pioneering music (a blend of jazz, funk and African rhythm and harmonies), and explores Kuti’s controversial life as artist, political activist and revolutionary musician.”
The Broadway production received eleven 2010 Tony Award nominations and won Best Choreography, Best Costume Design of a Musical, and Best Sound Design of a Musical.
Watch a part of FELA! below. Also check out Beyonce’s Grown Woman video to see how some of the influences spilled over into the album that came after 4.