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TiMax2 SoundHub repeats Fela! success in Lagos

There wasn’t dry eye in the house at the Eko Le Meridien Hotel on Victoria Island in Lagos as Fela!, the groundbreaking stage musical about legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, made its triumphant homeland debut during the recent Nigerian presidential elections. Once again the Tony Award winning sound designer Rob Kaplowitz chose a TiMax2 SoundHub delay matrix as a central element of his immersive sound design to help bring out the drama and impact in this emotional story of afrobeat’s inception and the political struggles of its founder.

Following its critically acclaimed Broadway debut, Fela! did a sell-out three-month run at London’s National Theatre, described by one critic as a “groundbreaking show that shook Broadway and London’s Royal National Theatre to the rafters”. To help director and choreographer Bill T Jones achieve this end, Rob Kaplowitz employed a TiMax2 SoundHub matrix and TiMax Tracker performer tracking system to, in his own words: “…create various ‘zones’ in the house which allowed us to fulfill Bill's request to localise the voices to their sources, while simultaneously allowing me to enfold the entire audience in the events onstage.”

Audience members and audio professionals alike appreciated the natural subtlety of the reinforced vocals and solo instruments which stayed glued to the performers as they crossed the stage from one side to the other, maintaining realism, intelligibility and dramatic impact.

Rob Kaplowitz’s sound design associate Jessica Paz, already a veteran of the Broadway and London productions, accompanied the show to Lagos and combined a d&b speaker system with the TiMax SoundHub delay matrix again to help stitch together the production’s ambitious audio localisation objectives. As riots were breaking out in the north of the country and election fever was gripping the capital, Jessica battled with the technical and logistical elements to keep her audio side of the bargain for this momentous homecoming.

A high spot for Jessica arose away from the Eko Hotel’s auditorium when she got to mix a celebratory gig at Fela Kuti’s original New Africa Shrine nightclub, performed by Fela! actor Sahr Ngaujah backed by the show’s outstanding afrobeat ensemble Antibalas, and where they were joined onstage by Femi Kuti, Fela's eldest son.

The aim of putting on Fela! in Lagos was to unite and connect Africans in spirit and unity, to serve as a catalyst for cultural revival in Nigeria, and to celebrate Fela Kuti for the contribution he made to Nigeria and the world. With the original Broadway producers including the likes of Jay-Z and Will Smith, this indigenous staging was produced in conjunction with the Lagos State Government and Nigerian production company, Broken Shackles, who rented the TiMax2 SoundHub matrix from UK developers Out Board.

A spokesperson for Broken Shackles best summed up the passion and significance of the final outcome: “Fela! in Lagos will be the most talked about show in Nigeria for years to come”.