Now gracing the cover of the latest Billboard Magazine, Beyonce reveals that her upcoming ablum, entitled 4, is largely inspired by the late Fela Kuti - afrobeat pioneer and subject of last season's Broadway hit Fela! produced by her husband Jay-Z. The album is set for release next month.
Says Beyonce in the interview: "I started off being inspired by Fela Kuti. I actually worked with the band from Fela! (the Broadway musical based on his life) for a couple of days ... what I learned most from Fela was artistic freedom: he just felt spirit."
For both the off Broadway and Broadway productions of Fela!, Kuti's music had been arranged and performed by the Brooklyn-based Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra.
4 has been in the works since late 2009, when producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins confirmed via Twitter that he had been working on tracks for Knowles' fourth album. Of the album's style she has said "I'm mixing every type of genre that I love and I'm inspired by every type of genre... It's not R&B. It's not typically pop. It's not rock. It's just everything I love all mixed together in my own little gumbo of music."
4 is also inspired by The Stylistics, Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. Producers and songwriters working with Knowles on 4 include Jim Jonsin, Ne-Yo Sean Garrett The Dream, Symbolyc One, Diplo, Switch, Derek Miller and Frank Ocean. The album's lead single, "Run the World (Girls)" was released on April 21, 2011.
Fela! opened at the off-Broadway 37 Arts Theatre B in New York City on September 4, 2008 and closed on October 5, 2008. It was conceived by Bill T. Jones, Steve Hendel and Jim Lewis, directed and choreographed by Jones, and scenic and costume designs were by Marina Draghici. The cast featured Sahr Ngaujah as Fela and Abena Koomson as Funmilayo, Fela's mother.
The Broadway production began previews at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on October 19, 2009 and opened officially on November 23. Again directed and choreographed by Jones, the cast includes Ngaujah and Kevin Mambo as Fela, Saycon Sengbloh as Sandra and Lillias White as Funmilayo. The production closed on January 2, 2011.
The London production, staged at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre, began previews on November 6, 2010 with an opening night on November 16. It is running in repertoire with other National Theatre productions, and is to be simulcast internationally in 2011 as part of National Theatre Live.