Wednesday afternoon The AIR brings you a new episode of Curtain Call shines its spotlight on two shows that celebrate the music of Africa You can tune in at the website, or on this embedded radio player…

If you’re familiar with the music of legendary South African a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, chances are it’s from their appearance on Paul Simon’s 1986 album, Graceland. But in addition to their many recordings and accolades over the years, they have also collaborated with the equally legendary Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago on such productions as The Song of Jacob Zulu and Nomathemba.

In late 2019, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Steppenwolf teamed up for a third time to create Lindiwe. Written and co-directed by Steppenwolf ensemble member Eric Simonson, it’s the story of a young South African singer named Lindiwe, who, while touring the US with Mambazo, meets and falls in love with Adam, a Chicago based blues drummer. It’s a tale that travels from the fabled Kingston Mines blues club to South Africa and beyond, challenging its audience to define the boundaries between this world and the next, all while exploring the sacrifices we make for love.  The music of Lindiwe makes up the bulk of this week’s edition of Curtain Call.

The rest of the show features music from Fela! the Tony Award winning musical by Bill T. Jones and Jim Lewis. Fela! is based on the life and music of the late Nigerian singer and social activist, Fela Kuti, who was also a pioneer of the Afrobeat musical genre.

The show takes place around 1977 and portrays Fela at the height of his influence as a composer and performer in Nigeria. Torn between his desire for fame and respect for his mother’s involvement in Nigeria’s civil rights movement, he eventually becomes involved in open opposition to his native country’s oppressive military regime which,in turn, responds to his musical activism with increasingly violent retaliation.

These two shows demonstrate the flexibility of musical theater, as the stage adapts and celebrates types of music not normally associated with the traditional form. This musical diversity and universal storytelling is what keeps live theater so vital and important as a cultural touchstone.

Curtain Call can be heard on The AIR Wednesday at 3 PM, with replays Thursday at 8 AM and 9 PM, Friday at 10 AM and Saturday at 6 PM. An all-night marathon of Curtain Call episodes can be heard Wednesday nights, beginning at Midnight, and an additional marathon can be heard Sunday evenings from 6 PM to midnight..