INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Inpress AUGUST 10, 2011 - by Bob Baker Finch
Corrupt governments, exploitative multinationals and the might of the military are all in Seun Kuti's sights on his stunning new album.
Seun Kuti is the youngest son of Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, and perhaps the leading torchbearer in the Afrobeat revival that's currently sweeping the world. He fronts his father's Egypt 80, a band he has played with since he was a boy, and they've just released their second album, the pointedly titled From Africa With Fury: Rise, another bruising uptempo slab of Afrofunk.
"I just wanted to do something new," he offers on the phone from Lagos. "That's a mission of mine. I wanted it to have a different feel, but the same DNA of the music to keep Afrobeat alive."
It's an album that still feels like Afrobeat, yet as an avid consumer of modern music, Kuti has ensured there are a myriad of styles and approaches coursing through it. Then of course there's the presence of Brian Eno as producer.
"Brian has a huge knowledge in African music," Kuti relates. "When I met him his knowledge of Afrobeat was immense. It was nice to meet someone who would look at me from a different perspective. I had a good time. It was an eye opener for me, Everyday with Brian was a day where I learnt more and more about music - even my own music."
Recording in Brazil, he then took the material back to London for mixing with Eno, John Reynolds (Herbie Hancock) and Tim Oliver (Sinead O'Connor). He credits Eno for assistance with arrangements, solos, effects and "things like that".
"I learnt more and more and he helped me open up my music," he offers. "Because Brian is Brian Eno for a reason. This is not because he is some over-hyped man. He is a man who has real talent. I think his idea for sound is unmatched anywhere in the world. In the studio listening to the tracks he comes up with all these ideas of things we can do to improve the sound."
It's an album heavily steeped in African politics, decrying dictators who steal from their people before scurrying off to exile when their people rise up against them, multinational companies out to exploit Africa, and the power of the military.
"l'm very interested in situations that affect Africa and the policies that affect Africa," Kuti offers. "Not just Afrobeat music but all African music has a responsibility to represent its people, to be a voice of its people. So I think that's also in my mind when l'm writing these songs - to be honest as possible and show real love. Not selfish love of you or your girlfriend or your money or your car but the real love of your people and the real love of your land.
"I feel as long as you don't add religion to it and claim to be holy, you should be able to accomplish the rest," Kuti laughs. "For me it is not so difficult to live. If you work hard and you make money you can live a life of luxury and do what you want to do. But you don't feel a necessity to talk about that with your music as well. Because that is selfish. What your music is about should be bigger picture. Not your wealth and comfort which is what music is about these days, parties, how much money, drink, how much gold you wear. That's not important. We live life like that because humanity likes comfort. Okay fine, but the majority of humanity can not afford that."
Kuti belongs to a musical tradition with different priorities.
"If you think about the '60s and '70s when people were much more political, they were engaged in the world, they would stand up and march for everything, And music inspired them to do that. This is what the establishment realised and they've been dumbing the music down over the decades and now it's about surface things."