SEUN KUTI is definitely a chip off the old block. The youngest son of Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, is back with a new album with a fresh vibrant sound which still evokes the same messages that flowed passionately from his father’s music to his very own.
The album, entitled Black Times, is an extraordinary reflection of the singer’s political and social beliefs. “It is an album for anybody who believes in change and understands the duty we have to rise up and come together,” says the 34-year-old artist. “The elites always try to divide the working class and the poor people of the world. The same oppression felt by workers in Flint, Michigan is felt by workers in Lagos and Johannesburg.”
This is Kuti and Egypt 30’s first feature-length project since 2014’s A Long Way To the Beginning, as the singer has been focused on his additional endeavours during his four year hiatus. “I have been doing a lot of community work in my country. My duty to my community also takes priority in my life alongside my child and work,” explains the Afrobeat singer. “I’ve also been travelling a lot so I’ve been quite busy, and now we’re back with a new album.”
Black Times speaks perfectly to the time we’re currently in, following shocking political changes throughout Africa last year. From Mugabe to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Africa is in a place of change – something Kuti welcomes whilst still striving for growth, which rings true in his music. “For me, every record has to represent where I am personally and musically – I have to always feel when i’m make a record,” states Kuti.
“Secondly, what is important to me is to find our paths and speak to our communities and be open to change based on whatever attributes we acquire during our lifetime. I stand up for the majority of my community and my music with Egypt 80 represents that.”
This is something which is clear from listening to his music. With songs like African Dreams which discusses commercial success and why its not needed, to Bad Man Lighter – a horn-heavy track calling out duplicity and defending the right to smoke the good weed; and Last Revolutionary an ode to authentic leaders past, present and future – the album’s eclectic sound from the themes to the vast instrumentation, makes it his most accomplished and honest album to date.
“In order to be able to be an example and shine a torch to the future that we’re developing, I have to develop myself intellectually, which I’ve done with this album,” says the musician. “I needed the courage and knowledge to make this album and continue to educate and light people on a better path.”
Kuti finds himself in a unique position as Africa’s music is officially on the world’s stage, as the increasing popularity of Afrobeat music continues to grow. While many have questioned how it’s authenticity will remain as the Western world grabs a hold of the genre, the revolutionary insists that the homegrown sound will always remain in good hands.
“I think for me Afrobeat is my legacy as my father’s son and it means more to me than what it may mean to any other artist. So I don’t fear the genre becoming diluted,” he affirms. “Also, I want us to understand that in Africa we need to spend money on this genre of music, promote it and give it the coverage it has today. It doesn’t mean it’s the only kind of music coming out of Motherland, but it is prominent and we should continue to support it and let the genre flourish.”
This optimistic mentality shines through whether singing on a track or performing live on stage – which he will be doing this March at Electric in Brixton. “I feel like every audience will give you 100% and I like to do the same when I’m performing,” says Kuti. “I go there and be myself. I don’t do my shows according to who I’m specifically playing for – it’s me everytime and that’s what you can expect from the band and I.”.
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