Listening to the son of legendary Afro-Beat inventor/revolutionary/political provocateur Fela Kuti (1938-1997) is haunting. He’s so much like his father. The anger, the righteous indignation, the sax-playing, the non-stop action of the horn section, the propulsive percussion, the sung/chanted/rapped vocals, Seun’s the splittin’ aural image. He even fronts Egypt 80, his father’s band. No wonder the music sounds like Fela himself never died. The man was larger-than-life as it was. Could he have confused the dictates of mortality itself and purposely reinvented himself in the form of what the world perceives as his son? Maybe it’s really him.
That kind of conjecture, of course, diminishes the considerable accomplishment of one Seun Anikulapo Kuti, a 28-year old Nigerian who shares his father’s politics and his father’s penchant for constant percussion, scorching rhythms, complex horn charts and the kind of punch meant for the knockout with every swing. Co-produced by Brian Eno, the songs roll over each other like one big funk steamroller of theatrical proportions.
It’s thought-provoking dance music.
Seun gets specific when he sings, “We must rise up against the petroleum companies,” “We must rise up against the diamond companies” and “We must rise up against companies like Monsanto and Halliburton.” Fela was beaten and tortured for speaking out like this. Seun lives in a better world and knows it. The best he can do is take his musical message to the masses. He just finished an American mini-tour. We can only hope he hits these shores again soon.