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In Your Ear: Femi Kuti

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In Your Ear: Femi Kuti

Music

In Your Ear: Femi Kuti

In Your Ear: Femi Kuti

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Femi Kuti

Femi Kuti Jim Bennett/KEXP hide caption

toggle caption Jim Bennett/KEXP

Nigerian contemporary artist Femi Kuti shares some of the artists that have inspired him over the years, including legendary American jazz musicians Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.

TONY COX, host: After 11 Tony nominations, including best musical, critically acclaimed "Fela" is coming to the nation's capital next month. "Fela" is based on the lyrics and music of Afro beat pioneer Fela Kuti. This year, we caught up with his son Femi Kuti, who, like his late father, enjoys enormous popularity in his home country of Nigeria. Kuti stopped at our studios to tell us about his latest album "Africa for Africa." And he also shared the songs that have inspired him over the years.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, THINGS TO COME)

FEMI KUTI: My name is Femi Anikulapo Kuti. I'm a musician. And the songs I liked, I loved and I probably would go back to listen to them again when I have the time, Dizzy Gillespie, "Things to Come."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, THINGS TO COME)

KUTI: Wow. I like "Things to Come" because it was 15 horns, five trumpets, five saxophones, five trombones. And when I listened to it I could not believe human beings could play like that and I got a shock. And I had to decide, do I still want to become a musician or not? And it was going...

(SOUNDBITE OF IMITATING HORNS)

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THINGS TO COME")

KUTI: I died a thousand times. Dizzy Gillespie, "Things to Come," you need to listen to it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SKETCHES OF SPAIN")

KUTI: The best album I've ever listened to, "Sketches of Spain" by Miles Davis. I've never heard a clearer horn player like Miles Davis. And I think it was Gil Evans, if I'm correct, yes, and he went so well with the strings. It was so soothing that it brought so much peace to my mind and my body, and I fell in love with that. I fell in love with that album so many times. I loved it. I think that was probably one of Miles Davis' greatest works.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SKETCHES OF SPAIN")

KUTI: My father's "Coffin for Head of State" always brings tears to my eye because it tells the story of how his mother died. And I think probably it was one of his saddest songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COFFIN FOR HEAD OF STATE")

KUTI: Probably because I was a witness to him composing the number. But I knew he was speaking from deep, deep down within and it was so sweet. Sad but very sweet.

FELA KUTI MUSICIAN: (Singing) Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Amen. Amen. By the grace of all mighty Lord. Amen. Amen. Amen.

COX: That was Nigerian music star Femi Kuti telling us what's playing in his ear. To hear our full conversation with Femi, please go to the Program page of npr.org and select TELL ME MORE from the Programs tab.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COFFIN FOR HEAD OF STATE")

MUSICIAN: Amen. Amen. Amen.

COX: And that's our program for today. I'm Tony Cox and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COFFIN FOR HEAD OF STATE")

MUSICIAN: (Singing) Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Amen. Amen. By the grace of all mighty Lord. Amen. Amen. Amen. So I waka waka waka. Waka waka waka. I go many places. Waka waka waka. I see my people. Waka waka waka. Dem dey cry, cry, cy. Waka waka waka. Amen-i, Amen-i, Amen. Waka waka waka. Amen-i, Amen-i, Amen.

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