NPR logo

Femi And Seun Kuti Keep Their Father's Rebellious Beat

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/137449484/137630984" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Femi And Seun Kuti Keep Their Father's Rebellious Beat

Femi And Seun Kuti Keep Their Father's Rebellious Beat

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/137449484/137630984" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Nigeria's Fela Kuti created Afrobeat in the '70s, a funky, brassy, fiercely political music that earned a worldwide following.

Fela Kuti died in 1997. Two of his sons, the oldest and the youngest, have carried on his musical tradition. Both Femi and Seun Kuti have a new album out, and reviewer Banning Eyre says they strike their own balances between expressing themselves and honoring their father's Afrobeat tradition.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BANNING EYRE: Start with Femi, Fela's oldest son, 48 years old and leader of his own band, Positive Force, since the late '80s. Femi comes out charging on his new release "Africa for Africa." Check out the ferocity of the Positive Force brass section.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EYRE: Femi started out playing sax in his dad's band, Egypt 80. His break to start Positive Force was an act of rebellion. Femi rejected Fela's leisurely 20-minute songs in favor of short, sharp arrangements. He's experimented with rap, rock and pop elements in his sound.

But Femi has always embraced Afrobeat's one non-negotiable feature: its message - an unvarnished critique of corrupt African leaders.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FEMI KUTI: (Singing) Nobody beg you to be president. Nobody beg you to be governor. Nobody beg you to be senator. Nobody beg you to be councilor.

EYRE: The 14 songs on Femi's album are bracingly efficient and relentless in their call for Africans to reject failed leaders and find African solutions to their problems.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KUTI: (Singing) Remember the things Martin Luther taught you (Unintelligible).

EYRE: "Africa for Africa" is a tsunami of surging organs, spitfire volleys of brass and righteous rhetoric from Fela's firstborn.

When it comes to Seun, Fela's youngest son, the mood is decidedly different.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EYRE: Twenty years Femi's junior, Seun was just a kid when Fela died, yet he wound up leading his father's old band, Egypt 80. This CD, "From Africa with Fury: Rise," is just Seun's second release, but the experience of these veteran musicians and co-production from Brian Eno make for exquisitely deep grooves, as trenchant and funky as Fela's own.

And the message? Well, as I said, that is non-negotiable.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SEUN KUTI: (Singing) (Unintelligible) Africa soldiers. UNINTELLIGIBLE

EYRE: When Fela lampooned African soldiers in the 1976 song "Zombie," he suffered a brutal military attack on his family compound. Neither Femi nor Seun is likely to be tested so harshly. Seun in particular exudes the cocky confidence of invulnerable youth.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KUTI: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

EYRE: Like their father, neither Femi nor Seun is a star-quality singer. But where Femi sometimes strains, Seun proves better at working within his vocal limitations. Listen to the way he emphasizes rhythm over range, like a good rapper.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KUTI: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

EYRE: With fewer and longer songs, Seun's CD may not match the breathless fury of Femi's, but its majestic groove and flamboyant lead vocals make it easily as satisfying.

KUTI: Fela Lives.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NORRIS: Banning Eyre is senior editor at afropop.org. He reviewed Femi Kuti's "Africa for Africa" and Seun Kuti's "From Africa with Fury: Rise."

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.