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GUY RAZ, host: Time now for music. Today, the legendary Fela Kuti's youngest son, Seun, carries the torch for Afrobeat.


FELA KUTI: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

RAZ: Now, if you simply cannot overstate the importance of Fela Kuti, this is his music we're hearing, he pioneered the brassy and political sound known as Afrobeat. In the '70s and '80s, he was to Nigeria what Bob Marley was to Jamaica; informed, outspoken, a champion of the underclass and a target of successive military rulers. Fela Kuti died in 1997, leaving his band Egypt 80 in the hands of his then 14-year-old son, Seun.


SEUN KUTI: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

RAZ: Seun is now 28. This is a track off of his new record. He still tours and records with his father's old band mates. And together, they put this new record out. It's called "From Africa with Fury: Rise." And Seun Kuti joins me from our studios in Southern California. Seun Kuti, welcome to the program.

KUTI: Yeah. I'm happy to be here.

RAZ: What a track. And while there is certainly a different vibe, it's impossible not to hear your father's sound and spirit. Your father passed away when you were just 14 years old. You were entrusted with leading his band, Egypt 80. That must have been an amazing amount of pressure on you. I mean, this is - you're taking over a band of the most legendary Nigerian musician ever.

KUTI: Well, Fela was first and foremost, you know, a friend and a father to me than before he was a legendary musician, you know? And I started playing with the band since I was eight. You know, I used to open the shows for him. Being a part of the band, I always saw how he treated everybody in the band and how important it was to him, you know? So when he died, I only felt it natural that if the family wasn't going to do anything and just want the band to go out, I wasn't going to allow that. So I just said, you know what, we're going to keep playing, you know? And here we are today.

RAZ: Did you have to sort of face, you know, fans who were saying, oh, he's trying to capture his dad's legacy.

KUTI: I still feel that today. That's not going to change. That's, you know, you have to accept that as being who - part of who you are, you know. Even if I was a scientist, people would still say, well, his science is not as revolutionary as his father's.


KUTI: He's not coming up with any new science.

RAZ: Imagine being Einstein's kid.

KUTI: You see what I'm saying.


KUTI: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

RAZ: I mentioned Bob Marley earlier in my introduction about the importance of Fela Kuti to Nigeria. Bob Marley, of course, is sort of canonized now, not just in Jamaica, but around the world. What do you think it will take for people to recognize Fela Kuti's importance on that level?

KUTI: Well, you know, at the same time, you know, I think comparing my - Fela and Bob, you know, it's not really fair because, you know, my dad was this uncompromising, staunch, socialist with absolutely no interest in commercial success whatsoever. He didn't believe in, like Bob, that love could heal the world, you know.

My dad did not know what Western concept brought to Africa to deceive us. My dad believe in the struggle in revolution. I think Bob wanted change from a different place, you know, like a Malcolm X and a Martin Luther King by comparison.


KUTI: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

RAZ: My guest is Seun Kuti. He's the youngest son of legendary Afrobeat band leader Fela Kuti. Seun's new album is called "From Africa with Fury: Rise." This is a political record, much like your father's work. In the track, "Rise," you sing: And I cry for my country when I see them in the hands of these people. And I cry for Africa when I see them in the hands of these people. Are the kinds of issues your father sang about, are they similar to today's problems in Nigeria or are they completely different?

KUTI: I don't think they are completely different. I think they're similar. You know, it's still the same nepotism we'd go through, whether they use the power that they have to enrich themselves. You know, political power is supposed to be used to empower your people and, you know, secure their future. The only thing different is that my father fought in military dispensation and now we have to contend with the so-called democracy, you know, civilian dispensation. I think that's the only thing different.

RAZ: And the current president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, is not a military man. Nigeria was traditionally ruled by military men, certainly over the course of your father's life. And you say things are not different.

KUTI: No. I don't think it is different. Everybody that is powerful in Nigeria is still a military man. Jonathan does not have - he doesn't even have security of the country at the moment, you know? And Jonathan has to play and sing and dance with them. You know, there's no escaping.


KUTI: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

RAZ: Your father was harassed by the government his whole life, imprisoned. Relatives and band mates were killed. Obviously, you don't face the same kind of harassment, but do you face any kind of backlash from official Nigeria because of what you do and what you say?

KUTI: Fela himself in Nigeria is played on the radio probably five, six times in a month, you know, (unintelligible) on all radio stations, you know.

RAZ: Wow. That's it?

KUTI: Yeah. So imagine me, you know, being anti-establishment in Africa is being anti-everything because everything is owned by the establishment, you know. So it's kind of hard. You know, you go through some kind of, you know, drawbacks. But, you know, Afrobeat music is not local anymore. It's global, you know?

RAZ: My understanding now is that most young people in Nigeria listen to hip-hop, that that's the most popular sort of style of music in Nigeria. What do young people think about Afrobeat? I mean, are they receptive to this sound that was so popular in the '70s and in the '80s?

KUTI: Well, you have to understand that in the '70s and the '80s, we did not have MTV culture dominating everywhere in Africa and the TV just completely filling everybody's eyes with bling bling and big cars and big houses and beautiful women. You know, everybody wants this life and that's what they give them on TV. So Afrobeat is not as popular as it should be back home.

RAZ: Do you sort of feel like you have this responsibility to carry your father's legacy on, like...

KUTI: No. I don't feel it's my responsibility. I feel it's the responsibility of every African artist, you know, to - because right now, African art has a big role to play in inspiring the people of Africa. And if we think that Africa is going to be saved by the West, then we have a big problem still in Africa. You know, trying to create our own identity should be our supreme goal, and our art should be at the forefront of that.

RAZ: Your father believed that music could change his country, maybe the world. Do you believe that?

KUTI: Yeah. Definitely.


RAZ: That's Seun Kuti. He leads his father Fela's old band called Egypt 80. The new album is called "From Africa with Fury: Rise." If you'd like to hear a few tracks, they're at our website, Seun Kuti, thank you so very much.

KUTI: Yeah, man. It's my pleasure to be here.

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