Youngest son of Nigeria’s greatest musician Fela Kuti- Seun Kuti is an individual star in his own right. Fronting his father’s band Egypt 80 Seun follows in his fathers Afrobeat footsteps singing revolutionary music alongside blowing an explosive saxophone. Performing in Bergen in May at Nattjazz festival- definitely one for to watch out for if you find yourself in that neck of the woods. I was lucky enough to meet Seun in London recently for an interview courtesy of SOAS radio station.
He starts the interview confirming his father was definitely not a fan of reggae and exhibits disgust at the notion that James Brown’s funk was played in the house or influenced his father in anyway. His twinkling eyes warrant his status as an entertainer and each question he is asked receives an educated, highly animated response.
Being the youngest in the revolutionary blood line, we’re told that Seun’s Grandma was one of the first great feminists in Africa, thrown out of the window by Nigerian authorities during a raid on their home. Unlike his father, Seun is not a religious person, westernised and scientifically oriented in his perception of the world, he sits in his yellow Ralph Lauren shirt with a Cheshire cat grin joking about his fathers belief in spirituality and astrotravel.
When asked whether he is a revolutionary or a musician first, he announces he’s switched positions and would now categorize himself first and foremost as a revolutionary. Fella sang predominantly about discrimination and injustices within Nigeria, Seun expands out from this, lyrically attacking global capitalism and multi-nationals.
Seun explains that African leaders don’t actually hold the power. He explains that it is the multi-nationals who puppeteer the injustices across Africa, cradling despots to keep the economic program functioning in favour of Western interests. It is the multi-nationals and Western governments we should be fighting “the UN, IMF, those are the guys, those are the guys”.
Although mainly fighting the battle in Nigeria, Seun realizes that the problems he sings about are international issues, “Everyone around the world is essentially undergoing the same experience”. When questioned to what extent he sings for Africans and to what extent he sings for the world at large, he states he wants “the world to feel him but his people to understand him.”
“We need to stop these multi-nationals coming to Africa and “developing” Africa. Africa needs to develop herself”. The Arab Spring seems to be taking a step in the right direction and Professor Chan, one of the interviewers, points out that The Occupy movement currently spreading around the globe is aligned with what Seun is singing for and about.
The main message he preaches is that we need to bring more empathy back into our lives and fight for the people instead of being preoccupied with the fight for resources. He strongly emphasizes how hugely important education is and declares that music is 80% hard work and 20% talent.
Seun is carrying on with his father’s fight for justice and equality. “Why fear death?” he says-“that’s the one thing we can all be certain of. The choices are: you talk- you die, you keep quiet -you die. So where is the point in staying quiet?” — Fela’s legacy lives on through Seun’s revitalized 21st century perspective.