SEUN KUTI: Continuing the legacy of Fela Kuti
THEY SAY the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and in Seun Kuti’s case; the saying couldn’t be any closer to the truth.
At age nine, Seun asked his father, Afrobeat originator and Nigerian singer Fela Kuti, if he could join him and his band Egypt 80 on stage.
After his father’s death in 1997, 14-year-old Seun became the lead singer and has not looked back. Carrying on the legacy of his father, the singer continues to tour with Eqypt 80 and performs classic Kuti hits around the world.
Being someone who has played a part in making sure that African music is brought to an international stage, you would think that Seun would be happy with the recent popularity of music emerging from countries like Nigeria, but he is not.
In fact, the multi-instrumentalist says he has no time for industry artists who are selling their music as Afrobeat, or Afrobeats, and he furiously refutes the notion that their songs should be included in the genre. Instead, he believes music made by artists like D’Banji and P-Square should be classified as 'Afropop'.
“You cannot just call some pop music Afrobeat just because it’s coming from Africa,” said the 29-year-old. “Before you call music Afrobeat, you have to understand the message, the significance and the ideology of Afrobeat.”
He continued: “People forget what great impact music has on people’s feelings. Unfortunately today’s pop music is all about me, me, me. Nobody is singing about the we.”
AFROPOP: (L-R) Akon with music duo P-Square in the music video for their track Beautiful Onyinye
He added: “I recently saw P-Square’s video with Rick Ross where they are on a boat singing about beautiful girls and how they are going to spend their money on them, but I just don't see how this is going to help Africa in any shape or form. How many Africans can afford to bring their girl on a boat and spend millions of dollars buying jewellery? This is not the reality I see every day.”
Based in Lagos, Nigeria, the singer is very much carrying on in his father’s footsteps, despite claiming otherwise. And just like Fela before him, Seun’s music focuses on socio-political issues and his latest installment - Africa with fury: Rise - aims to raise the consciousness of his listeners and get them to pay attention to the world around them.
“I’ve been playing with the band for a very long time and we are very close,” said the Afrobeat musician. “Deciding to play with Egypt 80 wasn’t about carrying on the Fela Kuti legacy, but about me understanding the importance of the band and African music.”
Seun explained further that: “Inspirations for my music are the people I meet and places I visit. The people are not enjoying the benefit of our resources and our leaders are betraying us every single day. But the current situation is not only a Nigerian issue, it's happening all over Africa.”
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Legendary Afrobeat singer Fela Kuti
The young activist believes the problem lies in African politics as a whole, which is restricted and geared to benefit leaders not the masses.
“The only people in Africa with a voice are politicians and artists. No politicians will ever speak the real truth about Africa or any issue. They are all busy talking about their own agenda and policies to care about the people, so we [musicians] need to use our voices to benefit the people of Africa,” said Kuti.
Having spent the majority of his life on a stage in front of adoring fans, the 29-year-old shares that his followers are like his family and he always feels home in front of a crowd.
“I feel comfortable on stage and I like performing for people”, he told The Voice, adding “It’s always fun in London."