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Seun Kuti is fighting to continue a legacy of politics and music

“I make politics to take a break from music and I make music to take a break from politics,” said Afrobeat musician Seun Kuti. “I always rest.” Anyone who caught Kuti’s impressive performance in Egypt 80 at Glastonbury recently can see a note of paradox in this statement.

The youngest son of the legendary Fela Kuti inherited more than his father’s band. The musician and pan -African activist has been involved in several campaigns in recent years, including #EndSARS – a social movement against police brutality in Nigeria. Notably, he revived the Movement of the People (MOP), the political party his father founded in 1979, which was revoked by the military government shortly after Fela’s failed presidential bid.

Kuti Jr. returned. the party in 2020 at a time when he believes it will be more favorable for anti-establishment parties. THe brings together the MOP of a range of leftwing activist groups aimed at building class awareness and Black pride. At this stage, he had no intention of running as a leader in politics itself.

The 39-year-old sings and plays the saxophone with a frighteningly similar panache to his father, who taught him how to play and introduced him to Egypt 80 when he was just eight years old. Kuti recorded four studio albums that started as her father’s band, though with some staff changes that were often dictated by time (Fela died in 1997). As well as his own records, he has made appearances on albums by artists such as Common and Jidenna, and he has played with Sinéad O’Connor and Carlos Santana; the latter came out on his 2018 album Black Times.

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 recently released an inspired live recording of ‘Love and Revolution’. The track and b -side ‘Emi Aluta’ – another live offering – is likely to get studio treatment for the group’s upcoming album, which is expected next year according to Seun himself (of course, schedules allow ). Before the album was released, Seun sat down with Huck to share some life lessons, from getting to the elite to keeping a legacy alive.

There is no burden on the continuation of a legacy

“When my father died, people said: ‘Oh, Seun inherited the band’, as if it was written somewhere that when Fela died, Seun should take the band. There is no such thing! Everything is circumstantial, but I’m already playing with the band. I would love to do this. So when my father died, the family did not want the band to play. No one wants that responsibility. The only other musician in the family then was my brother [Femi] and he already had a band and they were so good, they already got his first big hit with ‘Wonder Wonder’.

“I know my dad really loves his band. This was the most important thing to him, he said it all the time. And also, they are an African musical institution; we kinda don’t want to let go of that bullshit! So I said to the family, ‘What if I keep playing in the band?’. They said, ‘You can play with the band but don’t come near us when you’re stressed, and you can keep doing what you’re doing’. just like me,’Really? ‘ Really. ‘All right’. And here we are today.

“For me, it was always about duty. Liability. I felt like my dad had raised me up to that point for that moment, to understand duty, to understand responsibility. So it didn’t become a burden, in the sense that bathing was a burden. I grew up living, breathing, eating, urinating, smelling, crowing, rolling, breathing, bathing, walking and speaking Afrobeat music. That’s all in our lives. I went to every show my dad played. He didn’t really tell me: ‘I want you to play music’, but he kind of pushed me in that direction. “

Love is not about ownership

“All my songs are love songs, but I don’t subscribe to romantic love and this notion that connects love with material gifts, because to a certain extent that it becomes bad.It is broken in the sense that we begin to see love as ownership.Giving and receiving is like buying and selling, right? So when you are a lover, you do these things. you do it as an act because you own this person.Love is not about ownership, so it is a bastardization of the concept.

“Climate change is the true manifestation of human love. No one owns the forest. No one owns the seas. No one owns the rivers. No one owns the rainforest. No one owns the animals. So they are allowed to break down and get dirty and the soil is allowed to break down completely for quick profit. So this is the love I say. I always make love songs but it’s probably not obvious to most. ”

New Africa Shrine, Lagos. Photo Credit Eddie Williams

Art can change the world (but it needs help)

“I think artists are put under a lot of pressure when society expects us to be the vanguard of change. What can an artist change, when engineers don’t want to change anything? Engineers don’t think about housing , for example, to be more environmentally friendly, how they design houses, or make it more accessible to more people.Industry captains, they don’t want to change their negative habits, so let’s just really highlight the happenings.And I think that’s also part of the fight to keep the positive message in the face of constant resistance.I think that also has an impact on the fight.To say it’s just the artist’s fight; I don’t like to say like that. ”

The elites are scared

“Rebuilding the MOP party in my country was one of my most exciting adventures, and it really brought me closer to the true potential of African people from all walks of life and across generations. We really want to see a new representation of what we are as Africans. The only power of Africa’s elites is the oppressive power. We don’t like that. I believe that what they are really trying to prevent is our ability to create a new kind of power that is for people and is powered by people.

“Instead of us pushing people toward feeding their minds, the global elite is working and focusing on appetites, to make them want to sell your work just so you can buy a little more; to make you better than your neighbor, to make you feel like a big man to your friends, and things like that. So this is the mindset they want in society and this is really what we are trying to counteract, the commodification of humanity.

“I know they are afraid because they want brutal forces to continue to control Africa. They don’t want Africans to understand that there could be another way, they don’t want Africans to understand that we are truly children of sacrifice who are here to change the world.

New Africa Shrine, Lagos. Photo Credit Eddie Williams

Financial institutions are anti-African

“We are faced with evils in Nigeria today, from imperialist interests and the interests of our local oppressors. So many lives of Africans have been pawned to keep the wheel spinning. We, as African people, must at some point say that we will no longer be cannon fodder for the profit interests of all these groups.

“We are talking about police brutality but we really want to end all oppression in Nigeria. I think that is what the people of Africa really want, an end to oppression, even in the factory, even at work, even in our homes, where the African has dignity and can exist in his true form.

“In America, people say that banks will not give Black people loans because all banks are owned by white people; in England they would not give Black people loans because all banks were owned by whites. But then I went to Africa, and all the banks were owned by Blacks, and they still didn’t give us loans! So we need to understand that institutions are anti-African. We must prepare ourselves and our minds, and we must create institutions that will benefit or restore the dignity of our people. This is our last struggle for true decolonization. African institutions for African people. ”

Egypt is only getting stronger 80

“The lineup changes will be complete soon due to time. My dad is 24 years dead, but we still have some members who are in their late 50s who have played with my dad, who is in his 20s. when they were in the band then. We always have new generations being taught and coming in. I lost a bandleader last year. I have a new guitarist who has been under him for a long time. It’s not just the music, but the spirits as well, and that synchronicity that you need to be in a big band, understanding the man next to you and the man in front of you.We’re both in spirit but we’re changing, for sure.

“People are getting older, like Baba Ani, who has been a bandleader since 1978, until he retired just two years ago. So it’s just time, and getting older: the core of the band is really changing. And I ‘ m happy about that, because the more the body change, the spirits seem to be stronger. So that means that dudes who are leaving us are still with us in spirit, my spirituality acknowledge that. I really feel that and it’s part of what we do now, and that’s why we’re still going. ”

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