In 1997, Seun Kuti was 14 years old when his father, the legendary Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, died. Today, Seun, 32, is touring the world with his father’s band, Egypt 80. In this chat with UDEMMA CHUKWUMA at his residence in Lagos, he talks about the band, his career, belief and how he feels about his father’s death 18 years after.
When you listen to Seun Kuti’s songs, it seems as if you are listening to his father’s. The flow of Fela’s music can be felt in it. Perhaps it could be as a result of Seun’s interaction with those who worked in his father’s band – the Egypt 80, but Seun doesn’t think so. “I wouldn’t say it’s because they played with my father; it is the Afro beat spirit,” he said, while flipping through one of the dailies, adding: “It is the musical spirit and the camaderie we shared that exist in Afro beat music.”
This spirit, he said, is in those who make Afrobeat music, which, he affirmed, could be found in Europe, America and Asia, especially Japan. ‘’There are lots of bands, which have that same spirit and trying to create that same sound,” he said, with a brown mug in his hand which he sipped from.
Seun, like his father, is committed to preaching freedom, Africa’s unity as well as advocating for the poor masses with his songs. However, his fear is that Afrobeat is declining in the country because “everybody is afraid to speak the truth, people are afraid to speak to those in power and Afrobeat cannot be separated from its message, its identity, and its identity is its representation of its people.”
He sees the decline as a problem which needs solving. “I don’t think it’s a real problem for Afrobeat music. There are over 500 Afrobeat bands in the world, today. Afrobeat is not doing badly at all; it is Nigeria that is suffering by not tapping the benefits of something that is owned by us. And now Afrobeat is being controlled by the forces outside Nigeria.’’