Seun Kuti: Passionate For African Change
Seun Kuti is not just popular because of his father, the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti rather, he has created a niche for himself in the music world via his style of music, Afrobeat, and also the constant activism portrayed in his music.
It is a hot afternoon, the strange, yet appetising aroma of food muffled with cannabis welcomed us at the Afrika Shrine, the familiar sight of people hustling and beckoning on us to sit and eat. A few minutes later, he welcomes us with men, we later find out are a part of his crew. They lead the team through to a special historical past (the 80s) which would become the place for the interview.
As we climb the stairs to a rather hidden location, we are given a brief and rather intriguing exposure of the Kuti clan: pictures of the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti, his father, some of his performances, Fela’s awards, his grandmother, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, generations of the Kuti adorn the walls of the stairs. Just as we settle, conversations about the happenings around the country, a bit of Africa, a bit of history, and a bit of What would Fela do (WWFD) if he were still alive, set the pace for our conversation.
Seun Kuti started singing at the age of 8 alongside his father, the great Fela Kuti, earning his source of income at that age as he got paid for opening the stage. 28 years later, he is not just singing, but has had several record deal(s), is a Grammys-nominated artiste and has led the Egypt ‘80 band for 22 years.
It is easy to conclude that he naturally towed the path of Fela as many would their father’s business. While he acknowledges that he was influenced by them, he insists that unlike was common in those days, his parents gave him the option to choose whatever profession he deemed fit.
“The conviction I have today are borne from the foundation of my home but it is not because of the foundation of my home. I came to the awakening and consciousness independent of my father’s influence”.
He would go on to admit that while growing up, he did not understand some of his father’s teachings. Fela Kuti was the Nigerian example of a contradiction of society, speaking against the ills of society which often saw him become public enemy number 1 of the military government.
He says that he did not adhere to his teachings because of peer pressure and because they were strange until he read a book, The Last Templer, when he was 24 that changed his outlook on life forever.
“Everybody’s awakening is an independent journey,”.
The Path Of Activism
After his self-discovery, he made a conscious decision to build on the principles which his father laid, all of which are encapsulated in his songs as messages.
This life action has not settled well with some in society as he claims that he is now faced with the problem of exclusion. He says, “the new way of oppressing people that speak the truth today is exclusion… My message contradicts the message of the elites…Even now, Fela is not played often in the media. If Fela was around now, it would be difficult for his music to rise like it did because there is so much distraction”.
“The oppressors always look to perfect oppression. They practice a system of exclusion. Back in the days, they used to be crude but they have realised that it only makes you popular. So they own everything and exclude you from it.”
“It is not enough to say you love Africa, you need to know about Africa.”
Grab The Guardian Life magazine today to read the full interview….