Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The son also rises.

I can still remember the moment when I first heard Seun Kuti's father, Fela Kuti, for the first time. The track was I.T.T. on the Black President album. It was something of an epiphany comparable with hearing the Velvets, Big Youth or The Ramones for the first time. The very soul of the music exuded protest and anger, before Africa became the cause du jour it woke so many of us to the realities of modern Africa; not the poverty but the corruption, the terror and the nepotism the pervaded so much of African society, and still does.

Ironically, at the time, I.T.T. was the original bastard multi-national, they even won compensation for damage done to their factories in Germany that were bombed by the allies because they were building Focke-Wulf planes for Hitler. They are American. When Fela was recording I.T.T. the company was co-opting African leaders through bribery and corruption, leading the charge of the modern day economic colonialists. Times have not changed though Africa rises and now Seun steps into his father's shoes.

From Africa With Fury: Rise sees Seun Kuti linking up with his father's smooth-cool outfit Egypt 80 and the result is so refreshing that it makes most music around us seem monochrome and flat. Moving at a speedier rate than his old man did, with his laid back Afrobeat horn grooving machine laying down the law, Seun kicks off the dust from the shoes he's stepped into and heads off into our brains at a modern speed. Egypt 80 lock in behind him, horn arrangements flowing and Seun spitting the political lyrics, decrying the filth that crawls over his country, from the generals to the Western businessmen, from the oil companies poisoning their land to the local politicians who let them.

Tracks like African Soldier and Mr Big Thief gives us the setting for this new anger, Slave Masters and Rise speak of the new economic exploitation that exists in the Third World today. As Kuti says: "Nobody wants to stand up for anything, everybody wants to toe the line."

Produced by Eno and John Reynolds (who has worked with Sinéad O'Connor and Natacha Atlas) the album sounds great. Punchy and fine.

Go out and buy it OK.

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