Since Fela’s passing there have been a great many pretenders to the throne, yet none have appeared as likely as his youngest son Seun. His first album Many Things was a blistering statement of intent. Suddenly afrobeat was topical, challenging and transgressive fire-breathing creature again.
His follow up is equally as intense, a burning slab of Afrobeat funk. The tempo is high, typically insistent and the playing sharp. The songs are not only socially relevant, but also actively antagonistic. Seun takes up his father’s political agitation, though it’s through the eyes of an idealistic young man, less cynical than his father, chastising corruption in the government for betraying their nation.
Whilst there is an element of preachiness that has at times weighed down the music of his brother Femi and his fathers later work, you can’t help but admire his sheer gall, explicitly naming multinational companies like Halliburton, Mosanto and diamond companies as the scourge of Africa. However his concerns don’t overwhelm the music.
No less than Brian Eno is credited as co producer and Kuti talks of him opening up the mixes, giving the music space to breathe, and it certainly feels live, but also full and highly articulate.
It’s an album about African empowerment but it’s also about the development of Kuti’s identity, each successive album is a step further from his fathers shadow. Whilst Fela looms large, Seun has a more collaborative personality, less ego, a more husky vocal timbre, and pursues different vocal lines. This gives the music more power thanks to Seun’s earnestness. It’s a complex album, his music is not as immediate as his fathers it takes time to allow songs to fully form and the messages to penetrate but even now it feels like the tip of the iceberg.
Bob Baker Fish