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Published: 2012/05/07
by Glenn H Roth

Seun Kuti Presents Africa With Fury

Seun Anikulapo Kuti speaks from the heart. His motto when talking to reporters is “If you are brave enough to ask, then I am brave enough to answer.”

The 29-year-old Afrobeat star talked openly and passionately about music, politics and family during a night off from his U.S. tour.

Kuti, who began performing at the age of 8, is the youngest son of Nigerian music legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

“I used to open shows for my dad by singing a song or two,” said Kuti, who spoke by phone from his Colorado Junction hotel room. “Sometimes I try hard to remember those days and some particular nights just stay in your memories. My dad died when I was 14 it was a roller-coaster time for me.

“When I play live now, I always play one or two of my father’s tracks, because I need to give respect to the man when we play.”

Kuti performs with his father’s band Egypt 80 and his spring tour continues to support the 2011 release Africa With Fury: Rise.

What was it like to work with Brian Eno and John Reynolds, two of the best producers in the music business?

I spent 2 months in the UK mixing the album and it was an amazing experience and a learning experience for me as well because I was spending all this time with these guys in the studio and being able add to their knowledge to my music was for me a really great experience.

When I write a song for me, it’s physically finished. It was new for me to meet people that show me new ideas on how to get take it a step further. And I think we achieved that in London with Brian and John.

Did you enter the studio with more confidence this time around?

Yes. The first time you’re not sure if people are going to accept our things. When you put it out there people have to judge it. People love my first takes and the stuff I’m coming up with now, and I feel I made a better record than I did the first time.

I’ve grown as a person. I’ve experienced life more. I’m a better musician than I was then (2008), which I try to prove all the time. So, I think that absolutely shows on the new album.

How was Africa With Fury: Rise different or similar to Many Things ?

I feel as a musician your music should steadily evolve. Evolution is not change. Evolution is an improvement of what is. I feel my music still has the same energy, same drive, but I’m more mature and that shows in my new music and to also put my personality in my music.

Why do you like to play your songs live first and then record them in the studio later? What’s the advantage of that?

I think the advantage of playing the songs live is you allow the people to judge your music. People like the songs not because the radio has played it so many times.

Let’s talk about some of the tracks from the new record. In “Rise” what message are you trying to convey to the African people?

We need to stand up for what we believe in Africa – for an Africa that gives Africans something to believe in. It’s a passionate song for me because to see Africa used as a business — America, France, England, Russia, China, they don’t do anything for Africa, they just use Africa as business — it’s a shame.

What’s “Slavemaster” about?

I’m comparing what’s going on in Africa today to new-colonialism and modern slavery. It’s more mental in the sense that we don’t truly have freedom of speech, just like the slaves didn’t have freedom of speech. We all work and live in Africa and like the slaves, could not benefit from the farm of the master.

Africa has been sold, not physically, but in our resources and opportunities. There are no African multi-nationals. There are multi-national companies and corporations from Europe, America and now China as well as Asia.

You cannot say Africa is really free capitalism because we don’t have any multi-national corporations from Africa. Africa and their people is the salve to finance our politicians and their big dreams.

What’s the “Good Leaf” ?

That’s my political argument for marijuana. I believe man has no right to tell nature what to do. I think it’s too pompous of man to tell nature what is legal and what is illegal when it comes naturally.

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