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Published: 2012/05/07
by Glenn H Roth

Seun Kuti Presents Africa With Fury

Who or what is the” Giant of Africa”?

That used to be the nickname of Nigeria when I was growing up. We’re being sarcastic with the words, ’The Giant of Africa with no lights and no schools.’

Your new songs have similar themes to what Bob Marley sang about on his Survival album.

A lot has not truly changed in Africa. Nothing has changed much in Africa in terms of the development for African people. The development we have in Africa is development to support multi-national corporations, big companies, opportunities for capitalism. We have not really had true development from the angle of the people — the empowerment of the people first. People are not first in any country in Africa.

This is the second consecutive where you’re touring the United States, what can fans expect this time around?

I have not really paid a lot of attention to the States in my career. For some reason my former manager didn’t think it was viable at that moment with the recession and everything. So our first tour of the states was in 2008 and we didn’t come back for a while (summer 2011).
For me it’s always grand playing in the state festivals. All the bands come there and everybody has to be at their best because a lot of people come and see you. The festivals are where everybody really shows their spunk. I like playing these big stages — that’s what it’s all about.

How have you perfected your craft as a live performer?

I think I’ve had my live performance locked down for a while and just improve with time. I get stronger, I’m fitter. For me Afrobeat is powerful music — I don’t have any choreography. I move with the music and the way it moves me.

How has Egypt 80 evolved over time?

They’ve grown old. That’s how they’ve changed. (laughing)

Do they still have the energy to keep up with you?

We keep up with them. (laughing)

What makes Egypt 80 so good?

There’s nothing surreal or mythical about it. It’s just lots of work. You put in the work and you get the results. We put in a lot of work back at home and on the road. Every show is a show and an improvement curve. Every show we do, we take a look at what we can do better. I’m also my best critic as well and I think that is one of my best attributes. There’s nothing anyone can say about me or where I have to improve that I didn’t think of already. I’m open to feedback but the truth is that most feedback, I’ve already fed it to myself.

What keeps you living in Lagos full time?

It’s my home. It’s the only place I know as home. Once your heart is set as somewhere as home, it’s hard to leave there. I feel that I have a lot to offer my people.

Are you a celebrity there?

I’m a celebrity of course but I don’t see myself as a celebrity, but people know me. I get a lot of ‘Hi Seun.” You wave, you smile and you keep going. I don’t go to all the red carpet events and all that stuff. I don’t like the fact that music has been turned into a way to promote corporate bodies, and people explain what they’re wearing. I don’t wear suits or fancy boots.

What influence did your father have on you?

Growing up, watching my dad you cannot be anything but inspired. Every artist will tell you that they learned something from his as well. So for me it was a great time and a great feeling. His performances are one of my biggest inspirations as well.

Can you envision a day when you and your half-brother Femi collaborate together on the stage or in the studio?

Of course, lots of times. Right now, we both have really good careers. Of course, we’re going to do a project together. We just have to sit down but I don’t think we’ll both have that time to sit down and think about it. I’m not adverse to the idea and I’m sure my brother is not either.

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