As the team wandered up the unframed stairwell of late Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Gbemisola Street home, we hear the sounds of a lively music rehearsal that stirs the memory of whose sanctuary we stand upon. The band manager Ade leads us into a room with a three and an half foot mattress on the floor to one side of it, a few knick knacks on the floor and a saxophone perched on a frame in the centre of the room; Seun Kuti is sitting on the mattress watching TV and on first sight, appears to be quiet and shy until he starts to talk about his passion, Afrobeat.
Question:– You’ve been touring for a while, how has it been?
Seun: Very hard work; being on the road for three months living out of a suitcase and going from hotel to bus to airport and hotel again, can be extremely hectic. I’m an introvert that likes to stay at home and it’s been hard on my personal life.
Question:– Do people close to you understand the rigors of your growing career?
Seun: I work with mostly musicians who understand the rigors of touring so it makes it easier. For instance, next year we will be on tour for eight months out of twelve and my band members are very hard working, so we all just get on with it. Because of the type of music we play, we find that it is difficult for an Afrobeat band to just sit back and cut albums without touring, especially in a place like Nigeria where musicians work hard and earn little so it was important to take the band out of these shores so they could earn what was commensurate with their work.
Question: – Where will you be touring?
Seun: We did a small introductory tour in the US, a bit of Europe and two places in Africa, Morocco and a small island of the coast of South Africa. We will be touring Europe and the United Kingdom next.
Question: – Tell us about your new album
Seun: The new album is already out in Belgium; all I can say is that it’s the best piece of music out of Africa in the last 15 years (he laughs)
Question: – What is the message of the music?
Seun: Afrobeat has never been just a genre of music; if you study it through the life of my father, it is a cultural, political and social movement and the music is the energy behind it. If Afrobeat was just music, then I doubt that my father would have been as relevant in the world as he is today. The Afrobeat movement was created for a purpose and until the emancipation of the black race is achieved the lyrics and philosophy behind the music will not change. This is one of the reasons why Afrobeat is not well appreciated in a country like Nigeria because it is perceived as the opposition to the government.
Question:– Have people received your music in the same way as they have your father’s in the past?
Seun: The album is not out yet in Nigeria so we’ll find out soon enough but the reception in the rest of the world has been incredible.
Question:– What kind of music do you like? How do you feel about the music of other artist like 2Face, DBanj, 9ice etc?
Seun: I like all kinds of black music; I like rock, funk, pop, R&B, I’m not crazy about disco though….I think most of the new wave of Nigerian artists fall within the range of hip hop and R&B; Nigerians are a ‘following’ nation so it’s not easy to find originality even in our music
Question: Are there any plans to collaborate with any other members of your family?
Seun: There are only two musicians in our family Femi and I, so that goes without saying, even though not at the moment. Femi is at a pivotal stage in his career and my album is about to come out, so we are both extremely busy. We have performed in the past on stage for ‘Felabration’ but unfortunately, I will be on tour this year during the time of the festival.
Question:– If you could change anything in the world today what would it be?
Seun: I believe in hierarchy because it brings order even in the animal kingdom but I believe more in the equality of man. I would like to see a world where everyone is equal irrespective of race, class, creed or financial status.