Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Interview with Femi Kuti

Jane Cornwell interviews Fela Kuti's oldest son Femi Kuti.
He's been threatened with jail, even with death. They've tried censoring him, bribing him, incriminating him and closing him down. But still Femi Kuti won't shut up. "When violence and injustice touch you personally, you can't just walk away," says the 48-year-old musician and bandleader, eldest son of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti.

"Nigeria is in turmoil. There is corruption and poverty beyond your imagination. My music reminds people what is going on. My songs are part of the fight."

Fast, furious songs with titles such as Nobody Beg, Bad Government and Can't Buy Me feature on the Kuti scion's new album, Africa for Africa, a back-to-Afrobeat-basics affair he launched last month in Lagos as part of Felabration, a festival held annually in honour of his father. "Since the time of independence/ the suffer still dey increase," he sang in Nigeria's pidgin, a saxophone around his neck, his 14-piece Positive Force orchestra blasting out a trademark mix of jazz, funk and African rhythms.

The venue was the New Africa Shrine, an aircraft hangar-style space named after the nightclub founded by Fela in 1970, razed to the ground by armed police in 1977 and rebuilt by Femi and his sister Yeni in 2000. Here dancers gyrate in wooden cages above the dance floor. Walls are hung with portraits of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr and the other black leaders who shaped the thoughts of Fela Anikulapo Kuti -- for many Africans, the greatest leader of them all. A sort of Graceland for Fela fans, the shrine remains a hothouse of dissent and a thorn in the side of the Nigerian authorities, who are celebrating the country's 50 years of independence from Britain.
Click to read the full interview
Related Posts:
Joe Tangari's review of Femi Kuti's The Best of Femi Kuti

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