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Seun Kuti: Holding forth a family trait

Seun Kuti’s father was Nigerian music legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, a human rights activist, political maverick and creator of the Afrobeat sound (a fusion of jazz, funk, rock and traditional African music). From his discovery of the American Black Power movement in the late ‘60s until his death in 1997, Fela was the voice of rebellion against government oppression and military corruption in Nigeria. Now Seun, Fela’s youngest son, has taken up his father’s fight. The talented singer/saxophonist has been performing with his father’s former band, Egypt 80, since the age of 15. While his 2008 debut was impressive enough, Seun’s new album, From Africa with Fury: Rise, finds him fueled with socio-politically charged invective, raging against the inequalities and unfair government practices of his homeland. With other albums and plans towards his fourth album, Seun revealed to MUTIAT ALLI, his thought on the institution of marriage, fatherhood and his recent attack on the present administration.

What informed your choice to be part of the One Africa Music Festival?

Well I didn’t decide, I was called up. The organiser called me up like ten days ago, a week or ten days ago and we go way back. He was like Seun you have to come, and support the show. For me, it’s really important that I’m there as an artiste and because of what our music and culture and art stands for to me and I want to make a big thing and family affair fun.

Many people are of the view that you don’t like to perform in Nigeria?

The thing is when I’m booked abroad, because where I’m touring; it’s a twenty man crew, so I can’t decide to travel for one or two or three shows. I have to go and do maybe twenty or thirty so I can really make good money and everybody can be happy. My shows are already booked in advance, and most times when people want to book me in Nigeria, I’m already booked in advance on that day and most people think I don’t want to go but I really want to do it but I already have other commitment, so there is nothing I can do about it. When the opportunity comes up you know like when the Commissioner of Culture in Lagos, Commissioner Coker did the Lagos end of the year festival, we did three nights and I even opted out of better pay show in South Africa just to stay and do that because I wasn’t really committed to the show in South Africa yet, so I stayed and did those three shows because I’d rather play in Lagos; trust me, I rather not to move an inch.

So, what are the new projects you are working on?

Right now, I’m working on my fourth album. The band and I are kind of in the middle of fine-tuning the tunes and we are about to get into the studio. That’s the next big project and every other things come after that.

As a father, how do you feel, half of the time you are mostly outside than in the house?

Well, I guess, you know my children grow up in the environment that they are used to and so I guess my daughter will have to adapt to and also I get to see her more than people think. It’s okay.

What has fatherhood changed about you?

I take less risk. I’m usually a risk taker. I love doing extreme things but since my daughter came in, I’ve kind of cut down on outside.

So when should we expect you to finally tie the knot?

There is no legally tie the knot for me. For me, I don’t really believe in the institution of marriage. I’ve always said it, if I was going to get married, I would have been married a long time ago but what’s stopping me? Since my father died, I’ve been successful automatically even before I became successful with the band. You know being my father’s son alone is enough for me to be able to get married and relax and raise a family and chill but for me, it’s not been really something I believe in.

So does it mean you will never get married?

They say never say never but I don’t see myself getting married.

As a social activist, seems you’ve cut down on the way you criticize the government?

Everybody is now saying that, this is the opposite because everybody is saying I’m too critical of this new government but the truth is I’m too critical because I feel there is no time and as well we young people just have to participate more in things that actually concern us. There is no piping down because this is actually the time to pipe hot.


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