Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Seun Kuti Makes the New York Scene

New York hosted a prince of Afrobeat, Seun Kuti, last week.  He was in town to do press for his new CD, "From Africa with Fury: Rise!" (out on Knitting Factory Records in June).  By the way, Knitting Factory will also be releasing Femi Kuti's new CD, "Africa for Africa" this spring, and both of Fela's sons will be on tour in the US soon.  Watch this space for more.

Seun is Fela's youngest son, and his sound hews closer to classic Afrobeat than does Femi's.   This is partly a matter of bands.  While Seun now leads Egypt 80, his father's old outfit, Femi--who was a member of Egypt 80--broke off on his own while Fela was still alive to create his own band Positive Force.  Perhaps there was an element of elder son rebellion, but Femi has always taken a more experimental approach to the music, bringing in ideas and textures of his own.  That trend continues on his new CD.  We'll have more to say about both son's new music soon.

Seun Kuti video shoot in Brooklyn
I sat down for a lengthy interview with Seun, which will be posted on this site closer to the CD release.  We talked about the new album, which was recorded in Rio de Janeiro and mixed by Brian Eno.  Didn't see that coming, did you?  Apparently, the two have been acquainted for years, and Eno jumped at the chance to work with Seun. The album has a bright, funky sound and punchy lyrics to match.  We went through the songs in some detail, including lengthy side trips into African politics--Seun believes that Africa will always revert to tribal identities, and the map should be redrawn accordingly--and world politics--Seun had no kind words for Me Qaddafi in Libya, but had to concede that blaming "terrorists" and "hallucination pills" for the uprising in his country had a certain genius to it.  "Remember to support the terrorists resisting Qaddafi," Seun quipped as we parted.  The interview is a sizzler.  Watch for it!

Seun also invited me to drop by a film studio in Brooklyn, where he was shooting a video for the song "Rise," with dancers and cast members from the Broadway show Fela!, produced by The Wilderness and choreographed by Maija Garcia, who worked closely with Bill T. Jones on the choreography for the Fela! production.  The atmosphere was joyful, even carnivalesque with rolling, painted murals, dancers in full regalia, a standin band, and Ms. Garcia a fireball of energy at the center.

Seun has been helping out in making arrangements for Fela! in Lagos.  That's right.  The Broadway show will play under the noses of the government officials it lambastes.  The action goes on at the New Expo Center in  the Eko Hotel in Lagos, April 20-25.  Book your tickets now.  If that's too dear, watch for Femi and Seun on tour in the months to come.

Banning Eyre

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