Monday 14 April 2014

Seun Kuti Proudly Keeps Kuti Legacy Alive

As the inventor of the Afrobeat together with his drummer Tony Allen, the name "Fela Kuti" has become synonymous with the music. Nowadays there's a true afrobeat revival going on with many young people discovering the music. Seun Kuti is one of Fela's children that is keeping his musical legacy alive. In his case, he's also keeping his father's political views and social activism alive, like his brother Femi. Together with Fela's band Egypt 80 he's recording new music and performing in the spirit of his father. As an afrobeat lover I was really pleased to hear Seun was playing in my hometown again. Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 at MC Theater Amsterdam, April 11 2014

The MC Theater isn't a very big venue and the big band is somewhat packed together on the small stage. Of course an afrobeat band usually has many members and as one of the big names in the genre, Egypt 80 is no exception with a horns section, rhythm section with percussionists, guitars and dancers. The members are a combination of young and old musicians, who start out by themselves until 5 minutes later Seun Kuti joins them with his alto sax.

Kuti bears a big resemblance to his father, both musically and in appearance. He's a charismatic front man something that I already found out a few years back. At that time he only could only play a relatively short gig, but tonight he's treating us to a two hour performance, playing his father's songs and his own compositions. This means there's also plenty of time for his political speeches and criticism of the situation in Nigeria and Africa in general. These small intermezzos are inspiring and full of fire. Kuti comes across as a proud and cheerful man, with a strong and powerful will.

This is also clear from his stage performance and sax playing. Often he's dancing wildly on stage or playing his sax with a lot of determination. At the same time Egypt 80 are backing him up in a quiet fashion. The younger players eagerly take their moment in the spot light for a solo. The older members are more relaxed, in the beginning even somewhat unmoved, but later on show they are enjoying it and their appreciation with big smiles on their faces. They have seen it all and know with a big band like this, there's no room for showing off. Therefore the music sounds well balanced and stays focused all the time. The long repetitive songs will get you in a trance that is so essential for afrobeat.

At the end of this powerful and energetic performance, there's not one person who is not dancing and smiling. After the encore, the musicians are raising their fists, like Fela used to do. Seun, who took off his shirt halfway through, looks like a boxer after winning his fight. It doesn't take much of your imagination to see his father their in front of you. Seun, even more than his brother Femi, is following in his father's footsteps, by staying close to his ideals and music. So it is true: Fela lives!

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