Seun brings his Afrobeat activism
13 October, 2017 — By Adé Bonkole
Seun Kuti and the Egypt 80 will play Islington Assembly Hall on November 11
HE is the face of modern Afrobeat. Whether by merit or association, when you think of the African music genre that blends the continent’s best rhythms with progressive jazz chords, Seun Kuti’s name automatically springs to mind.
He’s also the youngest son of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, brother of Femi Kuti and plays with his late father’s band, the Egypt 80. If you’ve seen them live before you’ll know that, like his famous relatives, he is usually shirtless, armed with a saxophone, high-octane backing dancers and an arsenal of lyrics that call out politicians – both domestic and on the world stage. He even has a tattoo on his back that reads “Fela Lives”.
Seun Kuti (pronounced Shay-oon) and the Egypt 80 roll into Islington Assembly Hall on November 11, bringing with them Afrobeat grooves and a live show that will set pulses and feet racing. But don’t call it a comeback – Seun and Egypt 80 have been going for years.
Several albums, world tours and awards later, last year the group released the Robert Glasper-produced EP Struggle Sounds, and a new record is in the works.
By his own admission: “More than ever, we are convinced of our mission and the purpose of our music,” says Seun.
“Struggle Sounds is a true reflection of my social and political beliefs. I give honour to my parents and every revolutionary who made this possible even before I was born.”
Starting at the age of nine, Seun has been performing on stage with Egypt 80 since his father was the group’s frontman, but don’t be fooled by the family resemblance – Seun Kuti, now aged 34, is very much his own man. Although he shares his father’s political voice and affinity for the saxophone, he has embraced different musical elements into his sound. This approach has led to him collaborating with the likes of Brian Eno, Nneka and M1 of Dead Prez, as he constantly evolves and searches for new voices and ways to deliver his message.
From overpopulated prisons, poverty through to social injustice, Seun is at the forefront of bringing these issues to attention through the medium of music. While bands such as Antibalas, the Chicago Afrobeat
Project and London’s own Kokoroko Afrobeat Collective continue to burn the Afrobeat torch, Seun and his older brother’s presence ensure the family name remains associated with the blueprint their father helped design.
Whether an age-old fan or a newcomer to this impressive act, it is difficult to stand still for too long when Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 take to the stage.
Struggle Sounds is out on Sony Music Masterworks.