Seun Kuti: 'Africa must save Africa'

October 2008 -

With his cd Many Things, Seun Kuti follows in the footsteps of his famous father, Fela, whose afro-beat songs criticised the military junta in Nigeria. With one exception, the texts of all of the numbers on Seun's debut album criticise corrupt politicians who line their pockets while the population suffers in poverty. While Fela's message was Stand up and Fight!, with his mere 25 years son Seun calls upon his listeners not to Fight, but to Think, like in the opening number with the same title. Kuti: "We must think about solutions for rising out of our misery. We must invest in education so that we have better leaders. Investments are now being made in the infrastructure, but the population is kept poor and dumb."


Seun Kuti

Fela's youngest son believes there is no place for the West in the reconstruction of Africa. "Africa must save Africa", he believes. What about Barack Obama? "He is an African", Seun says with a knowing smile. "He is preoccupied with another continent for the time being, however. He needs to save the United States first."

Seun was eight years old the first time he performed with Fela's band Egypt 80. After his father's death in 1997, he assumed the position of band leader and the band is currently touring the world. Their repertoire includes works by Fela and new work by Seun, in which rap has clearly gained influence. Seun believes that music is an important medium in effectuating change. He participated in a large-scale anti-malaria campaign sponsored by the UN, for which he wrote the mosquito song: "Na the government of the people. No put clean water for the people. Na the government of the people. No take good care of the people."

"I don't write songs about shoes. They have to be about things that matter. Naming the problems is my way of making a contribution." Is there a light at the end of the tunnel in his view? "Everything is about respect", he says. "As long as our leaders refuse to respect the people, nothing will change."

Seun Kuti will be touring France, England and Ireland in October 2008, and will be performing in Brussels on 24 October.