In the Kuti family, every day is Take Your Child To Work Day. Femi Kuti, oldest son of the Afrobeat pioneer and provocateur Fela Anikulapo Kuti, learned his craft playing saxophone in his father’s bands Africa ’70 and Egypt ’80 — finding himself frontman at short notice when Fela was detained at Lagos airport before a US tour. He later rebelled by leading his own band, Positive Force. His own son, Made, had a formal grounding in music at Trinity College in London (where Fela ended up having been sent to Britain to study medicine) and from a young age played bass and saxophone in Positive Force. Legacy + is a joint double-album release by father and son, Made playing his usual role on Femi’s album, and all the instruments on his own.
Femi’s album, Stop the Hate, is a continuation of his own brand of Afrobeat, marginally more jazzy and less scabrous than his father’s. (His brother Seun offers the mirror image of this.) He rattles through ten tracks in less than 50 minutes, the time it used to take Fela to get warmed up.
The album’s themes are a continuation of the Kuti family tradition: attacks on Nigeria’s politicians and corruption, though here the two are indistinguishable, and on the rapaciousness of foreign corporations. “Land Grab” is an example of the latter; “Na Bigmanism Spoil Government” of the former. “We do not criticise government because we want government to fail”, sings Femi. “We criticise government because we want government to stop and change their bad ways. Many get into politics for selfish reasons and their personal gain.” If the tone here is of a report by a disheartened NGO, elsewhere there is more anger. “You can’t fight corruption with corruption”, has a furious tumbling Pidgin tirade over a deep funk bassline.
Made departs from the Afrobeat template on his album, For(e)ward. The shuffling rhythm is familiar, but he plays more games with the form. “Free Your Mind” is entranced Afropsychedelia, its horn fanfares gesturing to outer space rather than responding to the vocal calls. “Free your mind and set your soul free”, he chants — his voice deeper and richer than his father’s. There is bluesy slide guitar on “Your Enemy” — whose narrative of the Nigerian SARS protests against police brutality shows that the activist gene runs strong; the gentle keyboard-led ballad “Young Lady” condemns sexual harassment at universities.
‘Legacy +’ is released by Partisan