Femi Kuti & Positive Force at Metro | Concert preview
Femi Kuti’s latest slab of Afrobeat, Africa for Africa, is the rawest, heaviest thing Fela’s eldest son has made in ages.
It’s tough enough that Femi Kuti forever lives under the long shadow of his father. Fela Kuti was both the James Brown and Che Guevara of Nigeria. The pot-smoking polygamist iconoclast invented Afrobeat and perfected it over nearly 50 records—that’s about two per wife. So, yeah, difficult shoes to fill. But not as immediate a challenge as that from Femi’s little brother.
Fela’s youngest son, Seun, inherited dad’s band, Egypt 80, and performs Fela tunes alongside his own scorching numbers, like the latest Brian Eno–produced batch. Without getting into the Shakespearean drama or African cultural implications of the relationship between the brothers, that left eldest son Femi with a rather large chip on his shoulder. But perhaps because of that chip, Femi has led a far more progressive career than his proudly traditionalist sibling. Even if that has led to failed crossover attempts, his music is angrier, sadder and more political as well.
A decade ago, Femi was crafting slick, modern and hip-hop–informed funk with Mos Def and Common. His new album, Africa for Africa, keeps the grooves raw and organic. The Afrobeat ingredients now vary little between the two brothers, but a notable difference is that Seun’s record focuses on layered polyrhythms whereas Femi’s revolves around the horns. The trumpets and saxophones of Africa pack a rich, spitty punch.
It’s a heavier, comfortable sound, and arguably his best album yet. It comes after the brothers have reconciled with each other. And that likely isn’t coincidence.