From the opening bars of the self-titled debut from "Seun Kuti & Egypt 80" – ideas, words, and notes whiz about with abandon. The Afrobeat magic is set in motion while the delirious, unrelenting machine carries us away without missing a moment. Apart from the erotic "Fire Dance", every sound from the belly of Seun Kuti, the youngest son of legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s, is a ravaging pamphlet against the corruption, ignorance, malady, sadness, pollution and the many others ill that ravage contemporary Africa.
For this debut album and full North American summer tour, Seun (Shey-oon) is leading the legendary Egypt 80, his father’s last band. Taking up taking up where Fela left off is about building on his legacy, not trying to escape it: "He was a very great man. But of course every artist wants to define himself ", says Seun. With the same incendiary and flamboyant spirit as Fela, Seun has also developed his own raging rhythm, while citing Chuck D, Dr Dre, and other hip hop legends among his musical influences.
Seun is an abbreviation of his Yoruban name Oluseun: "God has done great things". It is also, ironically, the first name of former President Obasanjo, the Kuti family’s sworn enemy. Long before Obasanjo became president in 1977 following a military coup, he organized a murderous assault of over one thousand armed men on the residence of Fela, who had called his home the independent "Republic of Kalakuta," – which is still where Seun Kuti and the musicians in the timeless Egypt 80 orchestra live. Seun’s grandmother, Funmilayo, Nigeria’s most important human rights and feminist activist, was thrown out of a window to her death by Obasanjo’s troops.
There’s no doubt that Seun is the heir of Fela Kuti’s hardline militancy. Moreover he has adopted his father’s second Yoruba name, Anikulapo ("I’ve got death in my quiver"). In other words his songs are arrows that never miss their targets; the corrupt, bribers, the oppressors. The album starts off with an extract from a recorded speech by Obasanjo and is a good summary of his dotted 30 years in power: constructing magnificent bridges while the people underneath them still had to drink the water into which they urinate. Seun recently joined Youssou N’Dour in a major project against malaria and "Mosquito Song" explains how the governments’ negligence in teaching the importance of hygiene is responsible for the effects of this plague that kills more people than AIDS.
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 are more than just an orchestra, they’re a musical family united for many years through the Kuti family legacy. The cohesion and longevity alone explains the absolute precision of the rhythmic reflexes down to the thousandth of a second that makes their ultra-syncopated polyphony the perfect ‘swing’ model. It could seem passé to use a word like "swing", but it’s difficult to find a better way to characterize Afrobeat at this level of expression. It also translates beautifully to the live setting where Seun will be demonstrating the charisma and energy inherent in the Kuti family on tour this summer, backed by the dynamic force of Egypt 80.
SEUN KUTI & EGYPT 80
6/20/2008 Los Angeles, CA – Grand Performances
6/21/2008 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theatre
6/22/2008 San Francisco, CA – Stern Grove
6/23/2009 Redway, CA – Mateel Center
6/25/2008 Vancouver, CA – International Jazz Festival
6/27/2008 Victoria, BC – Jazz Festival
6/28/2008 Seattle, WA – The Moore
6/29/2008 Chicago, IL – House of Blues
6/30/2008 Alexandria, VA – Birchmere
7/2/2008 Toronto, ON – Harbourfront
7/3/2008 London, ON – Sunfest
7/4/2008 Detroit, ON – Comercia Festival
7/5/2008 Philadelphia, PA – World Café
7/6/2008 New York, NY – Central Park Summerstage
7/7/2008 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club