Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Kuti Tradition

I've been sitting on this disc way to long and wanted to share it with you all before the turn of the New Year. While the name Fela Kuti is most likely familiar to you, you might not realize that since his unfortunate passing in 1997, his sons Seun and Femi have taken the torch and continued with the family's involvement in music and political statement.

I completely dropped the ball with Seun's self titled debut earlier this year. He's Fela's youngest son and has taken the reins of Egypt 80, the last band that his father lead before his death. He's been playing in his father's bands since he was nine, so taking up the family tradition is no big leap for him. His self professed mission: "I want to make Afrobeat for my generation. Instead of 'get up and fight,' it's going to be 'get up and think.' " Just like his father's, his music overtly criticizes the excesses and abuses of his country's government. I'll share a song from the seven track album here and strongly suggest that you check out the rest when you get a chance.

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 - Think Africa : Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

Visit his website, his label Disorient Records, and become his friend on MySpace.

But onto the album that I started this post about, Day By Day. It's by Femi Kuti, Fela's oldest son. Unlike Seun, Femi has been releasing music of his own for some time now, and this album only adds to his catalog. As you might expect for either of these men, growing up in the shadow of someone like Fela Kuti has its benefits and drawbacks. Femi also played in Fela's bands, and while continuing with the development of Afrobeat, Femi has added his own touch to the sound through his work with hip hop artists such as Common and Mos Def.

He's also paired down his compositions to match listeners' attention spans in the 21st century. Pick up a Fela album and it's got only a couple marathon length songs, especially on vinyl where each side will spin one track. Femi continues with the same feel, but instead of the long instrumental developments, his songs for the most part come in under the five minute mark (Seun's also run less, but still clock in about the seven minute mark on average). That isn't to say the album as a whole is less cohesive. You'll mind musical threads and riffs winding their way from beginning to end here. Alongside the musical accompaniment of some talented musicians (he and his horn section are incredible) are vocals that preach the same messages his father did.

Femi will be on tour in January, and you'll find the dates listed below. I'm hoping to make the first show of the tour in Boston. Based on what I've heard and his live DVD/album Live at the Shrine, I'm sure it will be a show not to miss.

and a pair of older ones:

Visit his label Downtown Music and become his friend on MySpace.

2009 Tour Dates

January 7 Boston, MA Paradise Rock Club
January 8 New York, NY Webster Hall
January 9 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
January 10 Philadelphia, PA World Café Live
January 11 New York, NY GlobalFEST @ Webster Hall
January 14 Montreal, QC Club Soda
January 15 Toronto, ON The Opera House
January 16 Detroit, MI Majestic Theatre

January 17 Chicago, IL Metro
January 19 Boulder, CO The Boulder Theatre
January 22 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore

January 23 West Hollywood, CA House of Blues
January 24 San Diego, CA House of Blues

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