Femi Kuti and the
Courtesy of Smash
Son of legendary Afrobeat firebrand Fela Kuti, saxophonist and bandleader Femi Kuti
returns to Japan by popular demand after stoking crowds in Tokyo appearances last year.
Growing up the son of Nigeria' most famous bandleader wasn't easy on son Femi. At one
point, when Fela was imprisoned by the government from 1984-86, Femi had to take up the
mantle and keep the band going. But the responsibility seems to have had a good impact on
Femi, who has gradually assumed the role of international Afrobeat leader since his
father's death, especially after a starring performance at the 1990 WOMAD (World of Music
and Dance) festival thrust Femi onto the global stage.
"My music is about
raising questions and finding solutions. I want to sing about the solutions, not just the
Stylistically, Femi's albums with his own 13-member band, the Positive
Force, such as 1995's Femi Kuti (Tabu), '96's Femi Kuti & the Positive
Force (Melodie) and '99's Shoki Shoki (Polygram) have, while shortening the length of
Fela's marathon workouts to more radio-friendly 3-4 minute pop songs, hewed to his
father's blend of sinuous percussion-based grooves layered with modern, soul and
jazz-influenced melodies. But in terms of his own lifestyle, Femi seems to have learned
the right lessons from his father's notorious decadence (he had 28 wives) and death from
AIDS in 1997. At 36, Femi abstains from drugs, is monogamous, and carries on his father's
progressivism with a more practical approach.
Through his music, and his political activism, Femi is dedicated to enlightening the world
about Africa and bringing about change there. In a recent Newsweek interview, Femi
described his informal political party, Movement Against Second Slavery (MASS): "We
started MASS to try and make the youth of Africa more aware and active. African youth are
highly brainwashed; if we do not start to do something about it, soon we're not going to
want to believe in our traditions, accept our heritage or be African."
Femi Kuti plays Liquid Room
on April 13-14.