AFROBEAT musician, Seun Kuti is out again with another hit album entitled Rise. On Friday, September 2, 2011, ENCOMIUM Weekly had an exclusive chat with him in his house, where he spoke on his career, new album, relationship with his siblings, fondest memories of his late father, Fela, relationship with David Mark’s daughter and much more…
Your new album is really making waves, tell us about it.
I will say the album is not so new anymore because it was released in Nigeria in June, it was out in Europe since April. I am already working on my third album. The album entitled Rise, it’s a seven track album with one bonus track. It’s a great one, it’s timeless. I think music should be interesting. Even long after it stopped being fresh, it should still be interesting and I have been able to achieve that with my new album. The songs are timeless, the response has been great. I am very proud of my album. I talk about government policies, corruption, politics and every other thing.
Why did it take you so long to release it after your first album?
I have two albums, it didn’t take me so long to come out with the second one. I was 25 years old when I released my first album. I recorded my second album when I was 27, now I am 28. So, I don’t think it took me a long time. It’s not as if I am 40 years old.
So, when should we expect another album from you?
I don’t know but I am already working on my third album.
You just came back from a tour. What was it all about and tell us about some of the countries you visited?
We were on tour for 10 weeks. When you release an album, the proper thing is to release it globally too because if your music ‘is accepted globally, it means you have fans everywhere. They want to see you play everywhere. So, that’s what the tour was all about. When we release a new album, we travel all over the world to promote it. We just finished the European leg, we will start the Asian tour in October 2011. We are taking the music all over the world, where it is intended to be. It was fun, interesting and memorable.
What did it cost you?
The tour was sponsored by the French government which made it easier and we were very secured.
What were the benefits of the tour?
It was to take my music to my fans all over the world, that was what I wanted to achieve and it happened. I played every night for five to six thousand people watching me do my thing, it was a great fun.
You’ve started playing at the Africa Shrine, does it mean that the misunderstanding between you and your elder brother, Femi has been settled?
I have been playing at the Shrine for three years now. There was really no rift between me and my brother, it was one journalist that made people think there was a misunderstanding between us. I don’t think whatever happened in my family was as much as he presented it.
He said something new about me and my family every week. It’s all lies anyway.
Fela’s house is really losing shape unlike when he was alive. Why is it difficult for his children to take care of the house?
I can’t answer that question because in Fela’s family tree, I am the last son. I have elders you can ask that question.
What is the relationship between you and your other siblings?
Perfect. We are brothers and sisters. I spoke with my eldest sister this morning. Contrary to what people believe, we all get along in the family. My brother and I even played together two months ago in Denmark. So, we wouldn’t be doing shows together if we are not on talking terms.
What do you miss most about Fela?
Fela died 14 years ago. So, it’s no longer fresh in our memories but we definitely miss him. We miss his presence, we miss his personality and I know I am making him proud wherever he is now.
What kind of man was Fela?
He was very straight forward.
Your father was a man of many women, are you following his footsteps?
Every man is of many women except the ones that pretend. In terms of marrying 27 wives, I am not going to follow his foot path because when you grow in a polygamous home, you will see the problems of having too many wives. I am not that patient. My dad was a very patient man, I can’t deal with the stress of27 women.
Are you saying that you are going to stick to one woman unlike your father?
I don’t even believe in the institution of marriage because marriage is a piece of paper. People marry and divorce everyday as if it means nothing. People only get married these days to appease societal values, to please family members or to get political post. I think marriage in the modern sense of the word has lost its traditional integrity. Married men and women are flirting all over the place, what then is the point?
Why are you saying you are married? Just remain single and flirt around.
You mean, marriage is not in your agenda?
Not at all.
But we learnt that ladies flock around you. Don’t you think that is a sign for you to settle down and get married instead of flirting around?
Ladies flock around every celebrity, it doesn’t mean that I am special. It doesn’t mean I am ripe for marriage. When Michael Jackson was eight years old, ladies were flocking around him, does that mean he should have settled down at eight? When you are famous, people generally want to know you. It’s all about how you discipline yourself, the things that you hold most important to you. I don’t believe in the institution of marriage.
But you said you don’t intend following your father’s footstep. Everything comes with responsibility, how then do you intend to live your life?
My dad was married, the fact that I am not married makes the difference. I don’t intend getting married. My dad married one and then 26 others, but I am not even planning to marry at all.
What is the relationship between you and Catherine, David Mark’s daughter? We learnt you are in love with her, how true is it?
I don’t want to say anything about it before you people start misquoting me. She is just my friend. Can’t I have female friends?
You smoke, almost everyone related to Fela smokes, can’t someone be different?
There are many people that are related to my father that don’t smoke. My cousins, my uncle, my aunt and others. Many people that are related to us don’t smoke.
Fela was a traditionalist, how about Seun?
I am not a traditionalist, I am not a Muslim and I am not a Christian. I am just there.
There was a time you packed out of Fela’s house, what was responsible for that?
Nothing was responsible for that. I can’t live in my father’s house forever because in Africa, we count that as failure. It was time to move on and I had to move on. If I am still living in my father’s house, you journalists will still ask why I am still living in my father’s house.
At a time, your siblings said you used to bring miscreants to Fela’s house and that prevented them from renovating the house, how true is it?
None of my siblings could have told you that, it’s a lie.
Amongst your siblings, who do you cherish most?
I love all my siblings but my immediate elder sister and rare very close. We grew up together, we went to the same school, we used to live together. She is the closest person to me in my family.
What was the relationship between you and your father before he passed on?
We were very close. I am his last child and Fela was never the outgoing type. He was around all the time, he was cool and because I was very young, there was no room for father and son conflict, I was just 14 years old when he died.
When you sing, do white men understand your music or they only enjoy the beats?
White people enjoy Afrobeat music but I don’t care if they understand it or not.
Where do you see Seun Kuti in five years?
I don’t plan that far because people that plan that far are ignorant of what the world is, it’s a globalised world and anyone that plans so far can never succeed.
Are you in anyway eyeing politics?
Music is my first love, politics is my retirement plan to bring about the change that we really need.
You were nominated for MOBO Award, how does it makes you feel and did you see it coming?
I didn’t see it coming, I was told that I have been nominated for the award and I am happy about it. It shows that people appreciate my music. My brother was also nominated for the award last year.
– FAITH OMITOYINBO
*This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, September 6, 2011