-Opens up on new album, love life and joy of fatherhood
This is the first time Seun, the youngest son of the late Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti would be talking to the media exclusively since he welcomed his first child from a back-up dancer, Yetunde Ademiluye, barely a year ago.
On Friday, November 28, 2014, the songwriter/saxophonist received ENCOMIUM Weekly at his apartment along Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos, where he opened up on his new album, A Long Way to the Beginning; joy of fatherhood and why he doesn’t believe in marriage and the state of the nation.
A Long Way to the Beginning. What informed the album?
I was talking about the progression of the band my father left, Egypt 80. The progression of my life, my music; even politics in Africa. It’s like a beginning, seeing young ones taking leadership positions, although they will grab it, very soon. So, this is like a beginning for me, everybody, including Africa. It is also a new beginning for afro beat in Africa, that’s why I have a highlife song in the album, Oun Aiye, which is the first in afro beat music.
We recorded the album since 2013, less than two years after my last album, From Africa with Fury: Rise, for some reasons. First, we went on tours and getting the band together wasn’t easy. Another delay was from the record label, because it takes time to plan distribution across the world.
What has been the response because it seems the rating is low?
It has always been great. Every album I release gets the best rating. I think, this year, I made more money like I never made in my life. That mean, this album is getting positive response. It’s a good record. When I write or release an album, I don’t play it again. I only play it on stage. Everybody that works on the album deserves credit.
The Kutis are known for conscious songs, are we expecting to see you addressing national issues, especially now that elections are approaching?
I wasn’t looking at election in my current album. But there is a song called Higher Consciousness, which, to me, represents the yearning of the people.
Tell us more about the songs in the album?
It is a 7 tracker which includes IMF, African Airways, Kalakuta Boy, African Smoke and Black Woman. It was co-produced by Robert Glasper featureing singer, Nneka, rappers M-1 and Blitz The Ambassador. I am backed by Egypt 80, which is late Fela’s band. They recorded 49 album with my dad, three with me, that’s 52. No band in the world has that number of records. The world’s oldest serving band member was in my band, Lekan Animashaun, before he resigned in 2011.
How have you succeeded in managing the band?
We all do it for the love of music, nobody needs to be managed. And everybody gets paid, and once the man is paid well, there won’t be any problem. I have played 102 shows this year, only one (Lagos Jazz Series) was played in Nigeria.
Are you under pressure your dad left big shoes for you?
I am not always under pressure, even when people try to create pressure, because they don’t understand why I’m not under pressure. The fact that I’m Fela’s son made me who I’m today. It is not something I picked up on the way. My dad always taught us to accept who we are and I accepted the entirety of my individuality long time ago. I didn’t see myself having to step into my father’s shoes, I see myself having to fulfill my aspiration. If I am happy, my dad will be happy as well.
Away from that, let’s talk about fatherhood. How does it feel?
Being a father is a special thing. Anybody can have a baby, because it’s very interesting and life changing to be a father. For me, it’s a different life entirely. Now, I have to think about myself and my family. At the same time, it’s interesting.
My daughter will have the kind of future she chooses for herself. My duty as a father is to play the roles my father played for me, which helped me to be where I am today. I am just going to be her guide, not a life coach. As soon as she can make up her mind, it’s my job to guide her to become successful in her chosen career. As a parent, you just have to do the best for your children to become somebody. The fact that you’re a musician doesn’t mean your child must sing. But that being said, I love my child to play tennis. I want her to win two grand slams in a year (smiles), she doesn’t have to win eight.
What are your plans to get married to the mother of your child?
I don’t believe in marriage. I and my partner already share a very strong relationship. We’re raising a very beautiful daughter. Marriage is not something I indulge. The truth is, marriage institution in Nigeria has collapsed. Nobody is even getting married for long anymore. On the average, it’s within a year. Although, they still marry, they separate.
And what do you think is responsible for this?
Because people get married for wrong reasons. As a matter of fact, the institution of marriage is fading away in the traditional sense of marriage – for love; for better for worse; and all sorts. It’s fading because women are no longer submissive. For you to live together with someone for life, someone must be submissive. That is easier when women are not working, and they depend on their husband. But now, it’s becoming difficult because they are now working; making money even more than men. The situation is terrible now. Even if you, as a man, is not looking outside, your wife will look.
That shouldn’t be an excuse for you not getting married; bring your family together to have fun?
Is that the purpose of marriage? That’s a decision for me, and my partner already agreed. In fact, there was a wedding we attended in Ibadan, the couple broke-up at the reception. What about that? Because of picture, the bride’s father wanted to take first, and the groom’s father said No, and all sorts of things started. They broke-up right at the reception.
We are loyal to each other in a superficial way, and that’s what I can wish for in a relationship- loyalty.
But your late father got married; as a matter of fact, he married 27. What’s your take on that?
Like I said, Nigerians are not looking at issues deeply. If you look deep into the issue you raised now, you’ll discover that in 1986, Fela divorced all his wives. People seem to forget this fact. It also goes to buttress my point that says, marriage is becoming a fading institution. I mean, Fela was the epitome of marriage. First, he married one; then he married 26 at once. He has experienced both, and later, he came out to say marriage is bad. What about that?
What is your take on the current political drama, especially the recent show of shame at the National Assembly?
I think the representatives did what was necessary to defend and protect democracy. The problem with Nigerians is that we never want to find out the root of any political issue. Some naive people said why did they scale the fence? Nobody is bigger than democracy. Democracy is bigger. I was happy they were able to understand why they scaled the fence. The only problem I have with them is, to defend the plight of the poor masses the way they scaled the fence.