This is... Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 + Akala
18 Aug 2015
Kuti – described as the reigning prince of Afrobeat – brings his funk orchestra Egypt 80 to town, joined exclusively on stage by London-born, MOBO-winning rapper, poet and journalist Akala, for a one-off concert at Brighton Dome. Read on to find out more about these inspirational artists...
‘Music has great impact on people's feelings,’ says Seun Kuti. ‘That's what music should be. Pop music today is all about me, me, me. Nobody is singing about we.’
With songs filled with the corruption, ignorance, malady, sadness, pollution and the many other ills that ravage contemporary Africa, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 create veritable musical treasures; flamboyant, jubilatory songs that make you want to get up and dance.
The illustrious Ransome Kuti family come from the Yoruba people, the largest ethno-linguistic group in Nigeria. Said to be descended from Oduduwa, the demi-god who founded the Ife kingdom in the 12th century, the Yoruba people have always maintained a particular esteem for the youngest family member.
It’s no different for Seun Kuti, the third son to be recognised by musical and political revolutionary Fela Kuti. Aged eight, Seun (pronounced “Shehoun”) found himself backstage at the Harlem Apollo watching his father sing and said to himself, “I want to sing too.” Fela laughed but let him try anyway... with success, taking control of his father’s orchestra Egypt 80 aged just 14, following Fela’s death from AIDS in 1997. Hailed as continuing Fela’s musical legacy, he has been laying down a potent version of those indestructible rhythms ever since.
Now Seun firmly sets the classic Egypt 80 sound in the modern era, fuelled by call-and-response hooks, break neck tempos and combative, topical lyricism. With the same energetic and booming voice as Fela, there’s no doubt that Seun is the worthy heir of his father’s hard-line militancy. His songs are arrows that never miss their targets; the corrupt, bribers and oppressors. Seun’s own raging rhythm clearly influenced by rap, citing the likes of Chuck D, Dr Dre and Eminem among his musical heroes.
Check out African Smoke featuring Blitz the Ambassador, inspired by a poem of Keith Richards, from Seun Kuti's new album A long way to the beginning
The Egypt 80 orchestra is legendary in the true sense of the word, described as Africa’s equivalent of what Duke Ellington’s jungle music did for the Afro-American diaspora. But Seun’s orchestra isn’t a clone of his fathers, despite both embodying crazy, frenetic movement on stage and even sharing two-thirds of the orchestra’s members from Fela’s time. For the last 25 years they’ve played and rehearsed daily to become more than just an orchestra; they’re a musical family – a delirious, unrelenting, charismatic music machine – and arguably one of the best funk groups around today.
Joining Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 on stage is Akala. Emerging from London’s hip-hop underground in 2006, Kingslee ‘Akala’ Daley won the MOBO Best Hip-Hop award for his debut album It’s Not A Rumour. His latest, Knowledge Is Power II, was released in March. Having toured extensively in the UK and around the world, he has also found the time to take his own energetic and original workshops all over the country working for clients such as the BBC, London Metropolitan Archives, Times BFI London Film Festival and various schools/youth clubs around the capital. In his workshops, Akala uses hip-hop to engage young people with subjects such as African culture and history, human rights, racism, history and legacy of slavery and the history of hip-hop. He also tours and promotes the Hip-hop Shakespeare lyric-writing and performance workshops across the UK.
Listen to Akala's latest album Knowledge Is Power Vol 2