A Long Way To The Beginning

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

Knitting Factory Records, 2014


REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


When Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti passed in 1997, his youngest son, Seun, who was only fourteen at the time, took over his late father's band Egypt 80 as frontman and alto saxophonist. Not only was he taking on the task of keeping is father's music alive for the fans, but he also upheld the political stances Fela and Egypt 80 had always been so fiercely outspoken about.

With that said, it's no surprise that Seun Kuti's third full length is a politically charged diatribe defending the underprivileged and oppressed. To change things up from his previous work, he added rappers M-1 and Blitz The Ambassador to the album, and the contributions all end up adding an anthemic hip-hop and punk spirit to the youngest Kuti's unique formula. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

First track “IMF” doesn't pull any punches, and the horns, keyboards and flowing basslines point fingers at global capitalism while also letting us know that Seun is ready to expand on his father's legacy with current musical ideas, even if it means going in a more furious direction than his prior work. Though the first track may lead one to believe that Seun has moved in an entirely new direction, he still takes up company with his afrobeat roots, especially on the more straightforward “African Airways,” or the funk spirited “Kalakuta Boy.”

Blitz The Ambassador lends his rhyming abilities on the call to arms anthem of “African Smoke,” though “Higher Consciousness” might be even more openly political as it calls out all governments and corporations for their evil wrongdoing. However, if the lyrical topics just aren't your cup of tea, musically it's also easy to dance to with the cheerful "Ohuin Aiye" that provides meticulous drumming with baritone sax and horns. Elsewhere he gets soulful and R&B influenced, even taking help from Nneka on vocals.

In a time when so much music is passive, hopelessly upbeat and seems far too interested in just entertaining the masses rather than communicating, it's nice to hear something so fueled by anger. While this is an Afrobeat album at heart, it also embraces so many other influences. Seun and company harness much power and aggressiveness but also provide plenty of opportunity to move your body with lively beats and plenty of groove friendly sounds.

Rating: A-

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© 2014 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Knitting Factory Records, and is used for informational purposes only.