Jan 9, 2020

Alex Kunda (Musi-O-Tunya) - Kingdom of Heaven

Liner Notes:
This is the first solo album of Alex Kunda, a musician who has faced the ups and downs of what it means to be a musician in this up-coming country. In brief, this is what Alex Kunda has been and is to date. Alex Kunda came into the music world between 1969 and 1970. He tried his luck as a drummer with the then “Cross Town Traffic” while at the same time working with the Zambian Broadcasting Services as a recording engineer. Things didn’t work out. In 1972, he tried again, this time as a promoter. Formed A&B Promotions with a close friend Billy J. Ndlovhu. Promoted bands like “Way Out Impression” and “Dr. Footswitch.” This time things flopped. […] The formation of the new Musi-O-Tunya band in 1972 opened a new chapter in the life of Alex Kunda after he quit the ZBS. M-O-T, which relied heavily on the power of the drums, gave the determined Alex a great chance to improve his percussion. His thunderous and hypnotic drumming earned him the name “Mista Feelings” in Kenya, where together with M-O-T he had played for three years and regarded it as his musical home. Determination and a great love of music have combined to produce Kingdom of Heaven, which ears can describe better than words.



A1. The Kingdom of Heaven (Kunda)
A2. Diya (Kunda)
A3. Think of the Nature (Mvula)
A4. Kulimbandangwe (Kunda)
A5. Changa (Kunda)
B1. Ulesi Uleke (Mbewe)
B2. No More Lie (Kunda)
B3. Zimbabwe (Kunda)
B4. Tendeleka (Kunda)

Jan 7, 2020

How Fela Kuti came to be celebrated by those he sang against

The Nigerian icon was harassed, censored and imprisoned for singing truth to power. Today power celebrates him.

Every time I see politicians and statesmen honouring Fela Kuti, I chuckle to myself and wish I could be there to ask with the utmost seriousness: "Are you, sir, recommending Fela to younger generations as a role model?"

I definitely had a good laugh when French President Emmanuel Macron came to Nigeria and, accompanied by Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, visited the New Afrika Shrine to pay tribute to Fela. It is funny because the state authorities Ambode represents now shut down the Shrine nine years ago for "disturbing" public peace. 

In October 2017, he also unveiled a monument of Fela to mark 20 years since his death. The famed musician, composer, human rights activist and fierce political critic is now immortalised in central Lagos in a fibreglass statue clad in tight, gold-coloured clothes, reminiscent of the vibrant, eye-catching outfits he used to wear. 

It is indeed funny and ironic that Fela is getting so much attention from those in power in Nigeria and elsewhere, given that he spent his whole career dissing their kind. He sang against governments and dictators, against colonialism and injustice, against oppression and censorship.

What he taught young people in Nigeria and beyond was to defy power, rebel and speak out - behaviour that both the Nigerian and French authorities are known to crack down on.

Fela, the one who captured death

Fela was not an ordinary man and he was not an ordinary artist. He accurately called himself "Abami Eda", a Yoruba phrase that roughly translates to "the strange one".

He was born Olu'fela' Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti in 1938 to a father who was both a priest and a teacher, and a mother who was an anti-colonial activist. Fela's family was relatively well-off, and he had a more comfortable childhood than most. He had access to the best education available at the time in Nigeria. He attended Abeokuta Grammar School and was eventually sent to Britain to study medicine, just like his two brothers.

In London, his rebellious and artistic spirit came out, and he decided to study music instead of medicine. He enrolled in the Trinity College of Music and formed a band named the Koola Lobitos. His band played "highlife" -  a unique fusion of jazz and native African drums and rhythm popular in 1960s West Africa

In 1963, Fela moved back to Nigeria. On a tour of the United States in 1969, Fela met Sandra Smith (also known as Sandra Izsadore) a member of the Black Panther Party. Smith's ideas had a significant influence on Fela. After meeting her, his music moved away from the feel-good rhythm and spirit of highlife and evolved into a new, politically conscious and rebellious Afrobeat genre, which he pioneered on his return to Nigeria. As the themes of his lyrics changed from love to social issues, Fela renamed his band The Afrika '70. 

Fela soon dropped "Ransome" from his surname and replaced it with "Anikulapo", a Yoruba phrase meaning "one who has captured death and put it in his pouch", to convey a sense of invincibility.
At that moment, the legendary Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was born.

In 1970, he established a commune where his family and band lived and where his recording studio was set up. In 1971, he established a nightclub at the Empire Hotel in the Mainland area of Lagos called the Afro-Spot, where he would hold regular shows.

As the commune grew, he decided to call it the Kalakuta Republic after the Kalakuta cell in which he was kept during one of his many arrests. He made it a "republic" because as he said, "I wanted to identify the ways of myself or someone who didn't agree with that Federal Republic of Nigeria created by Britishman. I was in non-agreement."

In time, the Kalakuta Republic expanded to include neighbouring streets. In that creative space, everyone was permitted to do everything they wanted without harassment from the military regime that was then ruling Nigeria. Fela regularly smoked cannabis and encouraged his followers to do the same. Sex was also freely discussed and casually had among members of the community. 

When he abandoned Christianity as a relic of colonialism and embraced local traditional religion, the Afro-Spot started to be known as the Afrika Shrine and him as its chief priest.

Fela performed there three times a week from Friday to Sunday, with the Friday show, dubbed the Yabis Night, drawing the largest crowds. On Yabis nights, Fela opened the show by mocking himself - mostly the shape and size of his head - and then moved on to mocking his band, the audience and finally government officials. Fela would diligently point out the silliness of a new government effort, dismiss it as a failure and then break into his famed free-flowing Afrobeat.

Over time the word "Yabis" came to mean "using light-hearted sarcasm to address serious issues" in the Nigerian lexicon.

His poignant lyrics often focused on the state of Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world, but he would also often throw in some lewdness. He would often break off criticising the government to talk about the beauty of a woman's body in an explicit manner. 

His shows gradually became a focal point of the growing opposition to the military regime, which started to perceive Fela as a serious threat and used every opportunity to put him behind bars. He was regularly arrested on a variety of charges, most frequently for possession of marijuana.

The straw that broke the camel's back was his song titled Zombie, in which he sang about soldiers as mindless zombies who had no free will and followed orders without hesitation. The military decided it had had enough of Fela and his music, and sent hundreds of soldiers to raid the Kalakuta Republic under the pretext of an anti-drug operation. 

The soldiers burned several houses in the area to the ground and beat up and arrested residents. Fela's mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was thrown out of the second-floor window of her home.

When she died a few months later because of the injuries she sustained, Fela put her body in a coffin and took it to the gates of Dodan Barracks, which was the seat of power in the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo. 

He was beaten by soldiers for his efforts, but his stunt further fuelled the Nigerian public's growing outrage about the incident. Obasanjo was forced to deny that he authorised the invasion and claimed that the act was carried out by an "unknown soldier". Fela later wrote two songs describing the events, named Unknown Soldier and Coffin For Head of State. In the latter, the artist sang frankly about how Obasanjo and his deputy Shehu Musa Yar'Adua killed his mother and how he carried her coffin to the gates of Dodan Barracks.

After the destruction of the Kalakuta Republic, Fela moved his shows to the Crossroads Hotel and made the Ikeja area of Lagos his new home. He continued living his Bohemian lifestyle, famously marrying 27 women in one day. His attitude towards women would be questioned and described as misogynist. Fela's life with his multiple wives was later turned into a musical, titled Fela's Life With His Kalakuta Queens, by Nigerian arts connoisseur, Bolanle Austen-Peters.

In the 1980s, the authorities continued to harass Fela. He resumed writing hit after hit and speaking truth to power. In his songs, he frequently criticised General Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy Tunde Idiagbon. In 1983, Fela was sentenced to five years in jail on trumped-up charges of "currency speculation". When he was released in 1986, he started writing Beast of No Nation in which he mocked Buhari for launching a public "discipline" campaign:

"Make you hear this one
War against indiscipline, ee-oh
Na Nigerian government, ee-oh
Dem dey talk ee-oh
My people are useless, my people are senseless, my people are indiscipline"

His lyrics also attacked then-South African Prime Minister PW Botha, British PM Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan. He also slammed the United Nations for not taking action to end the apartheid in South Africa. 

When Fela Anikulapo-Kuti died of AIDS in 1997 at the age of 58, over one million Nigerians attended his funeral at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos Island.

After his death, his children continued his legacy. His son from his first marriage, Femi Kuti, who had started playing in Fela's band in the late 1970s, continued to follow in his father's footsteps and make music. Moreover, together with his sibling Yeni Anikulapo-Kuti he founded the New Afrika Shrine - an open-air entertainment centre in the Ikeja area of Lagos.

Recognised by power, forgotten by the music industry

One of the thousands of people who visited the New Afrika Shrine a few months after it opened in 2002 was a young intern at the French embassy. So captivated was that young Frenchman with what he saw, that he returned to the venue some 16 years later as the president of France. 

On July 3, at a special event at the Shrine, Emmanuel Macron bantered with Femi Kuti, whose music and performances he had become familiar with during his time in Nigeria. Femi later told me that he offered to take the president to the upper terrace of the Shrine, and he agreed. He described how they went upstairs, with Macron's security detail and Governor of Lagos State Akinwunmi Ambode tagging along.

After years of persecution and abuse, it seems Fela's legacy is finally receiving the respect it deserves from the authorities he once mercilessly criticised.

But while his music and activism are finally gaining widespread respect, the Nigerian music scene is moving away from his legacy. In recent years, artists from Nigeria have won global acclaim for their songs - conveniently referred to as Afrobeat - but their music lacks Fela's spirit of activism or rebellion.

Conscious music - the type Fela created - is music that wakes people up to the things around them, to the reality in which they live in. It stirs the mind of the listener to reflect on life. Conscious music comes from an artist who is himself conscious of the world he lives in.

But Nigerian artists today seem to be living in a reality of flash and cash: singing about money and the good life while ignoring the daily struggles and misery of many of their fans. Some of them say their music is a reflection of what the fans want - in Fela's time there was also a good market for feel-good music, but he chose a different path.

And this is where the true irony lies. The man who was despised by the authorities is now recognised and celebrated by them in his death, but artists who claim to be inspired by him continue to sing songs about an illusory reality. 

 Demola Olarewaju

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.

Jan 4, 2020

The KutiMangoes - Afrotropism

"The past 5 years we have taken our music all over the world: Europe, Asia, Africa besides our homeland Denmark, and even though we cannot speak with many of the people we meet, our music is a universal language that transcends borders. The meetings we have had (and continue to have) all over inspire us to create new music. But of course we are the composers of the music, so this is our representation of those meetings.

Our 3rd album is called AFROTROPISM. Tropism is a biological phenomenon that indicates growth of a plant in response to the environment; so when you see a plant turning for the sunlight, this is tropism. In other words, this is not so much about the plant's roots but more about how it reacts when it touches the air, feels sunlight or rain - in other words the outside world. So AFROTROPISM refers to the fact that we are drawn towards the African traditions, but we are "growing" our own music.

On our first two albums we have recorded extensively with African musicians, and AFROTROPISM is centered around The KutiMangoes (TKM) as a band. We are developing our artistic direction by going more in depth with how we can mix our inspirations with our own musical heritage. Our musical mission is (and has always been) to mix cultures and create our own sound.

With our background in jazz music, TKM counts virtuoso instrumentalists with a heartfelt intent and sound innovators with our horns, effect pedals, synthesizers, drums and percussion from all over the world. AFROTROPISM is a further and deeper development of our trademark bold sound that experiments with synthesizers, soundscapes and a bit of electronic effects without losing it's focus on groove, melody, atmosphere and musicianship."


Jan 3, 2020

Ebo Taylor - Palaver

BBE Music unearths ‘Palaver’, a long-lost, previously unreleased 1980 album from Ghanaian guitarist and songwriter Ebo Taylor.

If Fela Kuti was the king of Nigerian Afrobeat, then Ebo Taylor, 83 and still playing hard, is the king of Ghana Funky-Highlife. No doubt whatsoever. Much of Ebo’s beautiful 70s and 80s output has been reissued, as more and more Afro music lovers are being converted to his unique pan-West African sound.

In 1980 while on a club tour of Nigeria with his regular touring band, Ebo bumped into Chief Tabansi of Tabansi Records. They agreed that Taylor would record a one-album session to be released exclusively on Tabansi. Within a few days the deal was signed, the session completed, the tapes signed off, and Ebo and his band went on their way to complete their Nigerian tour.

But for reasons that no-one (including Ebo) can now fully recall, the master tapes got shelved in a dusty backroom in Tabansi’s Onitsha HQ. Where they remained, undisturbed, unreleased, unplayed, for almost forty years.

Last year, Peter Adarkwah of BBE Music signed off on a major multi-album reissue deal with Tabansi and its affiliated labels. ‘What about unissued material, if we find any?’ Joe Tabansi, Chief’s son and current administrator of the label, casually asked.

Yes, replied Peter- but WHAT unissued material?

Upon which, Joe produces these masters. The tapes are rushed to the redoubtable Carvery vinyl remastering and pressing plant in East London, and all at BBE soon realised that they had a masterpiece on their hands. All-new material, all Ebo’s own compositions, all recorded with Ebo’s crème-de-la-crème touring and recording players, including George Amissah. Mat Hammond, George Kennedy and George Abunuah among others.

Here it is, for the first time, anywhere. Ebo Taylor’s Lost Nigeria Sessions.


May 3, 2019

Seun Kuti's Black Times: Ignored @ Home, Celebrated Abroad

Originally published @pulse.ng

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One year after its release, we revisit Seun Kuti's Black Times album, its impact and how the Nigerian media has continuously turned a blind eye to it.

On March 2, 2018, the youngest son of the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti dynasty, released his fourth studio album, Black Times, a critically celebrated body of work that enjoyed rave reviews largely from the international media.

Released in the first quarter of the year, the eight-tracker album went under the radar for the major part of the year, only gaining some buzz in the final month of 2018.

In the aftermath of his nomination at the 61st edition of music's most glamorous awards, Grammys in the 'World Music' category, which held on Sunday, February 10, 2019, the media ran amok with stories and eulogies of Seun Kuti's music.

The subsequent news that he had been selected to perform at the pre-award show [Which he, however, failed to attend] further served as juicy content and hot topics within the music community, celebrating 'one of their own' in the loudest of voices with a number of his records getting the occasional spin on radio programs.

However, before Grammy night, the industry especially the media had largely behaved in a manner non indicatory that of the very few really dope projects released during the year, that of Seun Kuti ever made the space and immediately after the Grammys, particularly with the album failing to bring home the prestigious prize, it has been 'same of the same,' forgotten and shut out of conversations or airplays.

A regular flip through the over 20 radio stations that control the airwaves in a metropolitan city like Lagos will have you listening to regurgitated music from some sizeable number of pop artists, with rarely any from the stable of one of the year's standout material.

If the Grammys consider the Black Times as one of the best albums out of the continent in the past year, an album that features the likes of international stars likes Yasiim Bey, Grammy winning R&B musician, jazz pianist and producer Robert Glasper and multi Grammy award winner Carlos Santana, how come the media and music circle back home make it seem so much like an anonymous project?

Outside a few blogs that mentioned it in its 'Album of the year' lists, it was not even considered for any of the notable awards.

While undoubtedly there is a cloud that surrounds his surname with Fela's music only occasionally remembered during a time of crisis or rebellion, the Black Times album is not all about activism as he also offers short, danceable music that will fit into any drive home playlist or music blog roundups.
Songs like 'Bad Man Lighter' is a high-energy, party starter providing a balance to others like 'African Dreams' or 'Theory of Yam and Goat.'

In an interview he had with Pulse's Ayomide Tayo earlier in the year, Seun pointed an accusing finger at the media when asked if he felt young Nigerians are beginning to appreciate his type of music.
''I think if they are exposed more to music they would appreciate it... it is a matter of exposure and visibility.

I think our entire media, and not only in Nigeria really, I think it is a global phenomenon that people that own and control the media and control the institutions of influence want the world to see things from their perspective. They want their narrative to dominate society. In all the media that they own, they want the things that represent them to be showcased.

I just feel that people in Nigeria, young people and old people, should be exposed to as many forms of music as possible especially music that represents us and generally elevates our consciousness. We shouldn't stay on one plane and one basic level.''

Considerably, there is a significant amount of work required to be done on the backend these days to promote one's project but the media have gone through a self-fulfilling cycle, where only popular songs ever get pushed, coupled with Payola still a leading factor in the order of things.

But quite unlike what they have you believe, most people's actual listening preferences are quite different and many of us enjoy a wider variety of music than most OAP's give us credit for, especially when the song is one worthy enough for consideration by the biggest music event in the world.

The impact of Black Times

On the impact of the album since it was released, it will be unfair to restrict Seun’s success solely to his Grammy recognition. [But it very rarely gets any bigger than the Grammys]

Shortly after its release, the album debuted at the No 8 spot on the Billboard world music chart, his very first album to achieve such feat and in the past year, Seun has performed at a number of festivals and concerts across Europe, Asia and America. 

In August, he was on stage at the Haldern Pop festival in Germany and the Blue Note in Tokyo, Japan, and also went on a tour of the United States performing at sold out shows.

The album also helped solidify his presence in certain areas where his music had previously not penetrated confirming his place as a worthy leader well able of carrying the torch of Afrobeat to the next generation.

Music journalists in Nigeria, from the broadcast, print to online, who are supposed to be the industry tastemakers, introducing the listeners to the music they don't usually get to hear have all failed in their responsibility to the audience.

Instead of providing a neutral platform, many have chosen to behave like gatekeepers, limiting the standards of acceptable and play worthy records, focusing only on what is trending, and unconsciously playing a role in the decline of other genres.

Black Times may not in anyway be close to the popular sounds that millenials tune their dials in search of regularly, that doesn't deny the fact that this is a well polished and crafted collection of songs that finds Seun Kuti at the most matured state in his career.

This is his most accomplished album to date, one solid hour of vibrant music that is built on traditional Afrobeat sound with a lot of influence from contemporary styles, an album worth celebrating.

Perhaps his outspoken nature on recent social happenings may also be a factor but that hasn't stopped the radio from playing Davido who in the past few months has fully put on the political garb.
Seun, who heads the Egypt 80, a band he took over following the death of his father, may not have created the Afrobeat sound but he has succeeded in making it unique in his own way and even when we don't readily consider other genres outside the pop sounds, it helps if we indulge in these type of projects even if it is once in a while.

One year after it was released, 'Black Times' provides timeless music and it is upto the Nigerian media to do better and ensure its message widens to the ears of the young listeners.

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Originally published @pulse.ng, written by Ehis Ohunyo

Apr 30, 2019

Omorinmade Anikulapo Kuti - An interview

Originally published @pulse.ng

Omorinmade Anikulapo Kuti carries with him a graceful mien and being a Kuti naturally bears some weight of expectations on him, but he is unfazed, focused only on his music and living life as defined only by himself.

There is something about the Kuti clan that signals towards the rebellious and the enigmatic but as the descendant of one of Nigeria's most inspirational and cultural figure, Fela Kuti, made his way into the Pulse office, it appeared that he had become used to the cloud that hovers wherever he went especially in form of the curious stares as he exchanged pleasantries with a matured level of awareness and confidence.

''No, it has never been like that, maybe it is because of the kind of person I am, I don't move into spaces where I cause trouble for myself, so very rarely do you see my outside.'' Made explains when I asked if the attention ever gets overwhelming for him.

''In a way, you are aware of the attention and it governs your actions to a degree, you know the things you can't do and the ones you will be praised for and shunned for. 

On the other hand, it has its positives as well, it opens doors sometimes, it got me my place in my university, I don't want to speak like the fame or attention is something to feel burdened about,'' he shared.

He smiles robustly when I jokingly ask him to confirm the rumor that the light never goes off at the shrine.

For Made, music is his life, the great-great-grandson of J.J Ransome Kuti, great-grandson of Israel Ransome Kuti, great-grandson of Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, grandson of Fela Anikulapo Kuti and son of Femi Kuti and Funke Kuti was born into a world surrounded by instruments, sounds and ideologies, but he says he is not in any way intimidated;

''It's not pressure, it is fuel. if you understand the legacy then, you understand what the individual from each legacy stand for, and it is not something that makes you scared if you share the passion, It is something that gives you inspiration.''

In this exclusive interview with Pulse, Made Kuti talks about setting up his own band, how he became a member of his father's Positive Force band, working on his solo album and his thoughts on Nigeria and the state of things.

How was growing up like for you?

''I grew up in the shrine and when you grow up in the shrine, you grow up around music."  

If you step in the shrine now, behind you have pictures of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Kwame Nkrumah, you have Marcus Garvey, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, you have Lumumba [Patrice], so the question is who are these people, what is this music speaking about. 

You grow up in that environment, you grow up very conscious of your identity as an African, even as a black man, so you ask all the questions that should eventually lead you to become an intellectual.

Why are black people the way they are? why do people look at the shrine that way? why are there so many false rumors even though we don't do anything bad.

Why do they associate members of the family with so many negative and positive things? so you ask so many questions, it leads you to become a very thoughtful person.''

How would you describe yourself?

''I think of myself as an intellectual, someone who is flexible enough to accept when he is wrong, flexible to adapt to changes, flexible enough to grow and to learn every day. 

You had to adapt in school, anywhere outside of shrine, there are not many spaces that allow you to think freely. 

I consider myself a pan-Africanist and I think I have had to adapt to many situations. When I went to University in London, being a pan-Africanist was actually a strong sign of my identity and they appreciated that.''

He describes his type of music as a fusion of Afrobeats and other genres.

Were there times you had to question some of your pan-Africanism?

''Recently I had. During our last European tour, there was always a point on stage when my dad would speak about global unity rather than African unity, but then he will always end it again by saying there cannot be global unity without African unity and African development and growth.
That's the only way for the world to reach that ideal that we so wish for. I am a pan-Africanist that wants the growth of Africa but wishes for a more diverse and united planet.''

You have been touring since you were eight, how has that been?
''That question is very tough to answer because I don't know any life except Kuti life.
When I was eight, I played two venues that musicians dream of playing. I played the Hollywood Bowl and I played Glastonbury and at the time I didn't appreciate it at all, that was just another venue.
Then I was about 19, I was going through YouTube and was watching one of my dad's shows at Glastonbury and who did I see, myself and I was like, what?

It is only now as an adult that I can look back and say because of my father I have had so many experiences, you can't buy that.''

How is it like playing alongside your dad?

''That is something I know that the only other thing I can experience that will be similar is when I play with my daughter or son, you can't describe it. 

With music, you transcend. It is something special and to feel that there is someone next to you that is doing it with the same amount of vigor, the same amount of passion, connected to you is very special and I am just glad I got the chance to experience it.''

Do you see him as a Dad on stage?

''Always dad and boss at the same time'', he smiles while recollecting their most special performances, ''The most special are the ones at the shrine.''

Tell us about you joining the Positive Force Band and why it took someone absconding for you to take your place?

Sometime in 2018, a member of Femi Kuti's Positive Band, Aghedo Andrew had absconded just minutes before the band took to stage in the United States leaving a void that has now been filled by Made and he explains why it took this long.

''It was never part of the plan. Like I was never supposed to actually play for him.
What happened was as soon as I went to Trinity College, I was supposed to immediately start my career, put a band together and start making an album.

I wasn't even a bass player, I just happened to be learning the bass on the side and he happened to hear me play. 

The first time the bassist ran away, he said Made, ''Can you learn 50 plus songs in one week, we are about to go on a one week European tour and I said yeah, the rule in music is you never let anyone know your weaknesses, so Yes is always the answer, so I said Yeah, I did it.

We played on Thursday and Sunday normally at the shrine, went on the tour for one week, came back, everything went smoothly, that was supposed to be the last time I played with him.

I went back to Trinity, then I graduated and another bassist ran away, I came back, golden opportunity and I am about to go on a four week European tour with Femi Kuti and the Positive Force in Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, you don't say No, that is life experience, it wasn't part of the plan but if that bassist didn't run away, I don't know where my place will be in the band. I probably would have just played sax solos, I won't have gone on tours.''

Will your band still come to life or that has been overshadowed by your place in your father's band?

''No, we are constantly still working on that. I have finished writing the album, we are unto the business phase of it, I am talking to people, it is going well, and I think I can do both, play my music and be part of the band.''

The album is expected to be released in 2020.

Members of the Positive Force band are placed on a pay scale depending on how long they have been members of the band and Made being the most recent member having joined less than a year ago is reportedly placed on the lowest scale and he explained;

''I am at the bottom of the payroll (He laughs). There isn't any family partiality, that is the type of person he is, he is too honest, the fact that he put me there is his decision, totally his decision.
First I am a musician that just started his career and is touring the country, that should be more than enough, so to be paid on top of that, I am just happy and Its a good salary.''

What instrument is your specialty?

''Under my dad, I learned the saxophone, that is what I played and what my identity as a musician is but I when I went to London for those seven years, the first three years, I focused on classical piano, I didn't even pick up the sax for two years. 

So I passed the grades in Piano and did the ATCL Diploma which made me quite confident that a part of my career will be as a classical pianist. Then for some reason, I found this love for the trumpet, then the bass, piano, sax and then I started playing the drums.

I would define myself not as a saxophonist or composer but a multi-instrumentalist composer, so in total, I play five instruments.''

If Made was not doing music, what will he be doing?

''Honestly, maybe Physics. I like Astronomy.''

You have been actively playing music for about 16 years, do you think you will ever get to a point where you are tired of this life and seek to do something different?

''Music is vast. I studied composition at Trinity Laban, I didn't actually do any instruments, so I studied how to write. 

So even if at any point, I tire out of touring, there is always film music, there is always advert, there is always orchestra, there is too much in music to ever get tired.''

Do you have the time to do something else outside music?

''Every day, I try to practice the trumpet, sax, piano and the bass. Now that my siblings are growing up, I am giving them Piano lessons and they come to me for Sax and Trumpet advice as well.

So most of my day is music, but at the end of every day, you play with your siblings, once in a while, I put a show on, my dad and I play FIFA every night for like one-hour straight, so I think that is our de-stressing activity.''

How long can you hold a note on the sax without taking a breath?

''Dad's record is 51 minutes, I am not going to say mine, it is long but it is not even half of that.'' he laughs.

Outside your father, who are your other musical influences?

''I have Coltrane, Miles, the popular ones Oscar Peterson. For Classical, I like Chopin and I really like Stravinsky and Bach.

In the electronic world, I like Aphex Twin and I like Japanese Rock.''

Your grandfather Fela died barely two years after your birth, what has been the most important thing passed on about his legacy to you?

''The most important thing is his integrity. He was a man of strong conviction. And even when he did things that were out of normal, he did things believing it was what he wanted to do, so I liked that confidence in him.

Do you have experiences of people saying negative things about your family?

''Very many times, my siblings are presently experiencing it. 

The way I dealt with it is I was very quiet by the time I got to secondary school, so I didn't say anything, it was like a task that I just had to complete to get to my next stage of life. You have to take it with strength, you can't allow yourself to be phased by words.

What I have learnt to accept is to live my life in a very clear way, very clear morals, very clear values, at any point it is forcibly challenged, I just go with the flow. When you remain uncompromising with your integrity, it just blows away.

Look at Femi Kuti today, I remember when I was young, they said he was mad, there was a paper that said he was running naked on the streets, can you imagine seeing that as a child. 

Then your friends ask you if this is true, eventually you become used to it. I don't feel the need to constantly make my reputation good, you should be uncompromising in the way you live your life.''

You have been exposed to this life from a very early age, now that you are your own man, would you have wished for certain things to be different?

''No, I think everything I have experienced has made me who I am today, I quite like who I am today. I feel more interested in who I become, I don't look at the past too much, I only learn from it and even more interesting than my own history is the history of the entire family. I look back to learn, I don't look back to try to change anything.

Tell us about life in the shrine

''I grew up there, I have always either backstage or looking at the shrine, so to be standing there and to be playing with as much energy as I can, that stage, in particular, is sacred to me.''

How is the crowd at the shrine like compared to other places you have performed?

''You adapt. In School, I have done a few concerts on the piano, So I have also adapted to an audience that is sitting doing actually nothing until you finish playing, I have had both extremes.
But then on tour, because they know they are watching Femi Kuti, they actually are ready to groove, but the vibe is different. It is not different bad but it is just different.''

You spoke about growing up in the shrine, do you ever feel like one who grew up in a controlled environment?

''Very wrong, because shrine was my home but I had to go to school and on excursions, I saw a lot of the outside world, and what I found out was what was normal was very contrary to what I experienced as normal. 

So you have that clash between your friends and your mates, basic conversations whether it is religion or politics talks about social issues, you find that growing up in the shrine makes you think about things slightly different from the normal and you accept that you are different and think differently.

In school, it is a box, you are controlled and the way you think, shrine allowed me to challenge those normal thoughts.''

Would you describe yourself as a religious person or an atheist?

''I am nowhere in that spectrum, I am just in between. I am not religious because no religion has yet to answer the questions that I have and I am not an atheist because I don't have the answers to the questions that I have, so I am just somewhere in between, asking questions and looking for answers.''

Tell us a bit about your Mum and how she has influenced you?

 'There is a lot. She has made me very fashion conscious. 
I am not good at fashion but she has made me aware of the way I look. She has the traits that a mother will have, support, love, kindness always there whenever you need a discussion relating to the challenges that you are facing.''

He also shares his thoughts on Polygamy, ''I think the problem starts to occur when we act as if there are universal laws dictating how you are supposed to live, whereas its culture based. 

It depends on your culture, the influences you have around you, I don't judge people and it is not my place to challenge you based or your personal decisions.''

The Kutis are also known for being vocal politically, what do you think about the nation presently, especially with the elections?

''My thoughts are I hope, that whatever happens, we are stable afterwards. I really hope that whatever the people are somehow able to maintain their calm irrespective of what happens.

 What do you think needs to change in Nigeria?

''First, who is a Nigerian? What does Nigerian really mean? We put a lot of importance to names and meanings and it is the same with every other culture in the country. If we put so much value in identity, what does Nigeria really mean? I hate the name I can't lie.

Coming to Nigeria from having a stable job in London or America is a sacrifice. You will be sacrificing possibly a lesser salary and on top of that there are bad roads, no light, why would you come back knowing that you will be happier outside but the only reason why you would is if you are socially conscious to want to contribute to Nigeria, there is no other reason. 

If you come back, I believe you are thinking as an African that wants to be part of the growth of Africa.

We need to up the standard of Africa starting from a hugely populated country like Nigeria and we will see a lot of people coming back home.''

What are your parting words to the Nigerian Youth?

''My message is specifically to the Nigerian youths, we have been failed, the generation before us failed us, they did their best but because of their compliance, because of their inactivity, we are where we are today and if we repeat the mistakes of those that came before us, our actions will affect the generations after us. 

It will never end, at some point, we have to think collectively, if we don't think as a people, as a closely connected generation, if we don't bounce ideas off each other, if we don't talk, then there is nothing for us.

The power behind this country is too strong for any one person to face alone, even a thousand people if the entire generation does not start thinking collectively, consciously and even progressively, we will still be here in the next 100 years, unfortunately.''

This interview has been lightly edited for content and clarity.

Originally published @pulse.ng

Author: Ehis Ohunyon 

Apr 1, 2019

Tony Allen & Jeff Mills - Tomorrow Comes The Harvest

Techno titan Jeff Mills has teamed up with the father of Afrobeat, Tony Allen, for a collaborative album titled 'Tomorrow Comes The Harvest'. The new project is Mills' attempt to " liberate himself from the tyranny of the sequencer" as told on the new duo's Facebook page. “We’re working together to achieve something bigger than the both of us,” says Mills. “It really is a pure collaboration, not just through music, but in our minds and spirit as well.”

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There’s a simple, age-old idea behind Tomorrow Comes the Harvest: Throw two luminaries from different worlds into the studio, roll tape, see what happens. 

In one corner, find Jeff Mills, whose credentials are unimpeachable — he co-founded Underground Resistance, the future-facing electronic Detroit outfit that created reams of charged, jazz-friendly techno and several house-leaning dancefloor classics. In the other, meet Tony Allen, the longtime drummer for Nigerian star Fela Kuti, who helped invent the commanding, endlessly adaptable afrobeat groove. This is not the first such pairing — for example, Allen played with German techno maven Moritz von Oswald in 2015 — but the scene is set for a cross-generational, cross-disciplinary and even cross-continental exchange; the potential energy is high.

The results are more pedestrian, though. It’s a testament to Allen’s indomitability that Mills largely defers to him. The drummer is everywhere, kicking up a recognizable vortex of pitter-patter, but if you didn’t know Mills was on this, his presence might go unnoticed. That diffidence is a missed opportunity — Tomorrow Comes the Harvest would benefit from a sense of more productive addition, or creative friction. 

“Locked and Loaded” comes closest to this: Low-toned electronics bounce and decay, adding a threatening undercurrent to Allen’s unrelenting pulse. This could lead to something genuinely nasty, though they don’t quite reach that point on Tomorrow Comes the Harvest. “The Seed” has the most melodic development, with incessant bleeping giving way to satisfyingly big sheets of sound. 

But mostly these four songs, four edits and two remixes sound like an energetic drummer enhanced slightly with the occasional squirting synth and percussive electronic chatter. If the drummer wasn’t Allen, that would be more of a problem.

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Back in 2016, legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen approached techno pioneer Jeff Mills with the idea of working together. A series of live gigs and off-the-radar studio sessions followed, with the first fruits of their joint efforts finally appearing on this must-have 10". As you'd expect, the duo's collaborative work combines Allen's traditional Nigerian polyrhythms, traditional Afrobeat instrumentation, and the far-sighted, sci-fi inspired electronic futurism that has always marked out Mills' work. The result is a quartet of cuts that could arguably be described as retro-futurist Afro-tech - all delay-laden beats, basslines and organs subtly sparring with gentle acid lines, Motor City electronics, beguiling deep space textures and shimmering, 31st century motifs. It's arguably Allen's stylistic contributions that dominate, but that's no bad thing.