Jul 2, 2009

Seun Kuti - Many Things


The youngest son of the infamous Nigerian Afrobeat innovator Fela Kuti, Seun seems to have taken his time before stepping into the spotlight left empty after the demise of his father in 1997. Seun's brother Femi was the first to do so, and if this confident debut by his sibling is anything to go by, he'll be struggling to keep his place there. As a performer, Seun is far more of a chip off the old block than Femi, and with a gruffer and more street-wise sounding vocal delivery. And with his dad's old band Egypt 80 behind him, he's a force to be reckoned with.

Featuring as they do Seun's keyboards, guitars, a punchy horn section trading licks with various soloists, interlocking layers of percussion and a female call-and-response chorus, this 18-piece incarnation of Egypt 80 do sound somewhat like they did on Fela's later recordings. Even so, the songs are much shorter (between five and nine minutes as opposed to Fela’s quarter-hour epics) and producer Martin Messonier has given them a crisper, more modern sound. There's also a smattering of effects such as making Seun's voice jump from speaker to speaker and the sparing use of treated vocals and atmospheric samples that seem to nod at the singer's role models in contemporary hip hop.

The muscular, upbeat Don't Give That Shit To Me features a cool sax solo – Seun or bandleader Baba Ani – and seems to echo one of Fela's sentiments, as expressed on his 1984 song You Gimme Shit I Give You Shit. With three minutes of instrumental intro, the title track wallows in a slinky, sensual rhythm, but the funky, stumbling Fire Dance hots things up with a strong party vibe. Na Oil’s huge bass line helps make it another highlight, with African Problems the only relatively duff track, mainly because of a slightly awkward vocal.

Seun drifts between English, Yoruba and Pidgin English, so for non-Nigerians, the fact that such lyrics are only half-understood has the dual benefit of adding to their mystique and shifting the focus onto the grooves, of which there are many.

Tracklist:

1 Think Africa
2 Don't Give That Shit to Me
3 Many Things
4 Fire Dance
5 Mosquito Song
6 Na Oil
7 African Problems

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