Jun 22, 2011

Femi Kuti seeks new musical direction

Femi Kuti is ready to go beyond Afrobeat. But the oldest son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Anikulapo Kuti isn't sure where that will actually take him.

"I don't know what will happen," Femi, who's currently touring North America to promote his latest studio album, "Africa to Africa," tells Billboard.com. "I just know I'm bored of what I'm doing. I want to find a new direction -- not on my next album but probably by 2014, I'll have a new direction by then. Something in the next four or five years will change. I know I have to change."

Kuti says that in particular he's started playing more trumpet and that he hopes "in four years to develop another kind of sound with the trumpet." He also says he's "trying everything possible with technology, doing everything I can, mixing it with rap." And, he predicts, "I might go classical very soon."

As to those who would prefer he stay the Afrobeat course, Femi argues that change has always been an essential part of his musical makeup. "It's like medicine, you know?" he explains. "It's like the cure so that life doesn't remain stagnant."

He does, however, expect his music to retain the political and socially conscious focus it's had since he was playing in his father's bands. "I believe this is the way to forward the world," Femi says. "Instead of singing love stories, these are issues that touch me personally more. They're more important than love stories or broken hearts to me. If some other person wants to sing about his love story and have quite a huge following, that's fine. A lot of people don't want to discuss politics. But I feel social ills, politics are more important to me."

And, Femi acknowledges, he's finding more ears open to that thanks to the success of the hit musical "Fela!," which will be going on tour this year. "There's definitely a bigger following for Afrobeat now," Femi says. "Even people who knew about my father, now they can marry the history and what was going on in the 70s, 80s, 90s and now. There's a greater understanding of this history, definitely. And a lot of producers of hip-hop are great fans of Afrobeat, so we never know what will develop, musically."

billboard.com, written by Gary Graff, published May 2011

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