Jul 1, 2011
Femi Kuti - GALORE interview magazine
This interview was orginally published in the unfortunately not-existing anymore German interview magazine GALORE in the print paper edition Vol. 4 (2004).
Due to the technically-supported translation of the orginal German texts I already give an excuse for any misunderstandings or small mistakes but somehow I think the interview is still interesting to read.
"Traditions are not meant to eliminate the thinking."
09.11.2004, Backstage in Munich Muffathalle:
Femi Kuti, sprawls on a wooden chair in one hand and a burnt joint, the other around playfully on the valves of a trumpet.
Mr. Kuti, your texts are by African standards, unusually liberal and politically provocative ...
He who does not talk about politics, which is expressed. You are a political being, once you are born.
You mean you can not do anything else?
I feel there is a continuity in me: the political opposition in Nigeria started with my family. Even my grandparents fought in the fifties against the widespread abuses in their city, the protests over the whole of Nigeria. We were regarded as enemies of the state: I remember that the car in which I drove with my father was shot by soldiers. Later, soldiers have fallen in a raid my grandmother out of the window. I just came home from school, because I saw the uniformed men to besiege the house: I immediately ran to school to pick up my sister and my mother to get to safety. When I returned, the house was burned down, my grandmother died my father then carried her body to go before the presidential palace. We are all often come to prison, simply because we belonged to his family. The charges were all far-fetched.
Your father Fela Kuti was imported after a stay in America the end of the sixties, the ideas of Black Power movement in Africa.
If there are any human rights movement in Nigeria, it is because of my father. It's been nearly beaten to death for it dozens of times. For ten years he has to fend for themselves fighting the military regime, even before his brother went into politics, before anyone else was brave enough, to stand against the dictators. No one could dissuade him from this course - no prison, no torture.
If there are any human rights movement in Nigeria, it is because of my father. No one could dissuade him from this course - no prison, no torture.
Has something changed since then in your home for good?
Very little. We are the sixth largest oil producer in the world, but in Lagos have neither electricity nor running water. How can you deny these problems easily? Your life is constantly in Nigeria in danger, you want to move forward somehow, but not even get the simplest of tools found who would be needed. We vegetate like animals and it hurts my pride to see it. That is what my music.
Still, you live in Lagos and not about how many of your African colleagues in London, Los Angeles or Paris.
The frustration can kill you in Africa, but there are an invisible force that holds together all things. Our education is based on the death. Life means nothing to have understood the Africans. Everyone dies, and the worms will eat him. There remains only a short life span, to achieve something. How could I let this situation in my country men in the lurch?
To win and despite the prospect of personal security in the West and millions of dollars?
Me holding the tradition of my family. But I also understand all the Africans who remain in the West. The homesick, but will only return when they can expect a minimum of security. I can never sleep well on tour, when I think of my wife and my son at home.
They rely on the inheritance of your father, Fela Kuti. But when they formed their own band for the first time, he cast them for years.
As his son I've been through hard times. Now I am a man and can decide: Do I like so many women like my father? I love sex, I love women. But I do not think I will stop me from playing music through sex. Because we are different people.
Today the life of your father, his many wives, the company he often romanticized Kalakuta Republic retroactively.
My father was a true African. He had 27 wives. He talked openly about sex, as happened earlier African in every household. Only religion has disrupted our relationship to sex. Since the predominance of Christians and Muslims in Nigeria today, no one talks openly about his genitals. Everyone is afraid of it. My father, however, has presented his views in a very uninhibited way of expression. Meanwhile, I've been thinking a lot about him: His lifestyle was part of his dream. If he had not raised it again and again, he would have run away after the first beating. Every part of his body was broken, bruised, beaten bloody. Then he had to enjoy all things excessively. If he had relieved his pain rather than by smoking tons of marijuana - he would not have escaped alive. I will not criticize my father why.
He was revered in his lifetime by many fans as a deity.
Because he has led the lives of 500 men. Many would give anything to make music like him all the time, eat and have sex just to have to call only if you need anything. What more could you want? He was a king.
So is it correct to portray your father as a macho hero and woman?
I must explain to the people of Europe, our culture, otherwise they do not understand: Why does a man have so many women? This has certainly nothing to do with the fact that the Africans do not respect his wife. In Nigeria, in reality the woman is in charge. Just one example from my parents' house: The mother looks out for the son's wife or the girl with whom he goes. When he brings home the wrong thing, they send them away again.
Can you live with such traditions?
I have a wife, not 27 like my father. And that's enough for me completely. We have a son, whom we love very much. My African brothers always wonder, How can you have only one child? What if it dies? It belongs to the African culture, many have children, because they ensure our future. We believe that we continue to live in them. But I'm happy with my son. I have enough intelligence to decide about my own affairs. Traditions are there to take the best of them, not to abolish the thinking.
Their songs provoke the establishment of your home. Nevertheless, or perhaps because you are selling millions of cassettes in Nigeria alone.
The radios have not made me big, I play in either Nigeria or other African dictatorships. Ordinary people rush to buy my tapes and in my concerts - because they believe in me more than the politicians. The older ones have abused their positions. So the boys no longer have respect for them.
They contribute to the African stage costumes, the songs in your request Reafrikanisierung of Christian names and country names. Because you are not in opposition to the global African urban youth?
The problem in my home is the self-denial of our culture. We forget our traditional medicine, religion, music. If we have about two shoes to choose from, an African and a Western, then we have been taught to choose the Western product as the supposedly better. Similarly with music: gangsta rap emerged as it did the young people in Lagos imitate their U.S. models. Everyone said motherfucker, bitch. Everyone suddenly felt his disputes with guns have to unsubscribe. And then surprised everyone. The entertainment industry is the worst part of America and imported it to Nigeria.
You see an alternative?
I will not accept that we are wasting all our talent in Africa. I am speaking, not even the music, after all, it is still considered a disgrace if one knows nothing about Africans. But we have also historians, economists and engineers. Why can not we develop our own technology? Why we do not develop research centers for traditional African medicine? Show times but only after Japan and China, these countries know even the western culture, but have their own still far from being abandoned. Why should we throw away our most valuable simple?
What has the African culture of the western advance?
If you have a child in Africa, for example, to worry your mother, sisters, brothers, cousins and cousins of it. In Western society, but must do it for strangers to child care. No wonder, when you repeatedly hear of cases of child abuse. Unfortunately, this problem is now well advanced in the big African cities. We have imported the Western lifestyle. Another example: You can be in Africa never really burned because there is always someone to help you out of trouble. If you're broke in the West, then you will usually nobody to the side. Your father will hunt you in a certain age, even from the house if you still do not earn their own money. Not that all this would be wrong in principle. On the other hand, we can not simply accept everything at face value.
Nigeria is the sixth largest oil producer in the world, but in Lagos have neither electricity nor running water. We vegetate like animals and it hurts my pride to see it.
Staying with music: Her father had not even mixed American jazz, soul and funk rhythms in the domestic, to do with the so-called Afro-Beat (1) a universal language?
Of course we can learn a thing or two from the West: I myself can not say that my music is pure African. Then put in there also influences from James Brown or Michael Jackson, no question. Nevertheless, I let myself be easy to identify as Africans. That American culture in Africa as widely propagated is that hardly anyone is able to escape - that's one thing. On the other hand, we must learn to accept only what we're really good, while maintaining our own style.
Does the same apply to religion?
You have given us the Bible and took our gold. Now the Africans say that God cares for us - although religiously motivated conflicts are one of Africa's greatest problems. We are fighting us because of a religion that does not come from our ancestors. The Whites have called us pagans, but obviously they have learned much of their knowledge of their God from us. Jesus and Moses were in Africa. The great Africans of ancient Egypt were also black. This is all well documented - and yet it is not taught in African schools. I've learned as an adult from books and from my father. There's still a lot of power in African spiritual traditions. My father has expressed this power in his music and his life.
All Fela Kuti albums have just been re-released. Afrobeat pioneers like Tony Allen, the former drummer of your father's experience, making a comeback, and the famous techno and house DJs to remix your songs - you understand that?
I have always expected. Miles Davis said in his autobiography, will be the Afrobeat music of the future. Meanwhile, I also work with American hip-hop artists like Mos Def or Common, together, who know every song of my father.
His latest album "Africa Shrine" documents before his home crowd in Lagos, the unbroken live energy of Afrobeat. How often do you come to perform in your own club?
The re-opened, Shrine is' continues the tradition of the legendary club, which my father once served as a stage and altar. Whether I'm at home or on tour: Every weekend there is a live band. But for the two to three thousand visitors who hinströmen there on Saturday night, it's not just about the music. The 'Shrine' is a meeting place, one of the few places where one finds his peace in Lagos. Otherwise young people will be offered in this little metropolis - what a surprise when they slip off too easily turn to crime?
Your music publishing exclusively on European labels. An affront to their Nigerian fans?
First of all, it is of vital importance for every African musicians to sell his records in the West. The African record companies are all collapsed due to corruption, for the pirated cassette tapes on the domestic markets, we see a cent. African music is so self-evident. No one realized that they can exist only if you pay for it.
Does this mean that Western market models do not work in Africa?
Not only that, but Western state systems can not be exported. I do not believe it does not work. Democracy is based on religion as superstition. How can we determine about 51 percent of the other 49 percent?
The African record companies are all broken down, for the pirated tapes, we see a cent. African music is so self-evident. No one realized that they can exist only if you pay for it.
Which alternative do you see?
We need a government form, the feeling of all present. What we expect from life? Enough money to feed our children, medical care, schools, deserve the name, a decent education. A government that can not afford it, does not deserve the name. Why are all fighting for power? To be president, should be to be the first servant of the people - in fact it runs the other way around. We need to reclaim the African principle of the community: Before there was a decision taken had to agree to all the elders or sages. And any way representing a village or ethnic group. So had, unlike in the western democracy, the minority to say as much as the majority. Although nine million votes for anything, and only one person on the other hand: Who says this is an injustice?
That sounds now but for political utopia.
We need only recall our ancient African civilizations. If the books agree, then they were not a utopia. An African president, who takes his job seriously, should have no time for parties, receptions and tours. The problems in the country to tolerate no delay: I think for example of AIDS. In Europe, the situation has stabilized, however, AIDS in Africa explodes, entire regions are depopulated. If I were president, I would put at the forefront of my agenda.
Also, because your own father died of AIDS?
If even an educated man like my father did not believe in the existence of this disease, was obviously missed a lot to educate this generation about AIDS. They have spread in Africa to much conflicting information about the disease: about, that they would only transmitted from monkeys and homosexuals that heterosexuals would be immune. In Europe, they clarify the people for 15 years, in Africa it is only now catching on with it.
What is your contribution to the Enlightenment?
I give a concert in Africa, where I do not talk about AIDS. When I was honored in South Africa as an African artist of the year, I talked about what my father had died. In the West, to much fanfare as projects, made We Are The World ', but I'm not convinced that these millions has flowed really in the right channels. We are the world, but Africa is dying. This is the reality.
Their message to the Western audience?
People in the West take Nigerian oil - but which of them has already an idea of our life circumstances? I tour for a half decades in the West and have a lot on TV about the crimes of the Nazis saw. The Germans can never sleep so hopefully calm. But who tells them of 500 years of colonial exploitation and genocide in Africa? This is dealt with two lines in the history books. Here is the story of its modern continuation: Who denounces the U.S. and European multinationals, our pump out the oil? They make a handful of rich individuals, which in turn enslave their own people. This is the second slavery.