Femi Kuti has been as blessed by the prodigious talent running through his veins as he has been cursed by living in a creative world circumscribed by everyone’s expectations of him as the son of the extraordinary Fela Kuti.
How does one get over being constantly compared to a figure with such epic talents, appetites and propensity for trouble as Fela? How indeed as pretty much the whole world seems to have switched on to the Black President himself in the last 12 months.
The New Africa Shrine is a political party in every sense of the word. It is a channel of communication between Femi and his own people. I recommend every pop star should have one, it would stop them from getting so pompous
Femi’s previous albums have seen him define his own, tighter, afrobeat sound than his father’s and allowed him to explore a mutual love affair with Western dance music and hip hop. Now — with remarkably good timing — Femi has released his sixth album at the height of Fela fever and it is his most reminiscent of his father’s work to date.
Perversely, though, it does not feel like he is falling in behind his father’s legacy but rather stepping out from his shadow and saying: ‘I don’t have to be different and I don’t have to be the same, I will do my things my own way.” I get the feeling that this is the relaxed, mature work of someone who no longer has as much to prove.
One of his great labours of love has been to recreate his father’s ‘Shrine’ in a new location. The New Africa Shrine is a political party in every sense of the word. It is more importantly a channel of communication between Femi and his own people. I recommend every pop star should have one, it would stop them from getting so pompous. Africa Shrine was recorded live at the New Africa Shrine in Lagos and it has that wonderful feeling you get when musicians are not out to prove anything apart from the fact that they are going to give it their all. Just listen to him affectionately chide his fan base for their propensity to litter and, as you can see on the video, throw plastic bottles at Femi on stage.
And I think it is for all of them that he has resurrected one of his father’s best tunes Water No Get Enemy (notice how it is not ‘Get No’ it is ‘No Get’, just about every reviewer has been getting this mixed up). I was at Ocean in Hackney a couple of years ago when he performed this track live and everyone went as mad for it there as they do in Lagos on the night this album was recorded.
Just as good though are his own anthemic tunes like Dem Bobo with which he kicks off the album or I Wanna Be Free which deals with some of the pain that he has been through since his father died and my favourite, the slower paced Eho.
Also see: Femi Kuti Live at the Shrine (DVD)
Euro Tour Dates
27th Centralstation, Darmstadt, Germany
28th Usine, Geneve
29th Rote Fabrik, Z¸rich
31st Kesselhaus / Kulturbrauerei, Berlin
6th Melkweg, Amsterdam
7th The Paard,Den Haag
9th Muffathalle, M¸nich
12th Bikini, Barcelona
13th KafÈ Antzoki, Bilbao
14th La Riviera, Madrid
I Wanna Be Free
If Them Want To Hear
Can’t Buy Me
Bring Me The Man Now
Water No Get Enemy
Link (in French and with French tour dates): mk2
Africa Shrine is released on mk2 music
Interview with Femi Kuti
Link: Pictures of Femi Kuti live at the Barbican in London