Roots Records has been one of Columbus’ best record stores for over 20 years. In addition to providing the region’s best selection of reggae, afrobeat, and world music, they’ve also been more responsible than anyone for bringing in the hottest acts in genres that don’t often come to Columbus on tour. This year alone they’ve brought Richie Spice, Cham, Third World, and Israel Vibration. They’re ending the year with a bang as they bring to town one of the reigning kings of Afrobeat: Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 to the Alrosa Villa on Friday, December 16 at 9pm (tickets and more info here). Continue reading below the jump for more info and videos.
Seun Kuti is the youngest son of the great Fela Kuti who continued his legacy through fronting Egypt 80 from the time he was 14 at the time of Fela’s death. In an interview with Red Bull Music Academy, he’s clear that he has little time for discussion of inheriting the band. “My brother [Femi Kuti] had his own band already before my father died. I was already playing with the band when my dad died, and I just kept playing. Even now, to be honest, I am not the bandleader of the Egypt 80. I’m just like the CEO of the company.” Egypt 80 still contains roughly three-quarters of the musicians who played under Fela including the bandleader, Lekan Animashaun (also known as Baba Ani) who was recruited as a baritone sax player in 1969.
Kuti has carried on in the vein of his father the understanding that everything is connected and an eye to the heart of the systems behind everything but also his eye for precise, human details. And how those systems are manipulated by the powerful. In an excellent interview with The Quietus, Kuti expounded on this, “This is not even an African issue. This is a capitalist issue. As I say, no system is perfect. Socialism is what it is, and capitalism is what it is. Any perfect society has to be a combination of both. In the way, we live our lives and survive and grow to be social, in terms of transportation, healthcare, security, shelter, food. I personally believe those are the five major things people need to survive. It has to be social. It has to be something we provide for ourselves, provide for everybody together in one pot… Cars? If you wanna drive your fancy car, fine. You wanna wear some fine clothes? Fine…But capitalism wants to control the survival of humanity, and this way is wrong. This way I believe capitalism has become perverse, in the way they steal people’s homes, they steal people’s healthcare, they steal people’s transportation. This is where capitalism is perverse and is just allowed to run wild, because everybody in government is a capitalist.”
The new EP, Struggle Sounds, is a dose of classic afrobeat electricity still speaking to, and engaged with, the troubles of African people around the world at this moment. The standout track, “Gimme My Vote Back (C.P.C.D)” builds on a simmering, insistent rhythm as it tears into the false promises of politicians. “I give them my votes; they don’t give me democracy…You promise me peace, and you give me war. You promise me freedom; you just jail the poor.” “African Dreams” uses a languorous slow burn and interlocking hooks from the horn section and a mournful sax solo that kicks off a call to arms to dream for the lost generations “chasing the American dream.”
In a time when we as a society are desperately in need of the emotional balm and catharsis music can provide and the community of being in a room with other people in need of the same thing, Seun Kuti’s Columbus appearance is vital. This reminder of music’s ability to speak to the world and our hearts promises to leave us all soaked in sweat and with our blood burning.