As Africanews, the first independent pan-African multilingual news channel turns five, Nigerian afrobeat legend Femi Kuti speaks in an interview with Africanews Jerry Fisayo-Bambi on music in Africa, its potential in the next five years, amongst other things.
Jerry Fisayo-Bambi – It is interesting to note that we are having this interview on the backheel of a major recognition for Afrobeats with the Grammy Award win for a Nigerian artist, BurnaBoy who pretty much has been influenced by your father, Fela, and indeed by your music as well. Tell us, how does that make you feel?
Femi Kuti– First of all, congratulations to him. And I think Wizkid was nominated and won an award to with Beyonce. So I mean, anything like this is always great for Africa.
The only unfortunate thing is I don’t think we should always wait for the outside world to tell us we have talent before we recognise our talent. But in light of that, still we are making progress slowly but surely.
Jerry- Lovely. And you yourself have bagged multiple Grammy nominations in the past and have done so much pushing the boundaries of Afrobeats across the world. Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a pandemic ….
Femi Kuti – (Interjects) Sorry, just a point of correction. Sorry, a correction. Afrobeat is very different from the Afrobeats now, so we have to always differentiate this. So I play Afrobeat. The others play Afrobeats.
Jerry- Fantastic. **And it’s good that you point out this correction because so much is happening and everyone just says Afrobeat, Afrobeat. Could you tell us what’s the difference though?**
Femi Kuti– The difference is that Fela created the Afrobeat and it’s the way it is. The harmonisation and the beats. Then of course, the political message behind it, which is probably secondary, but the whole arrangement of the musical format of the Afrobeat is very different.
What the Afrobeats does is more like a hip hop oriented but they take beats from the Afrobeat, which distinguishes it from the from the hip hop or pop world to make it more African. So this is the difference. So it’s more like commercial oriented music.
Jerry- Where do you see African music in the next five years?
Femi Kuti– I think the Afrobeat will always inspire. Don’t forget, when my father created the Afrobeat, I don’t think even recognised how influential his music was.
Even the great Miles Davis came back. My father was a great fan of Miles Davis. Miles Davis influenced my father a lot. And in the autobiography of Miles Davis, he said, my father’s music will be one of the forefront in the music world. I mean, practically at least 90 percent of the music industry have been influenced by his work. I think this will always be the case. So it will always grow. The Afro Beats now is like modernised African disco format of partying sound. I think this is becoming very big as well. You see, Africa will always contribute positively in this respect in sports and music and film, and because we are a very resilient people.
Jerry- Femi you have something new up in your shelves. Could you tell us about it
Femi Kuti- Yes, the work with my eldest son, Maddy, and it’s called ‘Legacy Plus’. This is a joint album. But without interference or any collaborations in the album.
This is probably my best work in terms of emotions and where I’m at in my life right now. It’s so important because it’s my eldest son’s work where he plays all the instruments on the album. And so what I see is he has found a universe in the Afrobeat.
My father found this universe. I explored it, and found one. My son now has exploded and he has found his own footing immediately. So it’s a brilliant work by him. I’m so proud. I’m really overwhelmed at his progress as a musician.
Jerry- We have to go now but leave us with a parting message to the generation of young Africans who have been inspired by Afrobeat and African music in general
Femi Kuti- I will not just leave it for music. Africa can be the envy of the world. We should. We should not let negativity divide us and we should all think. We should bring back the Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Patrice Lumumba spirit.
Africa must unite, be united. We must put our differences apart. We must think with one mind and build Africa.
Look, we have everything in Africa. We don’t always have to live up to europe and America for advise or whatever. We civilised the world. We should go back, research our history, medicine, and put Africa back positively on the world map.