Fela Kutis brand of activist groove throwdowns were an inspiration for musicians and those with a sense of the oppression in the world for decades. His time in the U.S. soaking in the Black Power/Black Consciousness revolution, via a hook-up with the Black Panthers, formed the potent convictions that fuelled passionate James Brown-meets-electric Miles marathons. His passing has left two sons who carry on both his convictions and his music with equal skill and fervour: Femi Kuti, with his own band and softer approach, and Seun Kuti with his fathers Egypt 80 group.
Egypt 80 hit the stage last night and left the audience, two hours later, screaming for more. The trademark Afrobeat funk locked in immediately like some well-oiled monster machine, but there was no coldness here. This machine was made out of old black muscle and mind, and to see the confidence and ease that decades of playing brings was awesome. There was simply no option, in terms of the groove; it was tight and loose at the same time and rolled forward in an orchestra of interlocking rhythms that spoke volumes about the communal music making that informs African tradition. The band featured four horns, three percussionists, two guitars, a drummer, keyboards, two major booty-shakin dancers and Seun Kuti on lead vocals and alto sax.
When one really listened to what was going on you couldnt help being amazed by the level of complexity of a music that also made it impossible not to dance. We were led through some of Seun Kutis music from his latest CD Many Things, as well as a smoking version of Fela Kutis "Suffering and Smiling. Seun had the audience in the palm of his hand inspiring some major chants and shout-outs as well as inspiring a hilarious waving of cell-phone screens as an environmentally friendly replacement for the Bic lighter tradition. The thing that was a bit surreal about Seun was the fact that he looks almost exactly like Fela. While it took him a little while to warm up on his horn, Seun left no doubt as to his mastery of the form and his ease and comfort with the band and the audience. Catch this band whenever you can.