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Exclusive Interview: Femi Kuti In Chicago

Check out this interview with the oldest son of Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti where he talks about afrobeat, his new album, and the legacy of his legendary father.


Femi Kuti and Postive Force visited Chicago's Metro nightclub on a painfully cold winter night recently. Kuti arrived on stage visibly shivering, but wasted no time heating things up. The reigning prince of afrobeat led his seven piece ensemble through a blistering set of familiar favorites and new material from his soon to be released LP No Place for My Dream. At age fifty, Fela's eldest son is still an electrifying performer. Kuti had no trouble setting the dance floor off, while working himself into a trance-like fervor, chanting and screaming his impassioned message of social justice. After the show Okayafrica's Kyle Long caught up with Femi Kuti to discuss his new project and the current state of afrobeat music.

Kyle Long for Okayafrica: What's the meaning behind the title of your new album No Place for My Dream?

Femi Kuti: It's a story about my life. I set out with all these good intentions of world peace, love and togetherness. People around me would say "there is no place for this dream. Great men have had this dream, why do you think your dream is any different? Don't waste your time." But I said "no, I'm determined to keep this dream." As much as I tried to explain my view, I was discouraged. But I want people to dream and I hope the title will make you think a lot and dream.

OKA: What are your thoughts on the current generation of Nigerian pop stars like D'banj, P-Square and WizKid?

FK: I know they're trying to sound very American, but they also draw a lot of influence from afrobeat. I think they are on the right track. I don't have anything to criticize about them. I just wish they would learn to play musical instruments. I think many young people come into music without learning an instrument. They are relying on drum beats and a catchphrase. The younger generation that will take over after them will grow up thinking that this is what music is all about. But their music creates peace, it makes people dance and it makes everybody happy.

OKA: Over the last several years there's been an explosion of interest in afrobeat music, does that surprise you?

FK: I'm not surprised. When I was a young boy we listened to everything from America and around the world. But no music really touched us like my father's music. It had something more meaningful. Other things we heard had love stories, broken hearts, blah blah blah. They all sounded the same, repeating the same lyrics. My father was always talking about the suffering of the people. His music meant something. So I'm not surprised that many young people want to identify with this kind of music, especially considering the crisis we are facing globally. Young people want to be identified with something that is meaningful. Because of this, afrobeat will always grow with each new generation.

OKA: Why is the message of social commentary such an inseparable component of afrobeat music?

FK: Because Fela, the founder of the music used that concept as the basis of his creation. He set out to use music to fight evil and corruption; to stand up for justice. He paid a very huge price for that. But he never backed down, he never compromised, he never surrendered. People feel the impact of this foundation. Every generation that hears this music becomes very strongly attached.

OKA: What's the current state of the club your father established, The Shrine?

FK: The Shrine is not just a club, it's a place where we use music to pay homage to great people. It was built to honor great people like Martin Luther King, Mandela, Lumumba, Sankara - people who have fought for freedom. That is the basis of the Shrine. It's still there and it still has a lot of support from the people. It's standing strong.

We have a free disco night which 2,000 people attend every Friday. It's free because we understand people can't afford to come every week - music is not only for the rich. I play every Thursday and Sunday. I play for free on Thursday and charge two dollars on Sunday.

The government has tried to close the Shrine several times. The last time there was a very big outcry internationally and ever since then we have had peace. The government now, especially the state government, is trying to make friends with my family. They built a museum in honor of my father. So things are looking quite bright. There's so much international press now with Fela! on Broadway, so many people are talking about afrobeat. That keeps people from persecuting the family.

OKA: You've had an amazing career; what's next for you?

FK: I would love to build a studio in Nigeria. I think if I build a studio, then I'm obliged and willing to work with as many young artists as I desire. I think that's what I want to do in the future - build my studio and help young artists with their music. This new album is very powerful. It's frightening, because I think it's my best work. I think I'm going to find it very difficult to overcome this album in the future. But I'm going to keep on practicing, working hard, touring and dreaming.

 

Interview
Justice Mukheli. Courtesy of Black Major/Bongeziwe Mabandla.

Interview: Bongeziwe Mabandla's New Album Is a Calm Meditation On Relationships

We speak with the South African artist about his captivating new album, iimini, love cycles, and the unexpected influence of Bon Iver.

"I've been playing at home for so many years and pretending to be having shows in my living room, and today it's actually happening," Bongeziwe Mabandla says, smiling out at me from my cellphone as I watch him play songs on Instagram Live, guitar close to his chest.

Two weekends ago, Mabandla was meant to be celebrating the release of his third album, iimini, at the Untitled Basement in Braamfontein in Joburg, which would no doubt have been packed with some of the many fans the musician has made since his debut release, Umlilo, in 2012. With South Africa joining many other parts of the world in a lockdown, those dates were cancelled and Mabandla, like many other artists, took to social media to still play some tracks from the album. The songs on iimini are about the life and death of a relationship—songs that are finding their way into the hearts of fans around the world, some of whom, now stuck in isolation, may be having to confront the ups and downs of love, with nowhere to hide.

The day before his Instagram Live mini-show, Mabandla spoke to OkayAfrica on lockdown from his home in Newtown about the lessons he's learned from making the album, his new-found love for Bon Iver, and how he's going to be spending his time over the next few weeks.

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Interview
Lueking Photos. Courtesy of emPawa Africa.

Interview: GuiltyBeatz Proves He's Truly 'Different'

The Ghanaian producer talks to us about his debut EP, Different, the massive success of "Akwaaba," producing for Beyoncé and more.

GuiltyBeatz isn't a new name in the Ghanaian music scene. A casual music fan's first introduction to him would've likely been years ago on "Sample You," one of Mr Eazi's early breakout hits. However, he had scored his first major hit two years before that, in the Nigerian music space on Jesse Jagz' and Wizkid's 2013 hit "Bad Girl." In the years to come, the producer has gone on to craft productions for some of Ghana's most talented artists.

In the years to come, the producer has gone on to craft productions for some of Ghana's most talented artists, having worked with the likes of Efya, Pappy Kojo, Sarkodie, R2Bees, Stonebwoy, Bisa Kdei, Wande Coal, Moelogo and many more over the last decade. The biggest break of the talented producer's career, however, came with the arrival of his own single "Akwaaba".

In 2018, GuiltyBeatz shared "Akwaaba" under Mr Eazi's Banku Music imprint, shortly afterwards the song and its accompanying dance went viral. The track and dance graced party floors, music & dance videos, and even church auditoriums all around the world, instantly making him one of Africa's most influential producers. Awards, nominations, and festival bookings followed the huge success of "Akwaaba." Then, exactly a year later, the biggest highlight of his career so far would arrive: three production credits on Beyoncé's album The Lion King: The Gift.

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Image via Wikimedia Commons

Nollywood Actress, Funke Akindele, Arrested for Throwing Party During Coronavirus Lockdown

Naira Marley, who was also in attendance, has also turned himself in according to local reports.

Star Nigerian actress, Funke Akindele, and her husband, rapper JJC Skillz, were arrested on Monday after hosting a party at their home which violated Lagos' coronavirus lockdown order.

The actress came under fire over the weekend, when footage of a party she threw for her husband's birthday began circulating on social media. The clips showed several people, including fellow Nollywood actress Eniola Badmus and Nigerian rapper Naira Marley, gathered inside of Akindele's Lagos home. According to a report from Pulse Nigeria, Marley also turned himself in on Monday for attending the function and will be arraigned.

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Screenshot from YouTube.

Watch Champagne69’s Music Video for ’15 Goons’

Champagne69 release a music video for their single '15 Goons.'

South African hip-hop duo Champagne69 shared a new music video for their single "15 Goons." The song was produced by NotBenjamin alongside Ezechiel (SorryZeke).

"15 Goons" is a minimalist 808 and bass-laden tune in which the duo glide with ease as they pay homage to their goons.

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