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Seun Kuti.

Seun Kuti's 'Black Times' Is About "Knowing Who You Are As A Motherland Person In This World Today"

We interview Fela's youngest son about his highly-political new album and collaborating with Carlos Santana & Yasiin Bey.

Seun Kuti is back.

Fela's youngest son has just released his new album, Black Times, a potent afrobeat excursion alongside Egypt 80, his father's former band, which Seun's been leading since he was only 14. The now 35-year-old vocalist and saxophone player's latest record features 8 finely-crafted afrobeat songs alongside contributions from the likes of Carlos Santana and Robert Glasper.

"Black Times is a true reflection of my political and social beliefs," Seun mentioned with the release of the album's title track. "It is an album for anybody who believes in change and understands the duty we have to rise up and come together. The elites always try to divide the working class and the poor people of the world. The same oppression felt by workers in Flint, Michigan is felt by workers in Lagos and Johannesburg."


"We are all capable of change, us iron people, us workers. Black Times is the sound of the people, and a weapon of the future. The big picture needs more colour," says Seun.

Read ahead for our talk with Seun about the new album, the current political situation in Nigeria and the world, and his possible collaboration with Yasiin Bey.

Let's start with the title. Why did you call the new album Black Times?

Well, the song "Black Times," was inspired by a moment of clarity for me. So, Black Times is like an emotional state of mind. Something like a happy time, or a sad time, but that moment when you understand your history from our own perspective, knowing who you are as a Motherland person in this world today.

"'Black Times' is like an emotional state of mind... [it's] that moment when you understand your history from our own perspective, knowing who you are as a Motherland person in this world today."

You've said that Black Times is also a true reflection of you political and social beliefs. How have current political situations across the world influenced it?

For me, the current political situations in the world are manifestations of past policies on actions. Everything has a source, you know. The problem we have in the world is that nobody takes anything serious until they are personally affected. We no longer see our connection as humanity—we just see us and them. That's how the world is run today. Historical understanding has given me this complete view that I"m willing to express musically, also culturally and politically as well.

How do you see the current political situation in Nigeria? What are the main challenges for the country today?

Like many Motherland nations all over the world our problem is neocolonialism and imperialism still. I think that's the majority of the things that are holding us back. In my country, for example, we're ruled by people who are enemies of our country, if I can put it that way. You have the understand that the Nigerian army used to be the West African Frontier Force (WAFF), who were the protectors of the colonialists. Their job from day one has been to murder, maim, enslave, capture, oppress Motherland people. This WAFF were the same people that turned into the Nigerian army and many of the military in this region—all over Africa its the same.

These military people usurped power from the real nationalists. After a few years of Nkrumah ruling Ghana, or we having our independence in Nigeria, most African countries were heavily criticized by the West as having wrong economic policies. This empowered and strengthened members of the former WAFF and created coups all over Africa. These people who have been trained to ruin and destroy Africa and its people are the ones ruling Africa today. And that's still the same mentality they perpetuate and promote today with the media, their music, movies, and religion. Its that same imperialist agenda that's being enforced in Africa, but only now being it's being enforced by people who look like us.

"These people who have been trained to ruin and destroy Africa and its people are the ones ruling Africa today."

I think that's the main challenge that we have, politically, is that the people need to wake up. I think if we can have good leadership that loves and respects Motherland people and reveres the Motherland, I think only then can we begin to make the progress that is necessary. Because the decisions and policies that rule Africa do not come from a place of love and respect, they're coming from a place of economic advantage or disadvantage or profit margins. There's no way we can get the development we need that way.

Back to the album. The first single featured a collaboration with Carlos Santana, how did that come about?

Carlos is someone that I respect a lot. He mentioned me in his book and that's how I found out that I was on his radar. I'm really glad we were able to build that bridge. It's not just a musical bridge, it's also cultural and spiritual. I'm happy that Carlos also engaged from a place of deep love and respect, and I thank him and honor him for that.

I read Yasiin Bey and Nai Palm will also be featured in some new work?

We're planning to have a remix album and they're going to be on that. We have not started, we have not done it yet. It's maybe 80% sure.

You also worked with Robert Glasper again as in your previous album - A Long Way to the Beginning - how was that collaboration been forging

The partnership between Robert and I has always been growing. We've always been two people who are curious about each other's styles and look for ways to bring the best of both worlds when we work together. And it was the same with this project. I'm always very happy and honored when he's on board and we're able to do some good stuff.

Black Times is available now from Strut Records.


Culture

The Best African Memes of 2018

Laugh with us into 2019 with OkayAfrica's best African memes of 2018.

Meme culture has become a mainstay on these internet streets. It's essentially an alternate form of communicating, of commentary and of simple laughter. 2018 had its fair share of highs and lows, and young Africans continue to utilize memes to celebrate or to cope with the nonsense.

To reflect on the African memes that broke the internet this year, we tapped contributors and African meme tastemakers to list the best African memes of 2018.

Laugh away below.

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popular

The Black Women Who Made Big Strides in France in 2018

Yes, this was a bad year for many reasons, but we can still celebrate the black women who rose to prominence

Back in 2015, a group of Black women activists appeared in the French media: les afrofems. They were and still are, fighting against police brutality, for better inclusion in the media and to destroy harmful sexual stereotypes surrounding black women among other worthy goals. Since then, more influential Black women have gained a bigger representation in the media. And, even better, some of the afrofems activists, like Laura Nsafou and Amandine Gay, have made films and written books to bring more diversity to the entertainment industry.

2018 has, in many ways, been a year where black women made strides in France, at least in terms of culture. From winning Nobel prizes, to having best selling books and being on top of the charts, Black French women have showed that, no matter how much France wants to keep them under the radar, they're making moves. And, no matter the tragedies and terrible events that have shaped the year, it is something worth celebrating.

France's New Queen of Pop Music

We begin with Aya Nakamura, France's new queen of pop music. Her song Djadja was a summer hit. Everyone from Rihanna, to the French football team who successfully won their second world cup, sang it. Her sophomore album "Nakamura" has been certified gold in France and is still on top of the charts. She is the first French singer to have a number one album in the Netherlands since Edith Piaf in 1961. The last time a black woman was as visible in pop music was in 2004, with Lynsha's single "Hommes...Femmes".

Nakamura has received a huge backlash, mostly due to misogynoir—misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles. From a French presenter butchering her African first name despite the fact that he can easily pronounce words like "Aliagas", to online trolls calling her ugly and manly when a picture of her wearing no makeup surfaced, to people complaining that she is bringing down the quality of the entire French pop music industry, Nakamura responds to her critics gracefully. Her music is not groundbreaking but her album is full of catchy songs with lyrics using French slang she masters so well that she came up with her own words like "en catchana" (aka doggy style sex). And most importantly, many black girls and women can finally see someone like them in the media getting the success she deserves.

The Nobel Prize Winner

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Another Black French woman has broken records this year: the Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé who won the Alternative Nobel Prize, a prize meant to replace the Nobel Prize in Literature, after the scandal that the Swedish Academy of Literature faced last year. Condé wrote her first novel at only 11 years old and has been prolific ever since. A former professor of French literature at Columbia University, she has published more than 20 books since the 1970s, exploring the complex relationships within the African diaspora. "Segu", her most famous novel, is about the impact of the slave trade and Abrahamic religion on the Bambara empire in Mali in the 19th century. Condé's work is radical and she remains committed to writing feminist texts exploring the link between gender, race and class, as well as exploring the impact of colonialism. Condé is a pillar of Caribbean literature and it's taken long enough for her work has been acknowledged by the Nobel prize committee.

The Children's Books Writers

From Comme un Million de Papillon Noir

And finally, 2018 has been the year where France's children's literature industry has finally understood how important, for the public, writers and publishers, being inclusive and diverse was. From Laura Nsafou's Comme un Million de Papillon Noir, a best selling book about a young black girl learning to love her natural hair which sold more than 6000 copies, to Neiba Je-sais-tout: Un Portable dans le Cartable, the second book of Madina Guissé published this year after a successful crowdfunding campaign, there are more and more children's and young adult books with non white protagonists. In France, there are still no stats about how diversity is doing, but in America, in 2017, only 7 percent of writers of children's literature were either Black, Latino or Native American.

There's still much to accomplish in France for the Black community to have better representation in the media, politics and all walks of life, but important strides have been accomplished this year, and it make me hopeful for what 2019 and the following years have in store.

News

J Hus Has Been Sentenced to Eight Months in Jail for Knife Possession

The rapper has been convicted following an arrest in June.

Gambian-Biritish grime rapper J Hus has been sentenced to eight months in prison for knife possesion, reports BBC News.

The artist, neé Momodou Jallow, was arrested in Stratford London in June when police pulled him over near a shopping center, claming that they smelled cannabis. Police officers asked Hus if he was carrying anything illegal, to which the rapper admitted that he had a 10cm folding knife in his possession. When asked why, he responded: "You know, it's Westfield."

Hus pleaded guilty at a hearing in October after initially pleading not guilty.

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