Seun Kuti, son of late Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, has said that Nigerian musicians who compare themselves to his father cannot be like him.
Seun, the late Afrobeat pioneer’s youngest son, said young musicians only use his father as an excuse to behave badly and they are not really like him.
The 37-year-old saxophonist shared this view during a live session of Instagram with talent manager Ubi Franklin on Thursday.
During the conversation, he said that most Nigerian artists are only similar to his father in some aspects.
“I think most of them come from Muslim and Christian homes and use Fela as an excuse to smoke and chase girls. Apart from this aspect of Fela, which is a really tiny aspect, they use Fela as an excuse to be ruthless and rude to their elders because they are not really rude to the authorities,” he said.
He said Fela’s actions were his own way of rebelling against the government of the time.
“All of Fela’s actions, smoking grass and everything, -Gowon was Christian, his deputy was Muslim, all were religious moralists- Fela had women, all of his actions were aimed at the system, which was so rigid and so conservative that even art could not even breathe. Fela’s life was a rebellion.
“Suddenly, when you insult African women, this is the time to remember Fela and forget that Fela married all his own women, he married them and put them in his house. If you want to smoke grass in the streets and behave badly, this is the time when you want to channel Fela, but never from the aspect of liberating your people. What I really don’t like is when they now take the messages of Fela and turn them into a kind of capitalist advertising message. These things are not really what my father was after,” he said.
The singer added that Fela’s music was aimed at confrontation with those in power and was never used to play down people at his level or below, because those were his people.
However, he said that the current musicians never challenge authority, they were “very humble, shake hands and bow” when they met the higher-ups.
“Fela’s actions were directed against the authorities. Ascending, never to the people on his level or below. These were his people he fought for. Fela never maligned the Nigerians. Ascending, this is the only time that an African is allowed to be rude,” he remarked.
Using music as an instrument of advocacy
Seun, who also follows the path of his late father as an activist, said he believed that music could serve to spread people’s opinions and that musicians could use their fame and sides to achieve something.
But he said that artists worry about things that only five per cent of Nigerians can understand, while the rest can only pretend or dream of being like that.
“We must make sure that our hearts begin to represent our people. We don’t have to become like Fela or be in the streets and form a political party, but your heart must represent your people.
“Even the musicians at the top are still competing fiercely with each other, because things are tight up here too. For me, artists don’t have to be activists, you just have to represent your people,” he said.
The artist said that music does not really feed many Nigerian artists, but is just a way for them to make a living by becoming products that can be sold to big corporations to make money.
“I think the problem with shows in Nigeria is that Nigerians cannot afford the kind of tickets that make the artists rich. Even if we do shows in Nigeria, we have to try to sell the shows to companies that will buy few tickets at exorbitant prices,” he said.
He added that entertainers in Nigeria have a big advantage because the elites and big corporations finance the entertainment industry much more than the education sector.
He noted: “These elites give more to our entertainment industry than to education every year. This is not the case in any country in Africa or anywhere else in the world. That’s why Nigerian artists are able to punch so high above their weight.
“Let’s stop telling the whole world that we are the best musicians in Africa, this is bullshit. All African music is great; the reason why the loudest music comes from Nigeria is because we have the most funding behind us.
The singer said that in his opinion weeds (marijuana) should have been legalized all over the world and not only in Nigeria. He said weeds would probably have been legal in Nigeria as well, but the Nigerian government has not yet received a “green light” from America and Britain.
“Weeds have been growing on the earth before man has even evolved. If we now become conscious Homo sapiens, establish our countries, create our laws, and then look at something that was there before us and say you can’t be here, that’s just the height of selfish cultural chauvinism,” he said.
He added that he could be persuaded to stop smoking if proper research could be done locally at a Nigerian university to confirm that marijuana is bad for health.
“Making weeds illegal is like just putting laws that some people have written in our heads,” he said.
A number of Nigerian artists were compared to Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti in terms of musical content and performance styles.
People like Wizkid, Burna Boy, Falz and even the Haitian-American rapper Wyclef Jean, who released a single called “Fela Kuti” in 2017, have described Fela as an inspiration for their kind of music.
Burna Boy was recently described in social media as “the best since Fela”. He has also been described as arrogant by social media users after saying that no one has paved the way for him and that he alone has become “Africa’s giant”.