Seun Anikilapo Kuti brought his Egypt 80 energy and intertwined his infectious Afrobeats with his no-holds-barred politics, challenging activism, and international call for social justice to Harlem’s Apollo Theater on Saturday, April 15.
Seun, the youngest son of Fela Anikulapo Kuti brought his Egypt 80 band, and, like his father three decades prior, infused the Harlem air with their musical spirituality hitting the soul in his hour-plus-long show. “Love and Revolution” smashed the acoustics. Learning and listening were the patrons to “Political Statement Number 1” as they were with the melodic, all-powerful “Top, Top, Top -People Over Things.”
The band was tight despite a couple of technical difficulties that broke neither concentration nor flow. They were in tune with the maestro Kuti, the background singers and dancers, and each other—the beautifully loud and multifaceted horns, drums, bass, and guitar. Seun’s immaculate saxophone and keyboards bolstered an already eagerly anticipatory sold-out crowd.
The dope song “We Move” was not on the playlist, but it was felt in the motion onstage and in the crowd. “African Dreams” were satiated as concert-goers ‘sabi’ that Kuti’s missions are earthy musicality and people-centered political advancement. That was understood the very second the people entered the historic Apollo Theater. The excitement was palatable. The enjoyment was mandatory!
The very mixed audience, while lively and pleasantly interactive, were more subdued than some of the other New York City crowds who have all but stormed the stage once Kuti’s familiar beats burst through the sound system.
Obviously enjoying himself as he delved deep into the roots of his music, Kuti addressed everything from the recent Nigerian elections, to the beauty and resilience of the “Black Woman,” to what manhood should be in terms of protection and building.
Reintroducing himself as Pro-Tem Chairman of his father Fela’s revised Movement of the People, Seun dove into his thought-provoking catalog, whilst recalling that it was when he visited the Apollo 30 years ago with his dad Fela “that I decided I wanted to be a musician. So this is full circle.”
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Like father, like son. Seun shows always have a Fela-like political purpose. They are known for slamming the professional and middle class as a “conduit of oppression” through the real estate agents, bankers, journalists, and lecturers upholding a status quo. The life-long activist told the press previously, “It is our duty to begin to align with our people.”
The Pro-Tem Chairman of the Movement of the People continued the Fela Kuti-like rhetoric of vocal political opposition to the ruling elite with his “People Over Things” ideology railing against “capitalistic tyranny.”With his forever ode to the Black woman, Kuti spoke of ego-driven manhood gone awry, telling his Apollo audience, “This is the power we are losing, by trying to show that we are strong by beating on the weak…to accumulate as much material things as possible.”
He berated male conspicuous consumption and the obsession with big cars and bigger money.
“This concept of masculinity is very dangerous..so we must recalibrate our thinking. We must reengage in protection,” he said between songs.
“Our strength is not for oppression as African men. It is to protect …the true strength of humanity, the African woman. And anything you are doing other than that, you are not masculine…this is the real copping out, where we are afraid to protect, to build, to envision, to be sovereign.”
All this Kuti-like analysis, sounding like his Father’s son, and then came the big tunes, with a great band, and energetic dancers and singers. Seun Kuti, just off yet another international tour, is cementing himself as the consummate activist artist.