Femi Kuti, a Nigerian musician and the elders son of Legendary Nigerian afrobeat pioneer Fela kuti, has indeed done a lot for Nigerian music. Olufela Olufemi Anikulapo Kuti (born 16 June 1962) popularly known as Femi Kuti, was born in London to Fela and Remi Kuti and grew up in Lagos, the former capital city of Nigeria. His mother took Femi to live with her after she seperated from Fela. However, In 1977, Femi chose to move in with his father and eventually became a member of his Fela’s band.
Like his father , fela kuti, Femi has continued to carry the torch of Afrobeat outside the shores of Nigeria. He has definitely succeeded in preserving his Fela’s Legacy. In his own words he said he always knew he wanted to be musician. He didn’t want to be a doctor or lawyer, He wanted to be a Nigerian afrobeat musician. Click to read the full interview of Femi kuti with the Nigerian Tribune. The first sign that Kuti might inherit his father’s afrobeat mantle came in 1984, when he stepped into lead Fela’s Egypt 80 band and run his Shrine club in Lagos after Fela ran has some trouble with the Nigerian government. The following year, after Fela was taken into custody at the Lagos airport on his way to a Hollywood Bowl concert, Kuti presented a reasonable facsimile of fela’s performing style. But two years later he formed his own band, Positive Force, with Dele Sosimi former key-board player of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The son’s music turned out to be different from the father’s. (He also gave up cigarettes and marijuana, both of which Fela indulged in heavily.) His first album, No Cause for Alarm, featured his jazz-style saxophone playing and won him a number of fans in France, where he remains popular.
Femi Kuti’s International Career
It would be right to say that Femi’s international career began in 1988 when he was invited by the French Cultural Centre in Lagos and Christian Mousset to perform at the Festival d’Angoulême (France), the New Morning Club in Paris and the Moers Festival in Germany.
Without support from its moribund label, that album made little impact in the United States. With an eye toward expanding his influence in Nigeria, however, Kuti kept looking for opportunities to record. “An international career is my number one priority,” he told London’s Independent newspaper. “If I can make money in Europe I’ll subsidize my African activities.” Kuti toured Europe in 1996 and 1997, and in 1998 he formed a student-oriented political group called M.A.S.S.–Movement Against Second Slavery–that aimed to promote pan-African culture and fired a few shots across the bow of Nigeria’s government. “I don’t want power,” Kuti told the Independent. “I don’t care who’s in power as long as he provides electricity, petrol, water. The President should be like a houseboy.”
Kuti seemed to become more politically oriented after his father’s death in 1997, from AIDS-related complications. “When you are born, you are in politics,” he observed sardonically to the Financial Times. “Don’t fool yourself–that’s why the baby cries.” Kuti’s sister, Sola, with whom he shared both parents and who was one of the original members of Positive Force, also died that year, and it was in the late 1990s that he really became a familiar name on the international scene. His album Shoki Shoki, released in the United States on the MCA label, was his big international breakthrough.
Kuti’s attempt to modernize Afrobeat continued on his second MCA album, Fight to Win, released in late 2001; the album featured rappers Mos Def and Common, and showed the results of Kuti’s effort to incorporate hip-hop into African music. The album also contained a composition, “97,” in which Kuti reflected on the family tragedies of that year. Generally praised by critics, Fight to Win moved the All Music Guide to state that “Kuti has made his first great album.” . Kuti’s ongoing success inspired the recording of a tribute album, Red Hot + RIOT.
Unlike Fela Kuti who had over 27 wives, Femi Kuti has remained married to one woman, Funke, for many years until their divorce in 2012. She is a member of Positive Force, and they have one son, Omrinmade, whose lack of places to go in Lagos worries his father. Kuti has begun to think big about Africa, and its situation. “I know Africa is full of abundant talent which has not developed to its fullest,” he told Interview. “I would love to see great Africa rise again. But honestly speaking, what I see in Africa is that young people want to get out because they don’t want to get involved in all the gangsterism or the corruption.”
“I think that Europeans mistake Africa’s anger for desperation,” he continued. Sounding very much like his father, whatever changes he had made to his music, Kuti took to the road in Europe and the United States in 2004, appearing at the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles and at Guilford, England’s Guilfest. “I look like him, dance like him, and even talk like him sometimes,” Kuti said of Fela in a Maclean’s interview. “I will never run away from the fact that I am his son.”
Grammy Awards and the death of Femi Kuti’s Mother
Femi has been nominated for a Grammy award three times in the world music category in 2003, 2010 and 2012 but never won.
In 2002, Femi’s mother, who had played an influential role in Femi’s life, died at the age of 60. Femi’s son currently appears as part of his act, playing alto saxophone.
Femi Kuti’s voice is featured in the videogame Grand Theft Auto IV, where he is the host of radio station IF 99 (International Funk 99, described as “playing a great selection of classics from West Africa, the US and elsewhere”).