Review: Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 @ Ronnie Scotts (London, 12th June 2015)


London lacks of the exoticism of Lagos, Ronnie Scott’s is less vibrant (though more stylish) than the Shrine and Seun Kuti is not as groundbreaking as his father. Nevertheless, breathe a sigh of relief! Afrobeat’s legacy is in good hands. The wildest heir and youngest son of Nigerian hero Fela Kuti clearly maintains this West African musical style, and like his brother Femi, his parent’s fire. Furthermore, Seun’s show on the historical Soho venue’s stage proved to be more than just a tribute to his legendary father’s memory.

Seun Kuti has spent the last fourteen years as leader of the celebrated group that backed his father – Egypt ’80. Simultaneously he has developed an independent solo career that has expanded his popularity around the world. But, first and foremost, Seun Kuti has become an accomplished artist with a remarkable oratory talent and stage presence that almost matches that of Fela.

Like his father, Seun is moved by the same musical energy that makes such an impact with his audiences. To warm up his fans he left the opening scene to one of his father’s most trusted musicians, the keyboard player Lekan Animashaun. Lekan introduced the rest of the impressive Egypt ’80 and the show sparked off with the recently released Ohun Aye. Then it was the turn of Seun to play the schoolmaster. Dressed in a showy, light blue suit and like a forward-thinking preacher or outspoken freethinker he swiftly put his cards on the table, bashing away at the corrupted ways of contemporary society.

Before letting the unequivocal words of IMF do the talking, he pointed his finger at a long list of today’s sinners; the gunrunners who condemn Africa to a state of almost constant conflict, the Western ruling classes and even the Kardashians: all different faces of the same dirty coin. He then sent a precise message to women, not only dedicating the song Black Women to them (one of the most socially committed songs of his repertoire) but encouraging them to change the world too, beginning with their own neighbourhoods.

As the show progressed it ignited like a touchpaper, and it soon became clear that, like an only child, every Seun Kuti gig is unique. The Nigerian artist, semi-naked and beaded with sweat literally exhausted himself during the performance. Reliving his father’s ardor and frenzied moves he followed the groovy rhythms of his musicians, stunning the audience for more an hour and a half with no break.

Today, as it was thirty years ago, Egypt ’80 is the embodiment of the ideal afrobeat band. There must be a good reason why they decided to carry on playing after the death of Fela: that reason is Seun.

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