Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased tracks, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “African Soldier” by Seun Anikulapo Kuti & Egypt 80 from the 2011 album Africa With Fury: Rise on Knitting Factory Records.
27-year-old Seun Anikulapo Kuti, the son of renowned Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, afrobeat pioneer, and political maverick Fela Kuti, has taken the reins of his father’s old band Egypt 80 for his second full-length outing. Seun first began performing with Egypt 80 at age nine, covering his father’s songs. Following Fela’s death in 1997, Seun stepped up and became the band’s frontman, leading the group as both lead vocalist and saxophonist. While his father’s roots and influence are always everpresent, Seun has strived to inject his music with its own blend of unique, contemporary sounds. Central to Seun’s mantra is the determination to speak to a new generation of Africans born after his father’s heyday as a political revolutionary. As a result, From Africa With Fury: Rise is served with a healthy dose of lyrical protest, a kind of musical antidote to the so-called corporate pop that he feels is polluting Africa’s airwaves, distracting its citizens from the things that truly matter.
Seun is dead-set on retaining the purity of Afrobeat, saying “It is important for people to realise that Afrobeat music cannot be compromised or changed. Afrobeat cannot now start talking about money or love. It is not selfish. It is not a music that you come and start to talk about your self, car, nice car and girls. Afrobeat is about the emancipation of the people.” It’s these themes and more that color today’s featured song, “African Soldier” a political track that nonetheless rollicks and rolls with all of the essentials: exceptional brass, groovy percussion, and even a touch of saxophone.
Check out the clip for another album cut, “Rise,” below: