Seun Kuti ‘A long way to the beginning’ (Knitting Factory) 4/5

seun_kutiThe younger son of Fela Ransome Kuti, and in many eyes, the most faithful inheritor of his father’s Afro-Beat sound, Seun Kuti returns with a strong album that both updates the family musical heritage (jazz/hip-hop keyboardist Robert Glasper is on hand as guest musician) and fits comfortably into the pantheon of socially-driven compositions. By far the strongest piece is the final number, ‘Black Woman’ (not the Judy Mowatt roots reggae classic of the same name) and this features a stunning intro complete with female lead vocals, vibes and the subtlest of mid-tempo beats before Seun Kuti enters on alto saxophone and then his very own lead vocals. The call and response vocals that are an Afro-Beat trademark are replicated on the excellent ‘African Airways’ with fine trumpet soloing while in a more straight ahead Afro-Beat groove ‘Kalakuta Boy’ is a terrific number. For variety, however, the uplifting highlife piece ‘Ohun Aiye’ illustrates the influence of neighbouring Ghanaian music and there are some conscious rap vocals on ‘African Smoke’. Arguably, the most political charged track is ‘IMF’ with a biting alternative interpretation of the acronym and a plea for the suffering of the most vulnerable globally targeted to end. Even James Brown influences are discernible on the funky rhythm guitar driven instrumentation to ‘IMF’. Two dates in London commenced in early April and will continue on June 7 as part of the Field Day event. Tim Stenhouse