Femi Kuti ‘No place for my dream’ (Wrasse) 4/5

Following in the footsteps of such an illustrious father is no easy task, but leader, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Femi Kuti has, over the course of several albums, charted his own distinctive musical path and this latest album is no exception. The songs are considerably more concise than those of father Fela Ransome Kuti with seven out of the eleven compositions here being under five minutes and consequently the time devoted to instrumental soloing has been much reduced. What the listener benefits from instead is a significantly more diverse range of influences that naturally flow into the Afro-Beat sound that continues to be the predominant style. However, in terms of the nature of the lyrics that have always been crucial to the classic Afro-Beat style, Femi has, if anything, returned to his father’s own uncompromising voice. The current economic and financial crises have served as a stimulating impetus for some astute observations on economic, political and social concerns, especially of the most vulnerable members of society in the early part of the twenty-first century. One of the overriding questions Femi Kuti poses in this album is what solutions do politicians have to the multifarious problems besetting the global economy. Getting straight to the point on ‘No work, no job, no money’, the piece is a compelling repetitive number with a catchy keyboard riff and keyboards that have something of a 1970s Santana feel to them. Equally trenchant is ‘Politics na big business’ which has some interesting shifts in tempo, but here the slightly less frantic mid-tempo groove works extremely well and the guitar riff is memorable. Several songs are delivered in pidgeon English which is consistent with the origins of the Afro-Beat style and ‘Action time’ typifies this, being a mid-tempo number with a lengthy saxophone intro. For fans of driving dancefloor- oriented Afro-Beat, ‘The world is changing’ will be a welcome inclusion and is a plea from Femi not to forget those in the world who are suffering from poverty. Instrumentally, Femi Kuti demonstrates an interest in the music of John Coltrane in his tenor saxohpone solo on ‘One man show’ and in general the album reveals a wide range of jazz, funk and Latin influences that are skilfully weaved into a cohesive whole and indicate that the leader looks beyond Africa for musical inspiration. With the world in profound socio-economic mutation, Femi Kuti has plenty to sing about and he has certainly not shied away from tackling some of the thornier issues of the day. He is one of a small number of musicians who are prepared to put their views into the public domain via their music and his views will echo with many around the globe.

Tim Stenhouse