Seun Kuti and Fela’s Egypt 80 ‘Many Things’ (Tot Ou Tard) 4/5

Youngest son of Fela Kuti, Seun has largely avoided the international limelight for some time while honing his live skills with various members of Fela’s Egypt 80 band. Indeed as barely a teenager Seun opened as a live act for his father at the legendary Shrine venue in Lagos. The result is a superb, hard hitting debut album that contains all the urgency of Fela’s albums and more of a cutting edge in sound than that of older brother Femi. Like his father, Seun uses vernacular pigeon English to get across sometimes complex messages in the most concise and direct manner possible.

Produced by ace pan-African specialist Frenchman Martin Meissonnier (of Khaled and King Sunny Ade production duties), this album does not hold back in it’s critique of African governments and society. This is exemplified on ‘Don’t take that shit to me’ which is in essence a political tirade against corrupt and incopmetent government in Africa. The title track makes some trenchant observations on social conditions in Nigeria and the subtle use of keyboards and gorgeous melody creates an infectous and intoxicating rhythm. Seun Kuti is, however, not only sending out negative messages, but also encourages his (African) listeners to overcome psychological enslavement on ‘African problems’. In general the album impresses with its variation in the use of tempo and by no means all tracks are taken at breakneck speed. Clearly there is a sophisticated musical mind at work here behind these unconpromising social messages. French national radio is already heralding this as one of the best albums of the year and it is certainly a prime contender for project that most closely resembles the socio-political as well as musical edge that characterised so much of Fela Ransome Kuti’s output.

Tim Stenhouse