It's difficult to believe that seven years have elapsed between Femi Anikulapo Kuti's Fight to Win and Day by Day. Positive Force, his 13-piece backing band, is tighter than ever. Kuti's confidence as a bandleader has grown exponentially. He no longer feels the need to either enshrine his father's music in nostalgic reconstructions of it, nor does he need to indulge American hip-hop and funk or European electronica the way he once did.
For almost three decades, Fela Kuti was one of the most potent links between young people around the world and the disease, injustice, and corruption that plagues Africa. Starting in the late ‘60s, Kuti used music not only to entertain but also to describe the problems facing his homeland. Kuti’s message, while compelling in its own right, certainly wasn’t new and, by itself, wouldn’t have been enough to sway minds and hearts.
”Do you know Fela Anikulapo Kuti?” asks the late Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer’s eldest son midway through Day by Day. It’s a rhetorical question: Anyone with even a passing interest in non-Western music is likely to be familiar with Fela’s work, and that’s not necessarily a good thing for Femi. Despite how closely he usually follows his father’s once-revolutionary formula, he’ll never quite be able to live up to that legacy.
"Do you know Fela Anikulapo Kuti?" asks his son at the end of "Do You Know" from Day by Day. The question's rhetorical; any fan of Femi Kuti most likely basks in the colossal shadow cast by his pioneering Afrobeat father. Fair or not, Femi will never escape that shadow, but he goes a long way toward establishing his own legacy on his first studio album in seven years.
Seun Kuti & Fela's Egypt 80 Many Things(Tot Ou Tard) ???? Femi Kuti Day By Day(Wrasse) ??? Fela Kuti died over 20 years ago but Afrobeat, the form he invented withdrummer Tony Allen, is flourishing as never before, with his two sons, Femi and Seun, now battling it out for the soul of the music. For years, Femi has had the field to himself, building up a decent following, even if he seemed uncomfortable in his own skin and there was something forced about his protest-by-numbers lyrics. The word from Lagos, though, was that younger brother Seun was the real deal, and recent live shows confirmed he's a natural, with all the sexy charisma you might have hoped for.