Release Date: Feb 24, 2014
Record label: Because
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, International, African Traditions, Afro-Pop
This is powerful, take-no-prisoners, socially conscious music. It’s also party music. Because, while there’s a lot of anger in a track like lead-off single “IMF”, you can’t help but start dancing in your seat while listening to it. It’s got that driving beat, that groove, those horns (and, man, what horns!).
There isn't a lot of subtlety in the songs on Seun Kuti and Egypt 80's fiercely political third album, A Long Way to the Beginning. That's fine, because to his way of thinking, there isn't anything subtle about neo-liberal capitalism's global attack on the poor, either. Seun is Fela Kuti's youngest son. The vocalist and alto saxophonist has been fronting and leading Egypt 80 since his father's death in 1997 (three-quarters of that band remain) and has issued two previous records; the last, From Africa with Fury: Rise, in 2011, was co-produced by Brian Eno and John Reynolds.
Like many artistic iconoclasts, Fela Kuti was an innovator and an emblem in equal measure, his social contributions ultimately as significant as his musical ones. Functioning as an influential counter-culture icon, he butted heads with a repressive Nigerian regime in a way that makes most creative rebellion seem like self-indulgent posturing, climaxing with the murder of his mother by government soldiers, who then ransacked and burned his personal commune. Prevented from leaving the country and slapped with trumped-up charges for currency smuggling and eventually murder, Kuti was ultimately brought down by AIDS, leaving behind one of the most vibrant legacies in African music.
Fela Kuti's youngest son has handled his father's esteemed Afrobeat legacy with aplomb, fronting his old band and over two albums adding modernist touches to a fundamentally unchanged format. Third time round the playing is faster and harder, with some wonderfully intricate horn parts, though the production of US jazzer Robert Glasper tends to bury Seun's righteous lyrics – the IMF gets a lashing, and there are torrents of exhortations to young Africa. Rappers M-1 and Blitz the Ambassador add heat, but Fela's sly, melodious narratives are sorely missed.