Femi Kuti – Africa For Africa

January 01, 1970

(Knitting Factory)




If a musician bears the name Kuti, his work will come with heavy expectations attached. At the
very least he or she will be expected to follow in the footsteps of African
bandleader/political activist Fela Kuti, both in philosophy and style. Fela’s
eldest son thus far has not disappointed in either regard. (Another Kuti scion,
Seun, is also in the family business, with his dad’s band in tow.)


Femi’s sociopolitical stance is right out front in the
title, and that’s before you get to blunt songs like “Can’t Buy Me,” “Bad
Government” and “Politics in Africa.” Not exactly subtle, but with the situation in
the Kuti family’s native Nigeria as dire now as it’s ever been, there’s no need
to be. Besides, it’s the music in which the messages are couched that makes Africa For Africa (his sixth studio LP)


Like his father, Femi has mastered the art of Afrobeat, his
jazzy, guitar and horn-driven trance funk riding the groove of undulating bass,
percolating percussion and liquid melodies all the way to the Shrine. The main
difference between Femi and his pioneering father is brevity – Femi tends to
keep his songs in the 4-6 minute range, as opposed to Fela’s 15-20 minute
monsters. Occasionally this leads to a groove being choked off just as it’s
warming up, but on the languorous “No Blame Them,” the defiant “Can’t Buy Me”
and the funky “Now You See,” it gives the songs more immediate punch.


Indeed, Femi is at his most consistent as a composer here,
with engaging melodies and singalong choruses, and his band is as tight as a
tourniquet. Musically absorbing, conceptually plainspoken, Africa For Africa is Femi Kuti’s best record so far.



Buy Me” “Now You See,” “No Blame Them” MICHAEL TOLAND

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