As one might expect of a musical giant who married 27 women, the late Nigerian pop radical Fela Kuti fathered some talented kids. Two of them are furthering the family business in Afrobeat, the Africanized vision of James Brown’s funk that Fela invented (and which has influenced everyone from Beyoncé to TV on the Radio). Femi, Fela’s eldest son, fell out with his dad in the late Eighties, leaving the fold to start his own band. On Africa for Africa, he’s still denouncing dirtbag Nigerian politicians over big-band brass and busy polyrhythms. But his grooves have mellowed, as Fela’s did over time, and so has his delivery: There’s a tenderness in “Boys Dey Hungry for Town” that Fela never approached.
Where his brother smolders, Seun — Fela’s youngest son — burns. Still in his twenties, with ‘Fela Lives’ tattooed across his back, dude has built a ridiculously hot band around the surviving members of Fela’s Egypt 80 crew. Longtime Afrobeat fanatic Brian Eno co-produces with a light touch: Percussion is up front, tone colors flicker. “Rise” opens with guitar shaping a looped melody, then takes flight on a trumpet solo while indicting corporate bloodsuckers. Addressing Nigeria’s history (“Slave Masters”) and militarism (“African Soldier”), Seun’s proper coming-out closes with some positive thoughts on cannabis (“The Good Leaf”). Fela lives, indeed.
Listen to “African Soldier”: