• Feranmi Kuponiyi

Femi and His Son Continue The Legacy of Fela Kuti, The King of Afrobeat

When Fela Kuti moved back to Nigeria from England to start his music career, he would never have imagined that his art would have such a global reach or impact that it has today. Fela Kuti, the King of Afrobeat, created the genre that has been making waves worldwide. His influence spreads far & wide, from Grammy-nominated Burna Boy to American legends like Jay-Z and Nas and UK acts like Skepta. He has inspired a whole generation with his work. Fela is undoubtedly one of the greatest artists of all time, and he's currently in the lead as the fans vote for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; a list that is filled with other iconic acts like Tina Turner, the Foo Fighters and Mary J. Blige. Voting ends on April 30, and last month we shared instructions on how to vote.

Fela's music and his legacy was extremely important to him. He didn't just create music that made people dance, his music made people think as well. He often got political, calling out the people in power for their mismanagement, corruption, stealing, and more. The way he conveyed his emotions mixed with catchy beats was special. It's fascinating how he possessed the ability to make people feel connected to his music through dance and emotions. The connection to the music is so strong that even 24 years after his death people still listen to his work; the music lives on.

The music lives on through more than just his own work; some of his children have played their part in keeping Fela's legacy alive. Femi, Fela's oldest son, is the most prominent child. As a child, he would hit the stage with Fela and his band to perform for the crowd at the Old Afrika Shrine. At 58 years old, he has over 10 albums to his name and has been nominated for 4 Grammy awards in an 11-year span between 2003 and 2014. Femi shared Fela's zeal for activism as he never shied away from speaking about political issues, corruption, poor living standards, and speaking up for people or being regarded as the voice of the people.

Femi's latest work is a two-album project titled 'Legacy+' that he created with his son, Made Kuti. The project includes Femi's 11th album 'Stop the Hate' and Made's debut album 'For(e)ward'. “To release this album together… I could not have wished for more. If people feel the bonding it might inspire them as well. I think it shows love,” says Femi. "But Legacy+, as the name suggests, reaches far beyond father and son. It links generations of Kuti musicians - seven of them and counting. It upholds and expands upon the legacy of the most famous of them all, Fela".

Made's story is very similar to his Dad's, at a young age they were both exposed to music, instruments, and the artiste lifestyle. Both played for their father's bands as well. Femi was and is still very supportive of his son; he taught Made how to play instruments like the saxophone and the trumpet. He also sponsored his education at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London, the same institution that Fela studied music at over 50 years ago.

On this project, 'Legacy+', they both channel Fela in the sense that their music is centered around political and social activism; Femi more so than Made. The first part of the project (Femi's part) is reminiscent of some of his earlier work like 'Sorry Sorry' or 'Beng Beng'. It's more upbeat, a little bit of old school, but the second part of the project (Made's part) is more mellow but yet forceful in its message centered around socio-political issues- racism, corruption, division.

Made personifies the modern Kuti, he recognizes his family's past, his country's past and uses all of his influences to create a sound that stays true to his family's vision of music but delivers it in a completely fresh way.

The Kuti name is one of the most prominent names in the music industry, in terms of legacy the only other families that can match up to them are the Marleys or the Jacksons. Femi and Made Kuti are carrying the baton from where Fela left off. They have ensured that his name lives on, and have passed on his message through music to reach a younger generation; the project ‘Legacy+’ perfectly embodies this.

The project at its core gives off that Fela vibe in a similar tone but with a fresh and different delivery. The messages about political and social activism are core to their story and the release of this project is timely because in the wake of the #ENDSARS protests the distrust and disconnect between the people and the government is probably bigger than it has ever been before. With this project, the Kuti family continues to stake their claim as the voice of the people.