Album Review: Femi Kuti Africa for Africa

By Graham Reid

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Cover for the album Africa For Africa by Femi Kuti. Photo / Supplied
Cover for the album Africa For Africa by Femi Kuti. Photo / Supplied

Rating: 4/5
Verdict: The son of his father updates Afrobeat for the iPod audience

In 1970 George Melly wrote Revolt into Style, a witty and sometimes scathing look at how the revolutionary, anti-establishment figures in pop art and culture had been assimilated into the mainstream as just another fashion/style accessory. You'd wonder what Melly might make of Nigerian fire-brand musician and lightning-rod political figure Fela Anikulapo Kuti (1938-97) now the subject of an award-winning Broadway musical. As Songlines magazine noted "after decades as a cult hero, Fela Kuti has gone mainstream".

The Fela banner has always been carried by his son Femi, who has taken elements of Fela's revolutionary, horn-driven and thrilling Afrobeat and hauled it into the present day by keeping the songs short (Fela's rolled towards the 30-minute mark and often beyond) and offering remixes.

This album - 14 songs, some about corrupt African and specifically Nigerian politics - is a more smooth and streamlined affair than his father's rambunctious work, but nails the right villains, and is relentless in its percussion, organ and horns.

By keeping songs under the five-minute mark, this delivers a flurry of punches rather than a knock-out blow, although you'll be reeling and gasping for breath by the time the boiling standout Can't Buy Me arrives just five songs in. This is a more pop-Afrobeat style than Fela's soul-rock, but no less powerful. Especially with volume.

-TimeOut / elsewhere.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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