Oluseun Anikulapo-Kuti is the youngest son of legendary Afrobeat pioneer, Fela. Seun leads his father’s band, the ‘Egypt 80’ to date. In this interview with PATRICK EBI AMANAMA, he speaks on his music, lifestyle, amongst other issues.
What is the latest project you are working on?
I’m working on my new album right now, and we are also working on our tour. We are doing all the logistics, visas, passports, that’s the immediate project.
What memories do you cherish most, when you look back at your childhood?
Basically, I had a very good childhood.Fela was an amazing parent. My mum was good to me as well. For me, my childhood was a big ball. You know, Fela raised us like royalty.
Did Femi give you any advice about the music industry?
I grew up with my father, you know. I got all my advice already. But you know, there is no kind of advice anyone can give anyone in the music industry. It’s a learn-as-you-go kind of thing. You have to have your own personal experience, because what every artiste goes through in the cause of his development is not identical to the next artiste.Everybody has their own unique developmental story.
Describe your relationship with your siblings?
We are very close, except age wise. We were six, one is late; so five. Femi and Yeni are the eldest boy and girl in the family, and they are 20 years my senior. My other elder brother,Kunle, is 12 years my senior. And then, there is Motun, my immediate elder sister. She is only six days my senior. So, the two of us are like 12 years from the first born. So, we are quite close. It’s just that we are all in different generation. So, we don’t share the same interest all the time, but in terms of siblings relationship, we are quite close.
You were 14 when Fela died, what do you miss most about him?
Well, Fela was my father. You know, it’s a long time now since he died. The most important thing to me now is his presence. I miss him being around. I think of what would happen if I were able to have a discussion with him today. Knowing everything I know now, those are the kind of things you miss. I just miss him being around.
Can you describe what God means to you?
I do not believe in God. I am not a believer of anything supernatural. I don’t believe in God, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Ifa, Ogun, or whatever anybody uses as a reason to explain simple actions of nature. God, to me, is in existence.
How do you spend your weekends?
Weekend for me is just more work. It means I have more time to face what I really want to do, because during the week, it’s so much music business. Less music itself, the weekend ends up being the time when you can sit down and work on your act. I like to practice a lot, during the week. I can rehearse in an hour, but at weekends, I have much time.
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
Ha! (smiles). My most embarrassing moment happened when I was nine.And nothing up till now has topped that. You know, I used to open the show for my father, I used to sing before he comes on stage; we were in Cincinnati, Fela was about to come on stage, and I had gone up somewhere because we played in this huge dome where there was an archaic session. I was playing archaic, and I forgot about the show. I got carried away. And when it was five minutes to go… rushing back to the stage, I dressed up quickly. So, my sister helped me with my pant, I was wearing all this traditional pant that you will have to tie. So, I was like, Mosun, you did not tie it. And as soon as I got on stage, my pant just got down…
What is the amusing fact about your life that people will be surprised to know?
Well, I think I tried to keep everything as open as possible.But maybe, people would not know that if I had the opportunity, if it wasn’t for music, I would have been playing football. Not the American football, I mean real soccer.
What major goal do you hope to achieve in the next 20 years?
I do not plan that long. It is impossible for anybody to have that great plan; looking at 20 years in a globalised world; anything can happen beyond your control. So, I think the way to deal with globalised world is to have concrete short term plan.
Which is your favourite Fela song and why?
I like two; Look and Laugh and Original Suffer Head. You know, it’s just the dynamics of the music. I think in Look and Laugh, Fela actually put the definition of arrangement and melody together.
What is it like heading Fela’s ‘Egypt 80’ band?
For me, it’s very easy. The band is a very experience band. It’s not as if they are novice, and they helped me as well. The veterans in the band make it a tradition, training the young ones and letting them to be acquainted to the music; although, we are large in number which makes it quite expensive to manage, but in terms of organisation and discipline, we are good.
Do you smoke?
Yes, I do. But I don’t smoke cigarette… I don’t believe any human being has the right to tell nature what to do. Nature believes in the usefulness of marijuana. And I think mankind is pompous. You don’t say earthquake or tsunami is illegal. So, why should marijuana, an equally natural thing, be illegal? Even when earthquakes and tsunami are killing people.
When are you hoping on getting married?
I don’t believe in the title of ‘Mister’. The word itself is ‘Miss Your Star’. It doesn’t relate well with me. People forget to understand that the term ‘mister’ is an English term; for an English gentleman, and I do not see myself as an English gentleman. When it happens, it happens.
You spent sometime in the western world, what do you think about the African culture and tradition?
African culture and tradition are quickly getting extinct. Our society does not encourage us to embrace our culture. All cultures are centred around religion. So, the propaganda that African religion is only used to do evil, while western religion is used to do good has totally perverse our society. Seun Kuti