fri 17/08/2018

CD: Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 - From Africa With Fury: Rise | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 - From Africa With Fury: Rise

CD: Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 - From Africa With Fury: Rise

Fela’s son produces one of the best Afrobeat albums in years

Seun Kuti: A furiously focused album of diamond-hard Afrobeat

Alarm bells went off when I learnt that Brian Eno was co-producer of Seun Kuti’s second album. The last thing the son of the legendary Fela Kuti needed was his personal brand of Afrobeat to be given a distancing sheen, or diluted by some space-age Enoesque sound effects. But it’s easy to forget that Eno isn’t only Mr Ambient – he also produced the groundbreaking Afrobeat-influenced work of Talking Heads in the late 1970s.

Alarm bells went off when I learnt that Brian Eno was co-producer of Seun Kuti’s second album. The last thing the son of the legendary Fela Kuti needed was his personal brand of Afrobeat to be given a distancing sheen, or diluted by some space-age Enoesque sound effects. But it’s easy to forget that Eno isn’t only Mr Ambient – he also produced the groundbreaking Afrobeat-influenced work of Talking Heads in the late 1970s.

In fact, Eno once stated that the muscular free-flow of African music lies at the route of even his most ambient compositions. Well, here is the proof that such an ostensibly tenuous connection cannot be sniffed at. For Eno - along with co-producers John Reynolds and Seun himself - have created one of the best Afrobeat albums since Fela Kuti himself left us in 1997. From Africa With Fury: Rise is like Fela in concentrated form. With tracks lasting a mere eight minutes - rather than the half-hour the great man himself sometimes meandered on for - this is good news. And Fela’s old band, Egypt 80, whom Seun inherited, are almost frightening in their sinuous, marshalled precision. Beats seem spot-riveted into place, snare drum thwacks are machine-gunned out in ferocious clusters, brass riffs cross-hatch the ongoing flow, and Seun himself delivers his best vocals to date from his father’s pulpit of Righteous African Outrage: “Our ear don’t fool for your words, our stomach still empty”.

But Afrobeat is sometimes at its most beguiling when it goes off on a tangent, so one of the best tracks here is the sublime “Rise”, a slow, mournful number built around a doomy rock guitar riff. Seun – conjuring Fela’s gift for the telegraphed slogan – sings, “I cry for my country when I see it in the hands of these people”. This is a ferociously focused album that sets my pulse racing every time I play it.

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 live in Dakar

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