Monday, January 5, 2009
Album Review: Femi Kuti-Day By Day (Afropop Worldwide)
Day By Day, the first studio album by Femi Kuti in seven years out November 18th on Downtown Records, re-established the prince of Afrobeat as a voice in the contemporary Afrobeat community. His trademark punchy horn lines and passionate vocals represent Femi's style having grown but not changed significantly. He still has his own style, his own sound, and his own message, different from his father Fela and brother Seun.
As the son of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Afrobeat pioneer, African musical icon, and international protest figure, Femi played in his legendary father's band, Egypt 80, from a young age. He later broke away from Egypt 80 to start his own band, Positive Force, which played at The Shrine, Fela's home club in Lagos, Nigeria, one night a week. Femi has long displayed his father's passion for social justice and political action, but has differed from Fela on many fronts including his religious views and AIDS.
A few of the tracks on Day by Day are studio versions of songs performed on Africa Shrine, Femi's live album and Concert DVD such as "Oyimbo" and "One Two". Almost every song on the album has a strong political message like "Tell Me" and "Demo Crazy". Several of the tracks have a soft, jazzy feel at times such as "Tension Grip Africa" and "Untitled". Using the organ, guitar, trumpet, and various percussion instruments, Femi creates a soft backdrop against which the powerful horn section of Positive Force clashes.
"Do You Know?", a track that starts off with a funky bass line and Femi asking, "Do you know Miles Davis? Do you know John Coltrane? Dizzy Gilespie? Duke Ellington? Do you know Billy Holliday?" has a particularly funky groove. The guitar and organ parts are emphasized in a sly, scratchy manner in the early part of the song before the horn section comes in as a whole and then solos. Femi has been honing his keyboard skills for the past several years. His progress is evident on this track as the funky jazz vibe furnished by the keys and guitar parts is especially accentuated.
A few of the tracks are studio versions of songs performed on Africa Shrine, Femi's live album and Concert DVD such as "Oyimbo" and "One Two". Almost every song on the album has a strong political message like "Tell Me" and "Demo Crazy".
When younger brother Seun released his album Many Things earlier this year, a lot of people in the music community were ready to forget about Femi. People were ready to ordain Seun as the leader of the next generation of Afrobeat. Seun and Femi are very different and Day by Day is a clear example why. Seun, playing with Egypt 80, is picking up where his father left off, playing the same style and representing Fela's legacy. Femi has never been concerned with being the next Fela. Postivie Force and Egypt 80 co-existed for several years before Fela's death. Femi has always had his own style and sound, and Day by Day is a continuation of Femi's legacy of originality.