In the course of a rehearsal of the Egypt ?80 Band, preparatory to its embarking on another round of two-month international concerts, its wave-making head, Seun Kuti, speaks to AKEEM LASISI on his tours and style Being a veritable old group, the band did not have to wait for their head to be on ground before they started rehearsal. Thus, while the steadily rising, chip-off- the-old-trumpet Seun was still tidying up in his room at the ground floor of the popular Fela House on Gbemisola Street, Ikeja, top members of the Egypt? 80 Band had been working on some of the songs they intended to take to Europe and other places they are billed to have concerts.
Perhaps the said room is designed to be a transit haven. Or maybe it is set to reflect Fela?s adventurous spirit as well as Seun?s itinerant trade. Seun?s room is far from being lavishly furnished. A major asset there is a fat, three-and-half feet mattress lying on the floor. Musical elements and other spectacles, which identify the occupier to be a culture advocate and musician, perch in different corners, while some 15 pairs of canvass, which peep out of the musician?s, wardrobe seem to be saying much about his dress sense.
The rehearsal was characterised by not just what would shape the coming concerts, but also by what has always defined afro beat as a unique genre. Energy. Seriousness. Comradrie. Yabbis ? and balls of smoke sporadically shooting out of hemp-friendly mouths. Watching Seun and his men in performance, therefore, with bold horns blowing home Fela?s spirit and evergreen numbers, one could not escape being gripped by the unstopable synthetic power and beauty of afro beat.
Of course, female dancers who were part of the rehearsal were also on hand to tickle you the more. Despite the fact that about three of such had newly joined the band, the afrocentric movement of their bodies, especially the constantly wavy hips, were more than being physically engaging.
But Seun and other leading members, including Baba Ani, knew the dancers still had a lot of work to do. Hence, he drilled them endlessly, yabbing them where he felt they were not adequately responding to the treatment of the horns. Very mischievously, he slapped one on a joint as sensitive as her bottom. She screamed, while a victory shout howled through the hall. A hale of yabbis followed again, although no rule prevented the girls ? especially the old members ? from yabbing back at their leader.
Not quite five minutes after the rehearsal resumed, Seun broke into a licentious cough and prolonged sneezing. ?You don?t ask me why I am coughing?? he asked. ?I am allergic to rubbish. Each time I see rubbish, I cough and sneeze.?
It was the dance steps of some of the girls he was describing as rubbish. The next thing, he stepped forward to teach the girls how to dance, after which the band launched into a lengthy rehearsal of not only Fela?s songs, but also some tracks from Seun?s album that is already being launched in phases.
Although he would not describe his recently concluded international trip as a world tour, it took the band to different countries in Europe and America, where it had 42 shows in 90 days. In the course of the trip, Seun launched his album, Many Things, in France and Belgium. Yet, the real world tour, he says, will be next year when he will lead Egypt 80 Band to perform in all continents. He is set for another two-month sustained gigs this winter.
Understandably, Seun?s experience on the last trip is fulfilling. ?For me, it turned out to be what I have always wanted to do,? he says. ?It demanded a lot of discipline and commitment, but everything has turned out to be very great.?
He is aware that it is difficult to cut off the image of his father from his success, but he professes that the outcome has largely been a product of his resolve to make it in music.
?I know everything I do will always be tied down to my father. But for me, my album is my album. I have always wanted to be a great afro beat artiste. We also have to remember that Fela influenced many artistes ? not me alone. If you, therefore, say he has resurrected, he has done so in others too.
?Fela died in 1997. It took me 10 years to break through. So, it is not just being a Fela?s son that matters. Everybody has to pay their own due.? He, however, gives kudos to members of Egypt 80 too, saying they have continued to work to make it ?a great band.?
While he vows to keep the afro spirit bouncing, especially in terms of being socio-politically relevant, he notes some differences between his style and that of his father, whose posthumous 70th birthday will be celebrated at this year?s Felabration. He, for instance, admits that he has toned down the glamour of Egypt 80. He also tones down the skimpy nature of its dress sense. He can be conservative in some things, while being radical in others. That is why while he may like to talk aloud on certain issues, he does not believe in flaunting the stories of his sex life.
Asked a question on this, he declares, ?My sex life? What has my sex life got to do with this? I have enough sex ? as much as my doctor recommends. My doctor has given me a specific quota, and I have diligently kept to that.?
And he would not want to talk about the girl(s) in his life.