For Femi and Made Kuti—respectively the son and grandson of Afrobeat pioneer and prolific Nigerian artist Fela Kuti—music isn’t just the proverbial family business. It’s their heritage. “We researched our legacy and found we have seven generations of musicians,” Femi tells Apple Music. “My great-grandfather was the first West African artist to record for the BBC. My grandfather wrote the national anthem of the Ogun state in Nigeria. And of course we all know my father.” A unique dual-album release, Legacy + carries the influence of Fela Kuti into its next chapter, pairing Femi’s latest studio album Stop the Hate with Made’s first, For(e)ward.
And even as the art form invented by the late Fela Kuti expands across Africa and continues to influence musicians further afield, the sons Kuti remain its chief custodians, never shying away from delivering the same blend of socially conscious lyrics and genre-bending melodies for which their patriarch became known. “Afrobeat is not a tool for quick cash, or for fame,” says Made–who plays every single instrument on his album. “It’s not a tool for the surface. And it’s not without integrity. It’s a means to depth. In whatever we communicate, musically, politically—there has to be purpose in it.” Here, the heirs of Fela Kuti discuss key tracks from their double album.
Pà Pá Pà
Femi Kuti: “The phrase ‘pà pá pà’ means ‘quickly, urgently’ in Yoruba, and here I’m trying to relay that the people in power should get out of power quickly if they cannot get the job done. When my father was speaking about politics, I was nine years old. I'm 58 [in 2021], and we're still talking about the same issues. If you know you're not going to get the job done, stop wasting our time.”
Stop the Hate
Femi: “This song was really inspired by the migrant crisis—people going through Africa into Europe and dying, and the world taking so long to help save them, and to understand why people were doing this. When wars are going on, everyone says, ‘Okay, this war doesn't concern me.’ But then when the migrants started to come to Europe, it’s ‘Close the border.’ I’m saying, ‘Hey, stop the hate.’ Humanity has to understand itself. It's not about hate anymore. It's more about love.”
Young Boy / Young Girl
Femi: “Here I'm telling the young boy or young girl that it's their time now. They are in a position of power, but they should be careful. Their journey will have people who will come in disguise as friends, but aren’t—so they need to be careful. They need to seek knowledge. I want to inspire the next generation that people like me are here to give them our full support morally, and they need not be afraid.”
Free Your Mind
Made Kuti: “I was in London for seven years, returning to Lagos twice a year for holidays. And every time you come back to Lagos, you can't navigate away from the obvious differences; the many, many obstacles we have to face, from electricity to water to education and health care. So what I started to question was the level of consciousness of the average Nigerian. It is clear that the average Nigerian is misinformed, and he is uninformed. He's not prepared to actually deal with the current obstacles that he has been forced to face. I heard one of my dad's songs called 'Set Your Minds and Souls Free,' which is what inspired 'Free Your Mind.' 'Free Your Mind' is very much about using your brain to its fullest potential.”
We Are Strong
Made: “This was my attempt at ending the album on a high note. Nigerians are successful in almost every field, be it boxing, medicine, law. We are very, very talented and we're very, very capable. However, whenever we come together as a people, we always seem to go down the wrong path. Sometimes, education misleads us into thinking that a community is built simply by individual successes. And it's not. We're supposed to support each other. My dad said that when a person comes first in the class, his job should be to teach the person that came last, and be graded based on how well he's able to teach the other person. That is community building.”
Made: “This song expresses the euphoria of independence, and trying to figure out how we managed to arrive at this point. The kind of blood I speak of is the kind of blood that [was shed] during the #EndSARS movement. Innocent people came [under fire], simply for expressing their right to not want to be killed by law enforcement. I was inspired by a speech by my dad. He was singing in Paris, and he said, ‘I know you're happy I'm in Paris. But respect what I'm doing in Paris. You have to know what I've come to Paris to do.’ I thought that was so powerful, because we mustn't forget the message, no matter how much we might enjoy the music.”