Seun Kuti

Seun Kuti was interviewed on PRI’s Sound of Young America a couple weeks ago. Choice excerpt typed below and you can listen to the whole program here:

SK: Afrobeat is not pop.

JT: Did you ever think that you would be – because afrobeat was certainly popular in Nigeria, it’s not *the* pop music of NIgeria in 2008. Did you ever think you would pursue a career as a pop musician?

SK: No never never never.

JT: How come?

SK: Although I have a hip-hop band and producer back home, I never see myself as someone who’s going to do pop music. I had to make a decision of what I wanted to do, you know. So, right now as an adult I think there’s no way – I don’t even listen to pop songs. you know?

JT: what about hip-hop for example?

SK: Well hip-hop is different, you’ve got a little real hip-hop out there and you got a little garbage as well, so I intend to listen to people that are a bit real, you know. People that speak about the environment, what is happening to them. I love to hear that.

…Because basically I feel that all black artists all over the world, the whole diaspora and Africa and everywhere, we all know we’re from really and we have an obligation to the continent. So I just feel that the access, the chance to make a difference with your music – because it’s not enough to go to Africa with a camera from CNN or FOX or whatever, you know, to get more credits to your humanity. Build a school, put some water – hey I went to Africa! That’s not it. That water, that’s cool, but not the problem in 2 years after they leave. What we can do is… put the struggle in our music, even if it’s one song. It will last forever. 10 generations will hear that song and they will understand what’s happening now. This is the records. This is the new records in this age where we have CIA, Homeland Security everywhere, there are secret services all over the world, you know, trying to stop us from expressing ourselves. Almost all records are classified, never knowing what is happening or anything. We have “official reports.” Everything always conflicting each other. “There are bombs, there are no bombs.” “9-11 was planned, it was not planned.” We always have that.

So, I just feel, we artists, since we can (inaudible) in our cities and not be censored, we have that power, we should make a very good use of it. Because we keep doing this and not being socially relevant and conscious like we were in the 60s and 70s to keep our rights, they’re gonna take away our freedom of this expression as well. And then we wont do shit.

JT: Do you every get to see, or have you since you put out this record, had any chance to see impact from your music? I mean, talk to people that have been changed by it or affected by it?

SK: Well no. I’ve not met anybody, but I’m sure I’m going to probably win a lot of people over to our side with this CD. Because I feel people right now in the world need to put humanity before the human, you know? We need to think about the general picture, not the individual one.

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  1. “What we can do is… put the struggle in our music, even if it’s one song. It will last forever. 10 generations will hear that song and they will understand what’s happening now. This is the records.”

    This is something I hadn’t really thought much about in this context: protest art as record and memory. This works better with music — which is more of a public and shared memory — than the visual arts, which often have a smaller audience and can not be reproduced as easily, but it is worth thinking about.

  2. That was the “ah ha” for me too. In a different way, people have talked about the memory – something like “that site will always be different because they will remember the action whenever they go by,” things like that. Or creating a mnemonic with a site, a corporation, and concept. Bogad’s Oil Enforcement Agency will always be connected to the car show and those SUVs for the people who experienced it. We should definitely build on this idea.

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