Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 will release their fourth album Black Times via celebrated UK label Strut Records on March 2, 2018. The youngest son of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti is as incensed by injustice as his father and, with the new album, honors the revolutionaries who have gone before and rallies the torchbearers to come. Black Times features appearances from Carlos Santana, Robert Glasper and more. Hear lead single and title track “Black Times” featuring Carlos Santana here: https://youtu.be/HRggdDV-dBc.
With its rousing male and female harmonies, furious guitar riffs and Kuti’s soaring tenor sax, the “Black Times” single gives us truth. Lyrics such as “Understand your history / rise to be free” shine a forensics-style black light on that which is otherwise hidden, intensified by the axe-work of Carlos Santana.
Egypt 80, the extraordinary dance orchestra created by Fela Kuti as a conduit for the common people. Inherited by the 14-year-old Seun in 1997, the younger Kuti has been building to this, his most accomplished and honest album yet. “Black Times is a true reflection of my political and social beliefs,” says the singer, bandleader and musician, 34. “It is an album for anybody who believes in change and understands the duty we have to rise up and come together. The elites always try to divide the working class and the poor people of the world. The same oppression felt by workers in Flint, Michigan is felt by workers in Lagos and Johannesburg.”
The tracks are designed to spark conversation and realign priorities. The elegant “African Dreams” insists that commercial success counts for little. Pay no heed to examples set by “accepted” African-American celebrities, says Kuti, and marvel instead at the philosophies of such great thinkers as the late Pan-Africanist Doctor Amos Wilson. “The message,” Kuti sings, “is free.” “Bad Man Lighter” is a horn-heavy track calling out duplicity and defending the right to smoke the good weed; the politically charged “Corporate Public Control Department (C.P.C.D)” is a roiling protest anthem directed at Muhammadu Bahari’s Nigerian government and indeed, at deceitful politicians the world over.
Co-written with veteran Egypt 80 saxophonist Abedimeji ‘Showboy’ Fagbemi, the frenetic, finger-pointing “Kuku Kee Me” borrows from a Nigerian saying (“When someone is always on your case, you’re like ‘Save yourself the stress and kuku kill me now’”) while “Theory Of Goat And Yam” ridicules a homily invented by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, who justified corruption by likening politicians to goats tempted by yams: “By taking money meant for a hospital or to build roads, they are actually costing human lives.”
“Last Revolutionary” featuring Robert Glasper’s keys is a paean to authentic leaders past, present and future, name-checking homegrown African heroes, revolutionaries and freedom fighters like Kwame Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara and Patrice Lumumba. “I say the names of these men who died for us without any promise of resurrection,” says Seun Kuti. “Maybe it will cause a young man or woman to wonder who they are. Maybe they will Google them, then set out on a journey whose destination is unknown.”
“We are all capable of change, us iron people, us workers. Black Times is the sound of the people, and a weapon of the future. The big picture needs more colour.”