Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 consisted of 14 piece band; Seun, vocal/alto sax and Egypt 80, consisting of baritone sax, tenor sax, trumpet, drums, bass two guitars, piano, 2 percussionists and two dancer/background singers(female). It was announced that many of Egypt 80 were former band members of Seun’s father, Fela Kuti’s original band.
I was, and still am a huge fan of Seun’s father, Fela Kuti of Nigeria. I able to see one of the last concert performances of the late Fela Kuti back in Chicago, in the 90’s and it was fantastic.
Quite naturally, I was anxious to see his youngest son’s band Egypt 80 perform live. I had seen them before only on TV.
Playing to an ethnically and age diverse crowd of people approx. 30-80, it was a sight to hold!
Old Town School’s auditorium provided a great, intimate setting complete with dance floor in front of the stage. The band started with a rolling percussive groove before Seun Kuti came on stage. Seun came on, dressed in a tight form-fitting white and black paisley shirt with matching pants and shoes that grabbed his muscular physique tight! Horn in hand, he began to sing and play a song that he said was written by his late father Fela, “Polo, Polo”.
Two background singers clad in red tie -dye dresses shook their bodies in time to the beat and the stage was ablaze with percussive grooves on steroids! Similar to his father’s arrangements, the band was groove heavy, but maybe not as melodic as Fela’s, since the organ/piano grooves of Fela’s band were mostly absent and instead were mostly bass and percussion and horn dominated. .Fela played most of the keyboards in his band and Seun played none, so that might explain the lack of piano sound. The older piano man in the band played only very sparse licks occasionally and no real chords. Instead, the arrangements focused on two-chord vamps with lots of percussion and simple call and response melodies.
Seun proved to be quite a showman, like his father, complete with political philosophies, horn riffs, and good vocals. He said at one point, “The only struggle is the class struggle”. He continued to sing the rest of the set, original songs he wrote, mostly focused on African and personal liberation. The songs were entitled, “Last Revolution”, “CPCD” (corporate control of democracy), “Higher Consciousness” (spiritual need in society for a THC-like state of mind to overcome oppression), and Africa Dreams (positive outlook for future of Africa and its culture).
Seun, is an outstanding and charismatic entertainer, and a great orator and actor! This, in and of itself, made for a great show, as he got audience members off their seats and onto the dance floor and agreeing verbally with his political observations. Hypnotic, African beats, repetitive horn lines, and great background dance and vocals, sealed the deal! I think the key to Seun and band’s success, was relating to the audience, as one big, global world family, during the non-stop two hour set!
My favorite musical moments were the melodic, jazzy trumpet solo near the end of the set and the introduction by elder-statesman piano-player, of the individual band members; this 90 year old elder of Nigeria’s Yoruba tribe splendid in his Nigerian garb.