Editors' pick

Femi Kuti and the Positive Force

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Editorial Review

FEMI KUTI Album review: "Africa for Africa"

We’re so used to thinking of Femi Kuti as the young heir to his father, Fela Kuti, the legendary king of Nigeria’s Afrobeat, that it’s sobering to realize that Femi is now 48, has been leading his own band for 25 years and has released eight albums under his own name. The latest is “Africa to Africa,” and it’s both like and unlike his dad’s remarkable recordings.

Like his father, Femi sings about the sins of Western colonialism and homegrown corruption and the benefits of pan-African unity, all in pidgin English. Like his father, Femi’s music is a synthesis of funky James Brown horns, lilting Congolese guitars and polyrhythmic Yoruba drums. However, the son’s tunes tend to be compact, hook-laden dance numbers, while his dad’s were epics. Moreover, Femi downplays the sex and drugs and emphasizes the social justice themes.

“Africa to Africa” is a quite fine modern Afrobeat disc, full of punchy, catchy tunes designed for radio rather than for marathon live shows. “Dem Bobo” lambastes corrupt autocrats posing as democrats with an infectious call-and-response melody, for example, while tricky eighth-note horn riffs, soulful organ pads and rattling Afro-Cuban drums make “Can’t Buy Me” an irresistible dance number.

--Geoffrey Himes, April 22, 2011