exclusive interview: femi kuti talks about the spirit of afrobeat, his father’s legacy & africa

October 14, 2013

Afrobeat superstar Femi Kuti is the son of the legendary creator of the Afrobeat genre, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Afrobeat is extending its reach by the day. As the technology age continues to evolve and become easily access from every corner of the earth, Afrobeat and its ability filter and spotlight political agendas becomes a necessary accompaniment to proactive thought. Femi Kuti has followed in his father footsteps, first joining his father’s band before creating his own band, Postive Force. Femi’s impressive catalogue of collaborations include Mos Def (Yasiin Bey), Common and Brett Dennen. Speaking to Femi, he has a very confident, accomplished, serene energy about him as he answers my questions, I can almost see his smile through the phone.

Interview by Ayara Pommells, AFROPUNK Contributor

What was it like growing up in a house filled with music?

Lovely.  It was lovely.

How do you feel about a new generation being influenced by your music?

Well, I’m not surprised. I’ve always known from when I was a child, the music of my father was special. We’re very delighted and we’re happy that it’s catching on very fast.

What is the spirit of Afrobeat?

Sincerity. Courage. All the good things you can imagine.

You’ve worked with a multitude of artists. Is there anybody out there you are dying to work with? Who would be your dream collaboration?

No. Right now I just keep an open mind. I’ve done quite a few already so, I don’t have anything special. I could work with anybody. Anytime. I’m ready.

What outside influences would you say were inspirational to you and your music?

Right now, I have just life really.

What are the things about life that make you happy?

My children.

Anything else?

Um. Not really. When I play music and stuff. When I play music I am always happy.

You are the voice of one of the radio stations for Grand Theft Auto V. How did that come about? Are you a fan of the video game?

I never even knew it existed until my son told me it did. I didn’t know about it and they just contacted me. I was like, what is this. [My son was like] “This is Grand Theft Auto. Daddy! Daddy!” – I said, how comes you know about this? I didn’t know it was such a violent game. [Laughs] And I was wondering how he even got to play this. Driving his car. Bashing, killing everybody on the streets. I was like, wow. [Laughs] So they asked me to do it and it was very interesting.

Do you play it now?

No. No, I don’t have the time. I play [other] games like Twitter. Twitter games.

Your father was very politically aware and that obviously runs in the family. There has been a lot of discussion about the seemingly overwhelming Chinese presence in Africa. Is this an issue?

It is an issue. East Africa is selling off its land property to another nation.  But Africa cannot avoid getting nations East or West… Helping build Africa with technology. Technology that of course will not bring about pollution or climate change. So Africa has to be very intelligent at this point and time with what it’s doing. When Africa is selling off its property like that, yes. It becomes an issue.

Does the majority of Africa belong to the Africans anymore?

Well that is a good question. I don’t have the statistics of that. But I’m sure that a large part still belongs to Africa. You have to remember that, North Africa doesn’t belong to the Africans anymore. That was taken away from us by the Arabs, who will always tell you it affects the Arabs before the Africans. So they have the Arab (league). Egypt. Libya. Morocco. Tunisia. So, Africa has been losing a lot of land for centuries.

Do you think that slowly over time that will change and Africa will be returned to the Africans?

Maybe we should not think about it in that respect. Maybe we should just think about it globally. And just think about, the world belongs to everybody. I think that has always been the issue of life. Everybody wants land. Everybody is fighting for territory. We should just think of it all as our land and we should just be friendly and love one another.

Yes. That’s a great way to look at it. On a lighter note, what do you like to do to unwind?

Practice. Playing games or playing with my kids.

I’m a huge fan of Nollywood movies. Do you watch them?

Not really. It depends on where I am. If people are watching it but I will never go out of my way.

You just live for the music then?

I don’t even listen to music. I don’t even listen to my music unless I’m working on something new or I want to learn about something I’ve done. I’m trying to improve on something or something like that. If I’m somewhere, where people are listening to music, then of course I am forced to listen to music. I don’t go out of my way to listen to music. [Laughs]

You are going to be over here in London performing for  two nights at the Jazz Café in November. Are you looking forward to that?

Very much so. Yes.

How do your UK fans differ from your fans back home?

Well, at home they know me and that’s home and when I’m away, I’m away. They get to see me at home like, regularly. Every week. They get to see me at home live. They get to see my music develop, live. In Europe. They see the finishing work I’ve done. So it’s very different. Home is always home.

What can fans expect from your show?

A lot of energy. Beautiful dancers. Very powerful music and I hope they take away from the music good inspiration, love. I hope they feel great. I hope they feel great. I hope they feel positive about a great future. All the good things, I hope.

If you are in London, be sure to see Femi Kuti’s live show at the prestigious Jazz Café on November 4th & 5th.

* Ayara Pommells is Owner of UK website and a music writer for, & as well as an entertainment writer for Kontrol Magazine. Follow @YahYahNah.