Songs In The Key Of… Nigeria

9 March, 2018 in Features, Interviews

Seun Kuti

Seun Kuti: performing with Egypt 80 at the WOMAD Festival, Charlton Park, Malmesbury, UK

Seun Kuti, the youngest son of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, introduces us to 10 songs that represent his home country

Our latest location-themed playlist has been curated by 34-year-old Nigerian singer and musician Seun Kuti, the youngest son of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti. At the age of nine, Seun expressed the wish to sing and it wasn’t long before he was performing with his father and his band, Egypt 80, until Fela Kuti’s untimely death in 1997. Seun, then only 14 years old, assumed the role as the band’s leader and continued the political and social ethos of his father. Along the way, he began to add his own twist to the music, digging deep into various African traditions to reflect the continent’s struggles and cultures.

And so, we asked the Lagos-born band leader to pick 10 songs that best represent his country’s unique music scene, and explain why he thinks they’re such great examples of songwriting. To listen to the whole playlist in one go, check out the Songwriting YouTube Playlists.


LOOK AND LAUGH – FELA ANIKULAPO KUTI
“My dad at his absolute peak here, progressing the Afrobeat sound with a beautiful and complex arrangement for the Egypt 80 big band in 1986.”


INSIDE RELIGION – FEMI KUTI
“This was so innovative. Afrobeat doesn’t generally use modulations and my brother really broke the mould here. A very powerful track.”


SYNCHRO SYSTEM – KING SUNNY ADÉ & HIS AFRICAN BEATS
“New directions in juju music. King Sunny uses lead guitar, three backing guitars and steel guitar on this one to fuel his groundbreaking Synchro System sound.”


JE KAJO – SHINA PETERS
“Shina’s Ace album was another progressive landmark, mixing juju and Afrobeat and using synths, sax and guitar. This had massive appeal across cultural and language barriers in Nigeria.”


KETEKETE (THE HORSE, THE MAN AND THE SON) – EBENEZER OBEY & HIS INTER-BROTHERS BAND
“An African parable set to juju music showcasing Obey at his sweetest. The message behind this track is that you can never please everyone all of the time.”


BETTER CHANGE YOUR MIND – WILLIAM ONYEABOR
“Onyeabor was doing his own thing in Enugu during the 70s. This is a quirky synth-dance arrangement with a warning for power-hungry countries.”


FREEDOM TRAIN – FESO TROMBONE
“Feso played with my dad’s band and this is a really heavy and hectic Afrobeat jazz workout from his first solo album in the mid-80s.”


MO WA DUPE – PAUL I.K. DAIRO
“This was a massive hit in Nigeria in the early 2000s by Paul Play, the son of juju music legend I.K. Dairo. Just an uplifting, joyful song – it means ‘I came to give thanks’.”


SECRET AGENT – TONY ALLEN
“Drummer in my father’s Africa 70 band and creator of the Afrobeat rhythm. This is a solid Afrobeat track – great horn riffs and vocal harmonies.”


KIRIKISI – VICTOR UWAIFO
“’Guitar Boy’ is another true innovator and this showcases his Ekassa sound based around traditional rhythms from Benin. Beautiful guitar work on this track – he infamously played with his hands, feet and tongue during live shows.”


Seun KutiSeun Kuti & Egypt 80 returned with their fourth LP Black Times – “for anybody who believes in change and understands the duty we have to rise up and come together” – which features Carlos Santana, and is out now on Strut Records. Find out more at facebook.com/seunkutiofficial/



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