June 17, 2018

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 - Black Times Review

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 - Black Times Review

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 - Black Times Review

As a fan of the always captivating genre of Afrobeat (African funk, soul, and jazz) and the legendary leader of the social-musical-political movement in said genre, Fela Kuti, I was delighted to learn that his music has lived on in his two musical sons, Femi, and Seun, Kuti. As I confess to not being fully aware of these brothers' catalogues since I was always obsessively digging into Fela's discography, I was filled with joy and wonderment to listen to Seun's brand new 2018 album, Black Times, released in the beginning of March, and notably felt stunned when listening to the uncanny continuation of Fela's legacy. Seun continues to carry the torch with Fela's original live band, Egypt 80, formally known as Nigeria '70, then Africa '70, in what can only be described as a bombastic celebration of revolution and humanity personified through Afrobeat music.

Black Times has only 8 tracks, but each of them are the proper length to justify the short list, and each are so stylistically interesting, and arranged and delivered with so much heart for the genre and the people of Africa, that the feel-good messages are positively addicting and cannot be ignored. Reading even a little bit into Fela's history, it's easy to see that Fela's disposition toward progress and humanitarian efforts is inseparable from the music, and it's this fusion which creates a symbiotic relationship with the listener, and a level of empathy and belief in the Kuti's family mission for a better world.

The album opens with the track, "Last Revolutionary", a signature activist song that embodies the entire purpose of the Kuti's legacy. In it, Seun is determined to make certain that there will always be a push back against the government and militant oppressors, with the memorable line sung from his backup singers, "'til we free, you and me, they'll never see the last revolutionary!" It is one of the many Afrobeat chants or anthems sung throughout Black Times.

One of the more notable aspects of this album is the inclusion of featured guest artist, Carlos Santana, in the title track, a very tasteful decision and the only one to join Seun and Egypt 80 on this record. A virtuoso in his own right, with a talent for drawing in the listener, "Black Times" works to pull the listener in even closer and disarm them with heartfelt lyrics, "Time don't come my people, now are you ready to rise, to be free? To rise, to be free?", in a repeated call to action. The track takes off in classic Fela fashion, jamming with Santana's catchy licks and Seun's call-and-response with his backup singers, making it nearly impossible to not want to move with the beat. It's this ecstasy laced throughout the title and following tracks that capture the essence of what it is to love one another and be human.

Songs like "Corporate Public Control Department" and "Struggle Sounds" are high in their intensity and clear in their intentions. Other songs such as "Bad Man Lighter" and "African Dreams" slow down the pace and work to create a feel-good atmosphere where Seun can express more accessible and digestible messages of following one's dreams and keeping the thoughts of those who've struggled close to the heart.

Black Times is Seun's fourth full length album, and if there were ever any uncertainty that Fela's movement had died down, it couldn't be farther from the truth in 2018 with surviving sons Seun and Femi. While living in uncertain times, Seun delivers a much needed positive boost to the psyche and messages of hope for all people. There's something to love and sing along to in every song, and Seun's forthright need to bring humanity together in solidarity, through Afrobeat music, is a testament to the strength and groundwork that Fela laid down almost 50 years ago, and for this reason makes Black Times yet another gem in the genre's catalogue and marker in the music of human revolution.

Black Times - 9.5/10

Recommended Tracks: Black Times, Bad Man Lighter, African Dreams