Femi Kuti, Africa For Africa

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 04.09.11 in Reviews

Africa For Africa

Femi Kuti

Afrobeat is hardly the world's most effective protest music — Nigeria has suffered under a horribly corrupt political system for decades, with no end in sight — but it's probably the only politically-minded music that's also fun to dance to. Femi Kuti, 48, inherited the sound and fury invented by his late, great father, Fela (along with drummer Tony Allen), a West African reimagination of James Brown's frantic funk. But Brown was never as lucidly-enraged as Fela, whose righteous discontent Femi has distilled into his eighth and most consistently bracing album to date.

Inheriting the sound and righteous discontent of his late, great father

Among these 14 relatively short tracks, "No Blame Them" and "E No Good" contain as many memorably massive horn riffs and polyrhythmic epiphanies as some of Fela's best side-long workouts. The killing joke is "Obasanjo Don Play You Wayo," in which raspy-voiced Femi and his chorus mock Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, chanting, "You cannot jail…the friend to the brother to the sister to the father to the mother to the daughter to the wife of the senator." And in "Now You See," the horn-heavy Positive Force Band overcompensates for the hopelessness Femi cops to feeling with sweat, swagger, and a jazzy guitar solo. And if a few tracks on the back end fall flat, it's only relative to the bounty that's come before.