Seun Kuti keeps the Afrobeat concocted by his father Fela, nicely simmering | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Seun Kuti keeps the Afrobeat concocted by his father Fela, nicely simmering

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Afrobeat scion Seun Kuti turned 35 early this year, and he’s already nearly two decades into his career. In 1997, when he was just 14, he took the reins of Egypt 80, his father Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s explosive working band. I was thrilled by his promise when he first surfaced internationally in 2006, and by the time he made his Chicago debut the following year, he had settled into the leadership role with amazing ease, casting a lithe, dynamic figure and dripping charisma while maintaining the band’s agile fire. None of those things have diminished on Kuti’s fourth album with Egypt 80, Black Times (Strut), but they haven’t changed much either; he’s still preserving the work of his father, albeit with commentary that takes direct aim at current politics in Nigeria and abroad. But with their un-fuck-with-able Afrobeat sound—which transforms the funk of James Brown into extended agitprop grooves marked by the stuttering drum patterns originally mapped out by Tony Allen, Fela’s longtime drummer—it hardly matters what the music is about when it is heard live. The new record was coproduced by jazz keyboardist Robert Glasper—who also contributes agile electric-piano passages on its storming opening track, “Last Revolutionary”—and a surprisingly inspired Carlos Santana drops in for an extended solo on the title track. While the production is unfussy and direct, the arrangements sweeten the pot here and there, especially the tuneful, punchy backing-vocal responses and the puzzle-part-like mosaic of interlocking guitar and keyboard licks that sparkles on most tracks.   v

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