Prince of Afrobeat, Seun Anikulapo Kuti and the Egypt 80 Band, alongside other African artistes, have been unveiled to perform at this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California. Holding in April, the line-up will feature more than 170 artistes and will be headlined by Rage Against the Machine, Travis Scott and Frank Ocean. African and diaspora artistes at this year’s Coachella inlcude Aya Nakamura (Mali/France), Black Cofee (South Africa), Kyle Watson (South Africa), Sampa the Great (Zambia/Australia) and Dave (Nigeria/UK).
The yearly event will take place over two consecutive weekends: 10-12 April and 17-19 April, with Seun Kuti billed to perform on 12 and 19 April. The Grammy nominee shared an image of the line-up on his social media, with a clip of his performance in 2012 when he became the first Nigerian artiste to perform at Coachella.
“For me, this is what I have been doing for a very long time you know, and what is really amazing is that, this time at least, many Nigerians now know Coachella and they are celebrating my being there, which is what is new. The last time I was there, it was like nobody really knew,” Seun said in a chat with Guardian Music.
Though the 2019 edition of the festival featured Burna Boy and Mr Eazi, which went viral, it’s on record that Seun Kuti was the first Nigerian artiste to play Coachella. However, for Seun, that’s not a big deal.“I’m not really looking at it from that perspective,” Seun hinted, adding, “For me, it’s the more the merrier. Just like I said when I was at the Grammys that for me, it wasn’t enjoyable that I was the only Nigerian person there among all these people I didn’t know. So, I didn’t really feel a part in that situation, unlike if I were there with my fellow Africans; people that I knew also. It’s better if the door was opened for all other African artistes, not the one of us that they choose to pick for the year to bless. So, for me, that is even what is more important.”
To Seun, representing Africa on an international platform is far more important than individual success.“I feel as African people, we have many different perspectives of the continent that we represent. So, many people represent the fun, fashion, excitement, dancing and clubbing part of Africa. I believe also that there’ revolutionary responsibility for the rest of the African people; I think that’s what I represent. But I don’t think that one part is the enemy of the other; I believe both realities are true of Africa.”
He continued: “In this Africa, there is a minority that lives like they are in Europe and America and have the best of things. Then, there are the majority of us that need the revolutionary struggle to attain even humanity. So, I think some of us represent Africa with our Art. There’s a situation in Africa today where it’s like we are enemy of the art, so, we are excluded from everything. But we are a complement to the art and should be involved in everything so that people can, at least, experience the full spectrum of what it is to be Africans.”
In Seun’s opinion, the revolutionary side of Africa seems not to be getting the right attention, as artistes are more interested in the blings and parties. “All through last December, there were a lot of people coming back to Africa; people going to Ghana, people coming from America to Nigeria and other African countries. But I realised that none of them touched on the revolutionary responsibility of being African people. Everybody just came to Africa to party, drink, dance and wear fashion as if that is the only thing going on in Africa. As if people are not dying, as if people are not hungry, as if people are not homeless, as if people are not dehumanised. I think that, if I’m excluded from the conversation because of that, I don’t think we are really experiencing the complete reality of Africa. So, for me, that is what it is. If I’m in these places, it means that, ‘yes, the revolutionary responsibility is also validated and recognised.”
On the Egypt 80’s preparations for 2020 Coachella, he said, “Well, for Coachella, you can’t announce before the organisers, but this is not the only big thing that is happening for me this year in terms of doing live shows. Even around the Coachella, we have a tour in the United States; we are planning for that too. There are so many things we are working on, trying to get off the ground; this is a big year. Every year for me is a big year, as long as I’m able to play my music. So, we are looking forward to another big year,” he said.
On the level of acceptance Afrobeat is currently enjoying globally, largely as a result of his exploits and that of his elder brother Femi, Seun explained, “I often say to people, it is not my brother and I that sustained Afrobeat; Fela has inspired the world not just Nigerian people. That’s why when you see Nigerian artistes claiming to be Fela, it is because they are also trying to tap into and access that opportunity that Fela has created. I mean, globally, there are thousands of Afrobeat bands. My friend even called me from San Diego that he went to watch a new Afrobeat band that just popped up in San Diego, Brazil; the first all female Afrobeat band called Funmilayo Afrobeat Ochestra. Of course, I’m their patron and godfather of the group. They messaged me and they made me an honorary member; I’m the only male member of the band. So, it’s a global phenomenon you know.”
He continued: “For me, what I just want in Africa is that the gatekeepers of the African entertainment industry should stop portraying one kind of Africa only to people; the Africa that serves the interest of the elites. The Africa that gives our oppressive rulers and business elites a pass; the Africa that shows that things are good for every body.”
This year, Seun’s target is to release at last two albums.“My dream is to try and release at least two albums this year. There’s good opportunity to do that, but I’m still sorting out the nitty gritty of my deal. Other than that, if everything goes well for me this year, I want to try and put two albums out, just keep doing what I am doing. Also, my own conviction is that I just have to keep believing in what I do. As long as there is an opportunity to be able to share my ideas, I should keep doing that,” he said.
Aside from Femi and Seun, Made, Femi’s son, is gradually making impact in the music industry, sometimes performing alongside his father. Those, who attended the last Felabration had the opportunity of watching the trio of Femi, Seun and Made perform live on stage; it was incredible.
Asked if there’s plan to collaboration with the young, promising talent, Seun said, “Don’t mind the yeye boy; I yabbed him on New Year Day. He came to meet me, feeling sooo happy, jumping up and down and he said, ‘Oh uncle, I have finished my album.’ He didn’t even tell me before then; he told me when he finished. Yeah, I’m looking forward to working with him. The boy is really doing great; he’s definitely an addition to the greatness that is our family. Personally, I’m am looking forward to the world experiencing him and his own message.”