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African pride with Nigeria's Femi Kuti and Kenyan Makadem

By Daniel Brown

In an exclusive exchange, Nigerian singer-saxophonist Femi Kuti denounces corruption, military dictatorship and nepotism, as he releases another vitriolic album. These themes are echoed by akadem, an up-and-coming artist from Nairobi. The young Kenyan mixes traditional Luo, Dodo and Nyatiti music with ragga and hip-hop to telling effect.

Africa for Africa is the name Femi Kuti chose for his latest release, recorded entirely in the former Decca studios of Lagos. That was largely thanks to his old travelling companion and Parisian producer, Sodi.

“Sodi understands me,” he told World Tracks during his whirlwind promotional tour for the album, “I wanted to reflect my pain over the state of Africa and be close to my sources. So he suggested Decca, where my dad [Nigerian musical legend Fela Kuti] used to record. I told him he was crazy, there would be no electricity power, it need a complete overhaul […] But we made the best out of a bad situation. And it worked!”

Later, Femi performed many of the 14 tracks on Africa for Africa to a sweaty audience at the Bellevilloise club in northern Paris .

The 48-year-old has developed quite a talent in orchestration and directs his large band with aplomb. But his voice has taken a bit of a beating and it’s a shame he’s spreading himself so thin in terms of multi-instrumentation.

Femi is still crusading for a proud and free Africa. The album is an angry tirade against the continuing corruption and bankruptcy of the African continent.

Kenyan singer Makadem would be flattered to be put in Femi’s militant company. He is a gripping young artist, nicknamed Ohanglaman, who says he is on a journey to explore the untapped sounds of his country, and bring them into the 21st century.

His debut 12-track album has created a genre he calls Anglo-Ohangla, mixing Nyatiti, Dodo, and pidgin English styles. And it’s allowed him to tackle any subject under the sun, including a homage to Obama and a song about the World Cup in South Africa .

And there is always a social conscience driving his music.
 

“The Ohangla style basically tackles social issues,” he explains backstage after his concert at the Timitar festival in the Moroccan town of Agadir. “With time, we’ll make a mark. It’s become very easy for me. It’s fast, tough and dancy. That’s me!”

Here is Daniel Brown's choice of albums played on World Tracks this month:

1) World Massala, Terrakota (Ojo! Records), Angola/Portugal. 
2) Asmara’s got soul, Asmara All Stars (Outhere), Eritrea/France. 
3) Mahmoud Ahmed & Imperial Bodyguard Band 1972-74, Ethiopiques 26, Mahmoud Ahmed (Buda Musique), Ethiopia.
4) Hinterland, An Pierlé & White Velvet (PIAS), Belgium.
5) Live in Amsterdam, http://musicabrasileira.org/ceumar/cconcert.html ">Ceumar & Trio (Mendes-Coelho Productions)
6) Kwegne, Kareyce Fotso (Contre-Jour), Cameroon.
7) The Unlimiters, The Unlimiters (HScore Publishing), Germany. 
8) Wolf Love, OMNIA (PaganScum Records), The Netherlands. 
9) Helsinki-Shangri-La, Paleface (XO Records), Finland. 
10) For the Next Generation, Maxxo (Echo Productions), France.

 

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