Legacy+: The Unending Musical Struggle Against Injustice


BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPECIAL 


Ayaz Hamid


The Afrobeat genre often goes unnoticed in today’s music industry, which is inundated with modern pop pieces. The importance of the genre’s contributions towards the expression of Pan-Africanist political statements goes unnoticed by most of today’s audience. For those who do not know of it, Afrobeat is a genre originating from West Africa, combining the element of American jazz, African rhythm instruments, and a variety of other styles.

The genre’s pioneer, Fela Kuti, played an immense part during the 70s when he utilised and popularised Afrobeat to fight against social injustice and authoritarian regimes. After all these years, the genre remains strong. The recently released album Legacy+ by father and son duo Femi Kuti and Made Kuti, Fela’s descendants, is a fine example of Afrobeat’s best elements.

Staying true to the genre’s philosophy, Legacy+ continues its musical crusade against racism, corruption, and general division. However, what is more is the album’s ability to portray how these issues have persisted across generations. As said before, Fela Kuti (Femi’s father and Made’s grandfather) was a legend among the Afrobeat world, being both a brilliant musician and an unwavering activist.

Indeed, Fela Kuti was a pioneer of the genre, mixing jazz elements with Afro-Cuban musical styles coupled with charismatic lyrics to fight against social injustice and corruption. Thus, the Kuti family’s name is synonymous with the genre itself, and the current album showcases how the problems that Fela fought against persisting, albeit in different forms and how the generational conflict against authoritarianism continues through the works of his son and grandson, who have followed in the footsteps of Fela eagerly.

The album starts with Femi’s upbeat and funky piece “Pà Pá Pà” and is a good example of how Afrobeat uses fast-paced beats and energetic instrumentals to send a message. The piece is undoubtedly a perfect opener for the album as it can rile up the audience’s emotions and simultaneously manage to express frustrations and discontent against the government. Femi Kuti does a phenomenal job at recreating what his father was best known for, combining jazz pieces magnificently with powerful and impactful lyrics.

Femi’s section of the album continues in a similar style, with songs like “You Can’t Fight Corruption with Corruption” and “No Bigmanism Spoil Government”, bringing great variety to the styles melody of the pieces. In this section of the album, the phenomenal instrumentals, with their pure jazz elements and fast-paced beats, are bound to keep the listeners tuning in for more.

The second section of the album that Made oversees still retains the familiar genre tropes heavily associated with the Kutis. However, he still manages to mark his own ground on the album almost immediately. In “Free Your Mind”, Made utilises elements of soul. It fuses it with Afrobeat’s energetic style, giving it a unique vibe that implicitly showcases the evolution of styles in the Kuti line. His pieces portray the injustice suffered by the people in the world more calmly. The album finishes off brilliantly with “We Are Strong” and “Young Lady”, containing both modern elements introduced by Made and the pure jazz influence carried on by both Fela and Femi.

Overall, the album is a very satisfactory one and may also serve as a good introduction to Afrobeat’s world to the uninitiated. The Kutis heavily emphasiae the multi-generational struggle against injustice. The mellifluous instrumentals and the variety of styles present in the album leave the listeners craving for more.

 

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