Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 are the combination of two generations of musicians. Egypt 80 was Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti's last band' Seun, his youngest son (and brother of musician Femi Kuti) had shown an interest in his father's music from the age of five, and at nine began opening Fela's shows, singing a select group of songs with Egypt 80 before his dad took the stage. As a developing saxophonist and percussionist, he entered the formal ranks of the band before he was 12. Fela passed in 1997, and Seun, in fulfillment of his father's wishes, assumed the mantle as head of Egypt 80 at 14. After finishing school at 18, he pursued music full-time. Since that time shows have always combined his own songs with those of his father. Although the elder Kuti never performed his recorded work on-stage, Seun felt it important that these compositions were heard live and therefore added them to his set.
Though there was little turnover in Egypt 80's personnel, the younger Kuti -- an enthusiast of music of all stripes -- began putting his own twist on the music, digging deep into various African and modern jazz and funk traditions to reflect the continent's struggles and cultures. Their debut recording, Seun Kuti & Fela's Egypt 80, was originally issued by WM Recordings in 2008, and later picked up for distribution by Mr. Bongo. While many outside Africa criticized it solely for using the Egypt 80 name, critics embraced its musical drive and improvisational fervor. Mr. Bongo also released his Many Things set later that year, which won more critics over and drew far more praise than criticism.
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 toured globally and played for receptive audiences in Detroit, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Paris, London, Tokyo, and of course, Lagos. In 2011, they cut From Africa with Fury: Rise for Knitting Factory Records. It was co-produced with Brian Eno and John Reynolds. The set proved to be his breakthrough; it landed on both Billboard and digital International Charts. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 -- the band still retained three-quarters of the group that played, protested, and were arrested with his father -- toured the globe relentlessly, often playing multi-hour shows that were as heavy on improvisation as they were on composition. The music never deviated from the overtly political. The younger Kuti continued to state that "Fela will always be number one," despite the fact that he was shifting and transforming Afrobeat with his own growing, evolving musical signature.
In 2014, the group issued A Long Way to the Beginning. The set was a collaborative venture between the Knitting Factory and Kalakuta Soul labels. Produced by Robert Glasper, the set featured not only Egypt 80, but also guest appearances from its producer, rappers M1 and Blitz the Ambassador, and German/Nigerian singer Nneka. After touring for more than a year, Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 took a break (during which time Seun became a father) and began rehearsing again at Kalakuta, the rebuilt communal compound Fela built for his family and musicians. Seun envisioned a more expansive recording than anything he'd done in the past and again reached out to Glasper, this time as a co-producer, for the purpose of cutting a diverse but anthemic political record, documenting struggles both emergent and historic. Glasper also contributed his playing to the sessions. The pair enlisted guitarist Carlos Santana to contribute to the title track single and video "Black Times" as well as vocalist Nai Palm of future-soul quartet Hiatus Kaiyote and rapper and activist Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) who appeared elsewhere on the album. Black Times was issued by Strut in March of 2018. ~ Thom Jurek~ Rovi