Seun Kuti came to the limelight even before the demise of his father, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Today, he controls the band left behind by his father. NOLLYWOODGOSSIP was just sent a copy of his recent interview with with TOPE OLUKOLE. Excerpts:
What do you miss most about Fela?
I missed his presence, ideologies, care and love. His philosophy was very different; he was an ideal man to me. Fela was a very loving father. He treated me like a prince. I lived like a prince in my dad’s house when he was alive.
Talking about his ideas and philosophy, do you think Nigeria will miss him in our present political and socio-economic state?
I don’t know what to say. I don’t believe in ‘ifs’. When he was alive, nobody listened to him; so, if he were alive, I don’t know if we would listen to him. All these people never heard him out when he was alive.
Why are they shouting Fela like they cared about what he stood for? Except that what he said then is touching them now because Nigeria has more poor people, more suffering and pains than before.
Do Fela’s principles guide your way of life?
I believe the way humans live their lives should be like a map, a functional map. It is upgraded, reviewed and improved. So, that is how I live my life, I review it constantly for a better me. That is where most people are wrong, they stick to one idea irrespective of evidence otherwise.
Do you smoke Indian hemp to enhance your performance on stage?
Indian hemp should not be abused. It is good for mankind. I take Igbo, but not for performance. I take it to relax and cool off. It is good for sleep, arouses appetite, guides against cancer, it kills pain, clears the head and relaxes the nerves. Our government sees Igbo as illegal because it is a black man inheritance and not from white people; maybe if it was from Europe, like cigarette, it could be legalised.
We are just fake people who don’t believe in our own abilities except to rely on anything foreign. If Oyinbo says something is right, then it is right and if they say it is bad, then it is bad. Our government should first provide me with the basic social amenities before telling me to stop smoking Igbo, because I take it to reduce the psychological frustration I get from government’s inabilities. They are criticising Igbo, but junkies are all over in Nigeria now, among the youth, who sniff cocaine and other hard drugs.
How do you relax?
I relax by playing football and swimming; I also rest very well and read political and history books. I have very high taste and I am able to afford it and that’s why I work hard.
Were you a spoilt child?
No, no, no. My mum was the kind that will give you attention and discipline you. My dad used to spoil me, but my mum was not. In my family, we believe more in reasoning than discipline, reasoning works better. My dad hardly ever beat us; my mum beat me more than my dad. I was closer to my dad than my mum. Fela and I had the same interests.
How did you share the will of your father?
My father never left a will
So, you guys just agreed on the sharing formula?
In law, when a man dies like that, there are procedures to follow on the deceased’s properties. So, just follow the legal procedures and everybody got equal share.
Why did you choose to take up the Fela’s band after his demise?
That was because there was nobody else to do it and besides, I have been playing with the band all along before my father’s death. When he was alive, I was the one who usually opened the shows, so after his demise, I just felt I should continue with the band because it was important for me that the band keeps playing. Fela lives on and so should the band. My father always said that this band was the most important thing to him as well as the welfare of his band members. So, for me, I just felt that I should do what I had to do to keep the band going.
So, what are the challenges faced by the band?
I didn’t keep the same number of crew as Fela; right now, we are about 20 people. When Fela was alive, they were about 50. So, I retained only the ones that had faith in the music and what my father stood for. I must keep the standard, glamour, professionalism and radiance of the band because Egypt 80 has always been one of the best in Africa.
Fela groomed it to an international band and I wanted nothing less. So it’s been a bit challenging, but it’s all so good now. It took a while but we are there now and we hope to keep it that way.
Can you tell how growing up was like?
Growing up for me was fun because my childhood coincided with my father’s active music period. Fela had a short touring stage; he toured from 1984 to 1992, then stopped till he died. So for me, It was fun because Dad always took us with him. Right from when I was born, I went everywhere with him including my siblings, Motun and Kunle. I went to school and did normal things a child should do. I had always loved Michael Jackson more for his dance stunts.
Any other siblings from your mum?
I am the only child from my mum. There is nothing much to say about her except that she was very kind to me too; she believed in me more than I believed in myself and that was one of the things that gave me the courage to keep going. Most people think it’s fun to be an only child, I tell you, it’s not. You get all the attention and trust me, you don’t even want it, it can be boring and tiring.
What is education to you?
In my family, nobody tells you what to do. You do and become whoever you choose to be. My going to school was a personal decision and in fact, it was to get out of the stress. If I chose not to go to school, Fela would have supported me. Education is not synonymous with learning. Africa should stop this belief that education is synonymous to wealth or success. My mum never went to school, but she was one of the most intelligent people on this earth. Personal ability and working on it is more vital and not school. Femi didn’t go to school, but he is one of the most talented musicians in Africa today. If my child chooses not to go to school, I will give him my full support.