Femi Kuti Biography

16 June 1962, London, England. Son of the legendary Nigerian Afro-Beat pioneer Fela Kuti, Femi is a worthy successor to his father and has added a new dimension to the polyrhythmic sound in which his father specialised. Femi has added the exuberance of young Lagos as well as the sounds of American dance music. This element has been enhanced by the fondness for his music by several noteworthy DJs and producers such as François Kevorkian, Ashley Beedle, Masters At Work, Kerri Chandler and Joe Claussell. All of these noteworthy figures contributed remixes of tracks from his acclaimed 1999 album Shoki Shoki to Shoki Remixed? released on the UK’s respected Nuphonic label.

Kuti, who was born in England but raised in Lagos, Nigeria, first rose to fame in 1985 when he appeared in place of his father at the Hollywood Bowl after Fela was arrested at Lagos airport on a dubious fraud charge. Femi delighted the audience with the strident saxophone style and self-assured stage presence of his father. By 1987, he had formed his own band, the Positive Force and their debut No Cause For Alarm was released on PolyGram Nigeria. It was an effective blend of soul and jazz with driving percussion and socio-political lyrics. Following this release, Kuti made a dramatic live debut in Paris, the precursor to many sell-out European tours. The Positive Force also regularly draw a massive devoted audience to its shows at The Shrine in Lagos. Kuti signed a recording contract with Motown Records in 1994 and his self-titled album received a worldwide release in early 1995, supported by a US tour. Unfortunately, after a change in management, Motown scrapped its African imprint but Femi continued to tour Africa extensively and visited Europe in 1996 and 1997. Fela Kuti died in August 1997 and shortly afterwards, further tragedy befell the family when Femi’s younger sister, Sola (a founding member of the Positive Force) died of cancer.

Femi Kuti signed a worldwide recording contract with Barclay/PolyGram Records and released Shoki Shoki in September 1998. A world tour to promote the album followed. The follow-up Fight To Win added US rappers Common and Mos Def to the mix, but Kuti remained the focal point on an intensely personal collection of songs. ‘’97’ commemorated the family’s losses in the same year, while the strident ‘Traitors Of Africa’ and ‘Eko Lagos’ would have made his late father proud.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.