Seun Kuti when he last performed in Minneapolis on September 21, 2022 downtown at the Dakota. He will bring his North American "Dey" tour to the Fine Line Music Cafe in downtown Minneapolis on Friday, July 26, 2024. Mshale Staff Photo by Jasmine Webber

“Right now, music does everything I need,” said Seun Kuti, which is remarkable as this musician from Nigeria has been on stage since he was 9 years old and leading Egypt 80, the band once lead by his iconic father Fela, since he was 14.

Mshale chatted with the Grammy-nominated saxophonist recently. Unable to sit down for the interview, Kuti, shirtless, paced throughout his home in Lagos, energized by his thoughts as he clarified the power music held for him.

Now in his 27th year of collaboration with Egypt 80, Kuti remains true to his father’s vision and political bent.  He said, “Music is my true calling. It’s the way I want to pass my message to the world. It is the legacy that I want to project for my future generations to see me through.”

Kuti sees music as both a means for self-expression and as a catalyst to activism. Like many musicians from Africa—The Gambia’s Sona Jobarteh, Bassekou Kouyate from Mali, to name a couple—Kuti holds onto a bigger picture, one that advances the continent of Africa with music as a fundamental conveyance.

“To the different nations in Africa,” Kuti said one hand holding his phone, the other gesturing, “one of the greatest lies that have been told to us by the imperialists, the capitalists, is that Africans can only be developed from outside influence and foreign investments.”

This does not sit easy with Kuti. He said with emphasis, “Africans must be willing to sacrifice their own talents for the national development.  But we’re being lied to, to think our talents [are] just for us to make the quick buck here and there, to be famous, to be rich, to be well-known.  What about individual development we can attain from all our talents,” he asked.

“Just like every profession, I feel like Africans will most understand that our talents cannot be divorced from our national developments,” Kuti said, lassoing in more than entertainers, but also other professions.

“So it’s not just musicians,” he said. “I feel African lawyers have a role to play in African development. This means African justice means more to them than the dollars.

African doctors have a role to play in African development. African health means more to them than the dollar.

African engineers have a role to play in the development of Africa. Immediately, the construction of Africa makes more sense to them than the American dollar.

The same applies to musicians. That he must understand that his talent will be willing to influence these people to greatness, to development, not just to make himself famous and rich.

So I think everything, everybody has a role to play in that aspect, not just the artist, the musician.”

Seun Kuti uses social media to expound on his ideas posting monologues lasting an hour or more. Despite his passion for lifting up the African citizen, he also recognizes the need to simply enjoy life. Not every moment must be a strident call to equality or justice.

“My music is…every actor has his role to play. Our people…in Africa there is a proverb that says the sky is big enough for all the birds to fly. So I think Africans need all this kind of music. Africans don’t need just revolutionary music because there are times, maybe we are not interested in the revolution, we just want to have a good time. We need music for that,” Kuti said.

His upcoming show, part of the Dey Tour “I’m too busy being myself”, will include new and very fun music featuring Damian Marley of the Bob Marley Jamaican family. A new album, Dey,  in collaboration with the Marley family will be released on June 26th, the very day Kuti will appear in Minneapolis.

As the interview on Zoom wrapped, Kuti reminded me, “But I think the sky, as I said before, is big for every bird to fly.”

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 will appear at the Fine Line in Minneapolis July 26th. Buy tickets for the 8:30 pm show here.


  • Susan Budig

    Susan is based in Minneapolis and reports on general assignments for Mshale with a focus on entertainment. In addition to reporting, she is also a writer, poet, teacher and coach.

About Susan Budig

Susan is based in Minneapolis and reports on general assignments for Mshale with a focus on entertainment. In addition to reporting, she is also a writer, poet, teacher and coach.

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