Seun Kuti: A Different Kuti

by admin

Nze James Chinonyerem.

Seun, the son of the legendary Afro beat king, the indefinable and undefeatable Fela Kuti, the strange one, is in the news recently for not so a noble reason. Seun, who parodies his father’s songs, music and performances was caught on camera bullying and slapping a policeman. He wanted to play his father but ended up reversing the role. His father and his sibling, Beko, confronted both the police and the military as well as oppressive regimes not with physical slaps and reckless street or road demeaning displays but with sense and reasons. They won in every of their outings because theirs were real fights for the people against their oppressors devoid of self egotism. They were severally detained, molested, their property vandalized but they always won the hearts of the oppressed as well as shamed the oppressors. Fela Kuti understood the powers of words and words of power. He knew music and song were powerful medium of sociopolitical engagements. He used them to the fullness to challenge and confront the oppressors. In all, the oppressors quaked and shivered. Fela was also a philosopher king with reasoned poetics. He had a vision of a just, fair and equitable social order which he sang in his songs and propounded in his intellectual engagements.

But Seun is a new Kuti not cast in the image and likeness of the Kuti’s activism. He cherished the brashness and erratic behaviour to the meticulously calculated actions and reactions. He seems not to understand the difference between onstage and offstage behaviours.

He is in dentition today not as a political prisoner like his father and uncle but as a brat and felon. What a contradiction? He seemed not to have learned the ropes from his family or was he simply in a hurry to create a self image for himself. Was he thinking where his father and uncle turned the other chick, he would take an eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth? Probably, he felt convinced that he who strikes first wins the race hence he slapped and yelled at the police guy in such and undignified manner. But the police guy was not also an ordinary one. The video clip portrayed a policeman under abuse by a civilian away from the horrifying images of policemen terrorizing unarmed civilians. In this case, Seun terrorized an unarmed policeman and earned himself a wrong medal for law violation.

Seun might have been pained by the endless police brutalities. He might have sworn to get a pound of flesh with blood dripping from the police but he ended up engaging the police from the wrong end. He didn’t act from his head but his heart and the police happily are doing him in, making a mockery of him in a circus show.

Seun Kuti is a poor student of history and literature. He probably does not read even if he sings well. If ever he reads, he would have encountered an Okonkwo in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Okonkwo, suffered the status anxiety syndrome. The fear of being thought weak was his tragic flaw. Literary scholars call it hamartia. Hubris, the bane of all tragic heroes. Julius Caesar suffered the aliment too. Each tragic hero falls from grace to grass in spite of himself. Seun Kuti is a carrier of this deadly virus. He didn’t know it but those who know it, saw it.

Certainly, Seun is a different Kuti with different habits, style and duty. Did his action reflect the nobility of the Kuti clan’s cherished social and political engagements?

I leave the guess to you.

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