At a recent, exhilarating and triumphant concert in Memphis by the Afrobeat star Seun Kuti, son of the late Fela and leader of his father’s band Egypt 80, the concert organizers felt compelled to apologize for his politics.
Though “IMF,” a standout song from Kuti’s latest album, A Long Way to the Beginning, stands for “International motherfuckers,” it was his good-natured, often funny, but sincere bantering between songs, mostly about poverty and corruption and a few times laced with a swear word or two, which offended the venue management. First they displayed an impromptu and incomplete message on the giant stage screen – in the middle of Kuti’s set! – apologizing for Kuti’s language and assuring the audience that they do not endorse his political views. Then the same woman who enthusiastically introduced Kuti at the start of his set returned to the stage after his standing ovation to verbally reiterate the apology. Like the Greek “no” voters, however, the audience responded to her with loud boos and later insulted Levitt Shell, the concert venue, on its Facebook page (One of my favorites was the comment describing the giant electronic message as “Orwellian”).
It seems obvious the concert organizers knew nothing about Kuti’s politically-charged music when they invited him –not to mention his father or in fact his family lineage going back to his grandmother, the anti-colonial fighter Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti! Moreover, they somehow believe there are artists who do not have politics and audiences that cannot handle the truth.
International motherfuckers, indeed.
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