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BIG BEATS

The son also rises, they say. But in the case of the late Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, not one but two of his male offspring went into the family business, perpetuating Fela’s massive horn riffs, polyrhythmic epiphanies, and engaged politics in different manners. Seun Kuti, the younger, performs with members of his father’s Egypt 80 band and is the traditionalist. Firstborn Femi Kuti, on the other hand, has continually tweaked the Afrobeat blueprint for a tighter, jazzier sound he expounds with his 10-piece Positive Force band. Where Fela stretched out songs into sidelong suites, Femi distills just as many good ideas into shorter but no less bracing blasts. And while Femi’s raspier voice doesn’t rage quite as righteously as Fela’s, he sweats and swaggers just as hard.

Sat., Jan. 26, 7 p.m., 2013

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Sean Kuti & Fela’s Egypt 80

On one hand, Seun Kuti’s gumption is admirable: It took cojones to step into his late activist father’s bandleader shoes and command most of the last Afrobeat orchestra he led. And while the ghost of Fela haunts Seun’s features, bearing, and polemics, it’s difficult not to come away from the latter’s revival disappointed, to desperately want some semblance of gravitas to come across. In his prime, Fela’s every note and aside bore the accumulated weight of decades of political oppression and paranoia. At the tender age of 19, Seun’s exasperation is more theatrical than genuine, but give him points for keeping the cause alive.

Sun., April 8, 8 p.m., 2012

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Seun Kuti Carries the Afrobeat Torch

It’s hard to know what Seun Kuti makes of high-profile celebrity adoptions of impoverished African children, à la Madonna or Brangelina. It seems the youngest son of Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti (and bro to Femi, a prominent talent in his own right) would think the problem of Africa is its own to solve. To him, those babies might be lost warriors in the fight against the corruption and genocide that have oppressed his brothers and sisters for so long. On “African Problems,” off the 26-year-old’s thrilling debut, Seun bears his burden: “I must try to teach the peoples a new mentality/Make ‘dem appreciate Africa’s superiority.” Giving momentum to his empowering diatribes is Egypt 80, the second incarnation of his father’s classic band—their percussion, keys, guitars, and horns (including Seun’s own sax) locking and loading effortlessly into sultry, long-form jazz and funk jams as reminiscent of the J.B.’s as his own father’s work.

Indeed, Seun takes what his father did best—rampant politicizing and infinite grooving—and updates it by beefing up his English and adding occasional samples, like bustling cityscapes. But he’s still fighting the same fight, against the same enemy. See, three decades ago, his father’s polygamist commune was pillaged by Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo because Fela’s song “Zombie” called out Obasanjo’s troops. Nowadays, Seun finds himself in the same predicament: waiting for reprisal from Obasanjo after railing against him on cuts like “Mosquito Song,” which addresses the government’s failure to thwart malaria by neglecting to teach Nigerians about basic hygiene. That scathing criticism takes a stirring call-and-response form on “Don’t Give That Shit to Me,” a nine-minute romp wherein Seun and his bandmates trade shout-outs: “Disunity/In Africa/Disadvantage/ Among Africans/Dishonesty/In my country.” Given this democratic approach to rabble-rousing, Seun clearly realizes that the revolution needs all the help it can get, and while he’s probably appreciative of celebrity aid and the awareness it can bring, he no doubt wants those adoptees to return home once they realize how badly Africa needs them.

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 play Central Park Summerstage July 6