Son of Nigerian star talks of father's legacy

Singer Femi Kuti is the son of musician and activist Fela Kuti, whose career has been documented in "Finding Fela" by Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney.

NEW YORK - Femi Kuti is, like his father, a recording artist and an activist.

Now he's a storyteller as well, advising Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney on the documentary "Finding Fela," about the life of his father, Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti.

"I did (my) first recording with him in 1979, and immediately after that I joined the band doing alto saxophone parts he wrote for me," said the 52-year-old Femi Kuti, a four-time Grammy nominee.

Fela Kuti, whose life was celebrated by the Tony Award-winning play "Fela!" is credited with being the founder of Afrobeat, a style that fuses jazz, West African rhythms, funk and psychedelic rock.

While music was a vital part of Fela's existence, so was his vocal stance against the country's military dictatorship. He was jailed several times and his performances were often stopped by government forces.

He also was criticized by some Nigerians for his views on polygamy.

He was said to have 27 wives, then 12, before eventually divorcing them all. He died from AIDS in 1997.

Recently, Femi sat down to discuss his father's legacy and the film.

Q: What was your father's most valuable contribution?

A: I think the most prominent is obviously giving Nigerians a voice.

Q: What made you want to work on a film about your father's life?

A: It wasn't really my idea, but I supported it. ... It was very important for the world to hear my father's story from the mainstream point of view.

Q: When did you realize there was a message in your father's music regarding military dictatorship?

A: Eventually we had to realize what was going on, what he stood for in school because then in school you had people who loved him, because many of the children ... were ... underprivileged. But then you had lots of students from people who were singing against (it) so it was always this big battle in school: those that were for and those that were against.

Q: How does your music differ?

A: I am not probably as militant in my approach. ... Do I want blood in the streets? No. Do I want a revolution? ... So I have to find a very cer- tain way to address this very delicate situation that we're dealing with right now in Africa.