I Had to Leave Africa to Appreciate Africa: Made Kuti, The Movement

In an intimate interview, Chinonso Ihekire peels back the layers to reveal the fullness of Made Kuti. Kester Onyemaechi captures him in photos.

Peering through the windows, Made Kuti’s eyes were aglow with sober reflection. From the sparsely lit room, he stared at the field lush with overgrown grass and memories he alone could see. “I grew up here (at the Shrine). I once was out here playing football from 12 pm to 10 pm, and everyone was looking for me. But no one thought to look here, just behind the house,” he cracks a soft smile. And, even till now, football still holds a special place in Made’s heart. “I am the best at FIFA, in the world,” the 25-year-old maestro proclaims. 

But even the soccer pitch did not hold his dearest goals. “I had always found music, even before I could understand it. It was everywhere. I woke up at 6 am and I would still see my dad performing at the shrine from the previous day, as I was going to school. It was a way of life before I even knew what the family represented.” 

For the direct descendant of Fela Kuti who founded the iconic Afrobeat genre (not to be confused with ‘Afrobeats’), his family’s legacy represented more than musical ingenuity, socio-political activism and global fame; it also marked him as a target to street gangs bearing bad blood with the shrine. “I was once sighted by a gang member, while playing ball outside. He tried to attack me. I called my Dad, and later there was a whole gang turf war.”    

Now, here he was, over a decade later, back at his room in the infamous New Afrika Shrine founded by his grandfather, with music warm at his heart and the memories as fresh as yesterday. We sit to talk and our photographer Khannah Black becomes inspired by Made’s unconscious pose and angles to take a photo. And he welcomed us again to his room, “where it all began.” The room is solemn, with no furniture and only a traveler’s backpack, signifying he is only staying momentarily.  Outside the room, a few of his band members and media techies are chatting away, and he goes to remind them that he is in an interview. “Do you need some noise?” one of them teases, and then the silence returns. 

A few feet from where we were was the heart of the shrine itself – the stage. A few band players from Femi Kuti’s band, The Positive Force, which Made used to perform with, were having a quick rehearsal for the evening show. Shrine dwellers and vendors were scurrying around the spacious place, joining the early-bird patrons to enjoy the beautiful rehearsals of the musicians on stage. Beyond the saxophone, horns, and drumbeats blaring from within the shrine, outside was a different spectacle; the excessively photographed exterior nested a horde of people, from street touts, to weed sellers and pastry makers. At the shrine’s entrance stood a huge sign: “No Weed Smoking Allowed Here”, and a few porters screened patrons at the door for similar contraband. Cars randomly honked from the distance, as drivers struggled to park or drop off passengers on the narrow road. The air was shrill with euphoric melodies rising from within the shrine and everyone that walked past easily identified the evergreen energy pulsating from Afrobeat’s birthplace. 

“First time coming to the shrine?” Made teased, breaking the ice. “Actually, yes; it is my first,” Kester responds fumbling with his camera lenses, before stealing another shot of the Afrobeat royalty. Being a celebrity musician is still very novel to Made; as all his life he was shrouded from his family’s fame – to keep him safe. Now he is inking his own name on the halls of fame. 

Like his grandfather, Made trained as a musician at Trinity College, in London, where he honed his dexterity as a multi-instrumentalist. His mind is as widely traveled as his father, with his philosophies traversing several writers, such as Malcolm X, Kant, Freud, among others. He has a similarly broad taste in music, stewed in cross-continental melodies, including the modern and experimental forms of electronic dance, funk, among others. However, Made’s music doesn’t fall far from the tree, flushing with a certain rarity that embodies a subtle radicalism, ‘genre rebellion’, and introspective self-development philosophies that feel like Fela but also with a different, subtler, and intriguing vibe of its own.  

With the release of his debut album, dubbed ‘For(e)ward’, Made makes history, not just because of its classic nature; but because it is the second part of a joint release with his father, Femi Kuti, in a rare father-and-son double album dubbed ‘Legacy+. From Femi’s side, titled ‘Stop The Hate’ which is an aggressive 10-track opener belting out socio-political commentary on Nigeria and its leadership, down to Made’s mellowed-yet-ferocious 8-track closer, the entire sound-piece radiates with a vivid awakening; it burns with rage and free-spirited sage. It carries a legacy enshrined within this iconic musical family for over two decades. 

He looks at me again, his tone aglow with the same passion he maintained since we sat down. “Let me tell you about the meaning behind the title, For(e)ward,” he says. Admiring his beautiful cultural neckpiece, I edge closer to hear all the details. He strolls down memory lane, discussing his studies at Trinity College; recording his album in 16 days, becoming a multi-instrumentalist out of restlessness, his first-hand exposure to racism, love for contemporary Nigerian artistes, and his vision for his music and a better society. With Wakonte, he holds no secrets; except for the specific features on his next album – which he explains would contain some features.

In this interview Made gives us Made Kuti, no salt, no sugar; just Made.  

Are you currently working on new music?

For the whole album I had about 17 or so tracks, and I picked 8. I also composed some new music for the For(e)ward album; so I have about 13+ tracks unreleased in my archive, and every day I get new ideas. There is always new music, I think; the same way I try to practice my instruments every day, I try to keep my mind healthy creatively by thinking of new ideas, new music, different kinds of structure, different kinds of sounds. It has always been music.

When did you start actively recording For(e)ward?

For(e)ward was very quick. It was 16 days of recording. It started in December 2019.  I spent two weeks in the studio in Paris where my Dad used to record. It is a really nice studio. The producer, Uncle Sodi, he set up the studio in a way that I could play every instrument myself. Everything was ready – all I had to do was sit and play and in 16 days straight we recorded the album.

Where did you meet your current band members?

We grew up around here together. We all met around this area, since we were children. We all used to come to the shrine and play together.

How old were you guys then?

We were about 8. We have known each other for almost 17 years now.

Did you always know that you were going to go into music?

Yes I did. I understood my love for music, before I understood what career was or the way of life is, before I even knew what life was and what the Kuti family represented. I used to watch my Dad perform so much; he took me when I was about 5 – 8 years old on tours. I absorbed the tour life, the different cities, playing music for different people, and different reception towards music. I saw his writing and recording process. I saw his rehearsals. I took in so much music before I even knew I was going to take the career path. I showed interest in learning the sax, piano, drum and I didn’t hold or learn instruments solely for more than 3 years. So I just followed my gut and instinct. It was hard not to choose music because it was everywhere.

What kind of friends were you keeping, at that age?

 I had a very small circle. My brothers today are the same brothers I had then. 

Is that you or it is because you are a Kuti?

I think it is my personality because the older I got the more conscious I became about my family, publicity, and news. I used to read about my dad on the news; I read truth and lies, which made me conscious of my actions. Not to the point that I became nervous or overwhelmed; it just made me aware that everything I do has a consequence. So, I just found freedom within people that I trusted. Although, as a child, I just did whatever I liked.

If you had a circle of friends that had diverse interests it could have affected you. 

I found my passion for music before I had any major friendship. I was five years old when I opened a show, at the shrine – I played the trumpet. So, even by that age, although I wouldn’t say I was talented or gifted, I knew I was interested. So I knew that there was something about music that I wanted to be part of, and when my Dad took me on tours, I always played the percussion. I didn’t know what I was doing but I played. I am sure they must have muted my Microphone a few times. I felt I was doing something and that made me feel good.

What would you say is the philosophy behind your music?

The fundamental drive behind what I do is progress. I am an avid listener of music. My first sounds were my father’s and Fela’s. Then I started listening to some pop and jazz from my Japanese teacher. I got really deep into it, from Oscar Peterson, Miles, and so on, and I started picking up on classical music; because I started piano lessons, again, when I went to London. I was listening to a lot of Bach and Stravinsky. I was listening to a lot of Jazz too and then contemporary stuff. So, my music taste just became so broad. Although I was really tied to Afrobeat, I started to connect with different types of music. That is why on the For(e)word album, every track is so different from the next; because I tried to pour out my interest as I composed. So, it is just progress; because I know what Afrobeat has done and I am very much well aware of what it has not done yet. So, a song like Young Lady, in time signature, is in 7/4, and to my knowledge, no Afrobeat composition has been structured in 7/4 time signature. So, I did that consciously. 3/4; messing with time signature. 6/4.  Every song was a deliberate experiment for the album. 

So, that settles it for the music. What about the content?

Every song was inspired by my real life experiences. Free Your Mind was me hating school. I felt that most of what I learned was not relevant to my immediate reality. So, I started reading a lot of books, and the books that I read helped me more than any teacher in school. My thought was I am freeing my mind. So, Free Your Mind was inspired by a song by my dad titled Set Your Souls and Mind Free. I sort of took on the way I absorbed about that song and revamped it as something else. Free your mind and set your soul free was about breaking free from educational structures, social structures and borders – Really knowing that knowledge is free, and you can get whenever and wherever you like it; you are within your own rights to justify your own philosophies. You can decide that life means this for you and that is not illegal. So, Free Your Mind is about using your mind to fullest potential and breaking all the borders that systems and structures set for you. 

Then, the song Your Enemy was about police brutality. I had an encounter with a policeman, which wasn’t nice. I had just come back from London. I got a good talking to, after that one. What my dad said was I should understand the police officer as much as I understand myself; because they are as much victims of Nigeria as I am. They do not get good pay; their livelihood is as wretched as most people; they are dealing with the same kind of excess poverty and corruption that everybody else is facing. So, who is the real enemy? Is it the man in uniform or the one that pays his salary? So, Your Enemy is all about knowing that the structure and the system is the enemy, not so much the police officer because if you put another man in uniform he most probably will exercise power the same way. Our own is not racism; it is really about the conditions we are in. 

The next song is titled Blood. It was about the books I was reading. I was like ‘do you want a violent revolution?’ This is because the way the country is going it looks like that is where we are going – an eye for an eye. And the only way for us to be peaceful to achieve the kind of prosperity that we want is by enlightenment. We have to be smart enough to know what we are capable of and what is right and do it. 

Then, the song Different Street is about the different streets in Lagos; Lekki that is sinking. Alagbado that is dealing with bad roads is another street. Each street has its own personality and the kinds of people that grew up there. And being born in one area really dictates the kind of life that you lead; because opportunities do not really exist in Lagos. The chance of a carpenter’s son becoming president is next to none, where nepotism is the structure of Lagos. 

So, How You Find is about searching for a higher consciousness. That is very straightforward and easy. I watched the BBC sex for grades documentary and I changed every lyric of my song to suit what that documentary meant for me. The song was first called One More Day and it was about going through the struggles each day and becoming better. After watching the BBC documentary, I was aware of this whole reality. I was previously aware of it, but not how dominant it was in the system. This is the one place where women are supposed to feel like they can grow, learn and become better, even if life is hard. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter anymore. It doesn’t matter until you accept the teacher’s sexual advances. The fact that there are people in positions of power that get away with such things irritates me so much. I got so angry after watching the documentary and started writing this song. After I watched it, I spoke to a lot of women that went to UNILAG and all their experiences were the same. It was just ridiculous that almost every female student has experienced this and these men are still there. 

We Are Strong is the last track. It is about knowing that the collective has more power than the minority. The British, as small as they were, went to India, colonized Australia, and committed genocide in Africa. How they managed to do that is ridiculous; it is simply because they understood that if they stuck together they could impose their culture on the rest of the world, because they could think as one people and work as a collective. Africans are social people, but when it comes to actively as a group of people, we don’t do well. You would find individual success stories, from Anthony Joshua, to Burna Boy, Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti, and so much more.  Anything that requires us to work as a team, we start to fall back. Personally, I think it is a problem of education; it teaches us to be selfish. If you do not own a big car or house, if you can’t travel outside the country, then you are not successful. We have a capitalist mindset. If you don’t have a big car or can fly to London any other day, then you are not successful. It is not about passion or worth or what you give back to your community. It is it all about growth, and if you instill this thought into a child from 6 years in primary school to another 6 years in secondary school, then 4 or 5 years in university. That child is going to come out thinking only about himself. Everything that we do matters to the people around us and we cannot ignore the fact that we all contribute in some way to where we live. If the president of our country is getting health care from London when he doesn’t establish good medical facilities in the country that can treat him, that would be madness to everybody.  The Queen is not going to go to America to receive healthcare and Biden won’t go to the UK to get treatment. They established their country. We are strong is just knowing that we are plenty and we are more than them, and if we think as a collective we can overpower them and get what is rightfully ours. The minority right now is ruling and that is wrong. 

Lastly, Hymn was inspired by my younger siblings. We should know that we are responsible for the kind of legacy that they follow. I think the generation before us did us rubbish. So, we should try and do better for the ones after us.

Do you see yourself innovating a genre?

Definitely. Other than Free Your Mind, if anyone listens to any other track on the album they will have to say it’s just Afrobeat. Afrobeat fanatics will find it difficult to immediately accept that it is strictly Afrobeat, and I am fine with that. I studied at Trinity, and Trinity was all about experimentation; if you composed something from the classical period and you did it very well, that is, you followed all the techniques and methods and you wrote a perfectly drafted symphony, and you experimented with pots as another piece, you will get better marks for experimentation than replication. That is the kind of school that Trinity was. So, as soon as I left Trinity, my music became very wild. I had to find a way to balance my experimentation with what I know. Music is for people. If you try to think too much of yourself, you will alienate the people that are supposed to receive and be inspired by your music. I have had to find balance with all those things. Free Your Mind, for instance, didn’t have lyrics as a track at first, until I imposed lyrics on it.

There is a dominant theme of rebelliousness in your music. But it seems different, more intimate. 

Yes, that is intentional. There is nothing I can say about politics that my dad or Fela has not already said. So, I started to think in many ways. Right now, if you pick a random person on the street and give the title of president, will the person be able to rule Nigeria? I don’t think they will, because we have adopted a culture of corruption and complex capitalism where we start thinking of our own personal gain; so, we no longer have that kind of sacrifice of community, which we used to have as Africans. That was our culture. But we have adopted so much foreign mentality and forgotten our own ways. The British would say ‘Knickers’ and the Americans would say ‘Shorts’ and then Nigerians would say ‘Short Knickers’. That is the basic example of the major problem we face on an existential scale. Like now, our interview is not happening in Yoruba or Igbo; we have to speak in English – in a tongue that is not native to us. It wouldn’t kill anybody to learn three languages, at least to speak to each other. It is that kind of thing that just makes me think that we are lost as a people. 

When I sing and the kind of lyrics I write, I try to make people more aware of why they are the way they are. Why Nigeria has gotten to this point. Yeah, we know that our leaders are horrible. They are not the only people that steal. Even here, at the shrine, not too long ago, some people stole millions from the business, and they are not even leaders. So, where is this mentality coming from, where we steal from each other? What about road rage? It is madness when you drive on the streets of Lagos too. I have just started trying to learn to control mine. Some people are so confident in their mistake that they don’t even care if you are right or wrong. That is not who we are. If you speak to an individual Nigerian one-on-one, you would find out that he or she is not the type of person to exhibit such behaviours. So, why is it that, in those moments, those characters come up? We have a lot of relearning to do.  

What’s your creative process like? 

Most of the time, it starts from one melodic riff. It very rarely starts without a rhythm. For instance, Free Your Mind would have been the bass line something like (imitates base sounds) and then I notate it. And when I notate the music, suddenly I have an idea of where everything will kind of fit in because I work with audio-visual – my ears and my eyes. I work very well with structures when I see things happen, when I see the notation of the bass line for instance; I will know how I want the guitar to sound and how I want the keys to sound. Sometimes before anything happens I work with just drum and bass, then I add everything else. So, it always starts with the rhythm section. Then Horn section and lastly the lyrics. That is the usual structure. However, a lot of the times it changes. For a song like Higher You Find, it was actually the drum beat first. In a song like Your Enemy, it was the horn line that came first (imitates melody). So, everything is different. Usually, it starts with one melodic idea and then I build on that idea. After I see what I want the groove to be like then I go to work on the entire structure. Then, I start to put in lyrics. It is very rare that the lyrics come first.

Where do you get these ideas from?

The last three ideas I got for the new song I am working on came from humming. I intentionally think of melodic ideas and I try to make them sound good. So, when that happens that is where the ideas come from. So there was one I was just (hums), and it is a song now. 

What about the songwriting? 

What I do after getting the melody is to take something that I am concerned about and then structure it in my head and really figure out what it is and what the cause of that thing is, and how it can become better. That is how I think about things, and then I write my lyrics to suit them.

As a ‘new school’ Kuti, do you envision yourself collaborating with other singers? 

Yes, it started changing from my dad. My dad, in the Fight To Win album, in 2002, he featured Common, Mos Def, and Jaguar Wright, and since then he has been doing a lot of features. He did Wizkid, Burna Boy, and Coldplay. He did a lot of international ones as well, and so far I have done a lot of Nigerian unreleased ones. So, that is definitely the plan – to feature others – but what is difficult for me is to write a song and then feature others. That is something we have not really done yet. My dad rarely features people, except on that Fight To Win album or track, and I think I would like to try it. I would like to decide that one person is suitable for one sound. 

There are a lot of musicians who do strictly Afrobeat music. Why is there no sense of collaboration between Afrobeat artistes? 

I think it is because it is still growing as a genre.


The reason I say that is because, first of all the people you are thinking about, the Kokoroko, Antibalas, Newen Afrobeat, are very close friends. Newen Afrobeat contacted me some days back for Felabration chilling and Antibalas was here last Felabration. We are all on very good terms. What I mean by the sound growing is that Afrobeat – when looking at classical music, you would realize it has grown for 400 to 600 years. Afrobeat only really started in 1970s, and that makes it about 40 years old. It is one of the youngest music genres, by far, and because of that we haven’t established a fully experimental sound. After Fela, my dad came and he did something entirely different. He wrote songs like sorry-sorry, wonder-wonder, and so on. He then went into an electronic feel. A lot of people are still discovering Afrobeat and are still playing it the way Fela did. Antibalas is really Fela. Everybody is still encountering Fela as the source of Afrobeat, but until they identify him as a source and start to experiment away from him, that is when you are going to see a lot of collaborations. Like, my dad started experimentation for me, for instance. If you think of the song Victim of Life, that is funky Afro. Then, there are some tracks that you just don’t know where it fits in. All of those inspire me to do experimental things. Also, you don’t really hear music bands featuring music bands. I think that is also why. 

How was it growing up as a celebrity’s child? 

I grew up in Nigeria; I didn’t go to London until I was 15. So I did my primary and secondary schooling in Nigeria. No one really knew about me because I spent a lot of my childhood in the shrine. That is where I slept for about 3 years of high school because dad had to come here. The shrine was getting a lot of gang attacks so he needed to be physically present to defend the shrine from ambush. That is why when he moved I moved with him. Being in the shrine meant I had access to the whole of Agidingbi (shrine’s location). A lot of these structures weren’t there at the time, so I used to just walk out. When I walked, I wouldn’t have a particular place I was going; it was mostly sightseeing and that is how I met a lot of my friends at that time. 

This place that you are looking at is where I would run away to go play football, I still don’t know who owns that land but I played there a lot. One day I disappeared at like 12 pm and didn’t come back till about 10pm and they looked for me all over, without knowing I was here just playing ball. There was another time I went to Agindingbi Grammer School to play ball and someone found out who I was, and because he was part of the gangs that used to ambush the shrine, he tried to attack me. So I called my dad and the next thing a whole kind of gang war started. Another time while I was out with the head of security at the shrine and a gang member tried to ambush me and I quickly got on a bike and the motorist sped off. All these things used to happen a lot. Under the shrine there used to be this armory to defend the shrine from actual attacks. It was a wild ride but that was my life. 

My Dad used to play Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays, I used to wake up for school on Friday and still catch him on stage from the overnight Thursday show because he would play from 10 pm to 6 am, for about eight hours straight; you would see people in the crowd would be sleeping but he would keep on playing. That was how I grew up, so my life was very different. The kind of philosophies I would get from the shrine, when I go to school I would be told something different. One of the funniest things would be the hymns that they sign in school. I would sing it because I loved music, but then they will ask us to close our eyes and pray. I am not Christian, but if I don’t pray I would be flogged, and I felt that was not the way to win me over, but that was the kind of risk I used to carry. If I didn’t say amen I would be caned. So I said amen for six years. However, they didn’t teach me to appreciate their religion, they only taught me that if I didn’t pray I am bad and if I didn’t follow their rules I would be caned. I would return to the shrine and my mentality was believe what you will. Pick up a bible and read, pick up Kant and Freud and read. Challenge yourself and find yourself. My real learning was from the shrine and not from school. A lot of people have asked me ‘Are you smoking?’ My dad just told me that when I turn 18 I could smoke but I didn’t start and up till now I don’t smoke. I have never been drunk before, despite the fact that all these things are so easily accessible to me. I was told to do what I wanted and because I had that freedom I really did decide what I wanted to do.

I will describe myself as my band name which is The Movement. It represents progress in more than one way –philosophically, musically and culturally.

Made kuti

What changed when you moved to London? 

London was a whole lot of information that I didn’t get in Lagos, like books I could buy. One of the first big books that I read was The Scramble For Africa. Then, I read Stolen Legacy. Then, I read The black man of the Nile and his Family. I got this from a friend: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney, and the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Those were the books that really changed my life and my dad’s teachings also contributed.

Did you ever read fiction?

That is what I used to read and my dad would tease me that I should read something that would enlighten me. I was on the last book of Game of Thrones when he saw me. I told him that it was a heroic adventure and he said ‘Fine. Pick up the autobiography of Malcolm and read next’. So I ordered it and read it and then suddenly my entire world became something else; because everything they are teaching me is now literally BS. It challenges what I value about myself and what my culture is worth. It challenges everything I had been taught to believe and suddenly I cared about how I presented myself, what I wore, and what I said even. That is what London did for me. It is strange that I had to leave Africa to appreciate Africa, but when you are faced with racism that is when you become conscious of who you are, and I had my fair share of that. 

Musically, I met my piano teacher who took me from grade one Piano to the 80s diploma, in two years, which was six hours of practice every day. He really opened my mind to classical Western music. It was with him I started to practice Siobhan and then Sonata by Mozart. I did a lot of classical pieces. And I lived with my aunty who is not related to me by blood but looked after me for seven years. That in itself changed my mind about how kind and wonderful people can be. She looked after me like a son.

During your ‘adulting’ phase, what were the things you picked up about yourself?

I don’t think I ever sat back to consider what I was. I was always searching for something, either sounds or knowledge in some way or searching for my capabilities. Like when I picked up the bass, it was because someone in my class was already playing the piano when I was doing A-levels. I wanted to learn a new instrument so I taught myself the bass and three years down the line, I am touring with The Positive Force playing Bass. I didn’t plan for that to happen. I was always searching for new ways to experiment and learn.

What are the things people don’t really know about you?

I am the best at FIFA. I am really good at games. And I also like going to the field to play the actual ball. I like monkey post barefoot football. I like a lot of family gatherings, talking to my siblings. I spend a lot of evenings with my Dad playing FIFA as well; we play almost every night. Just family, games, and football. Once in a while, I go out. 

Are you in any relationship?

Yes I am and we are five months strong, but we have known each other for about 12 years. We live together, and because of my lifestyle she rarely goes out too.

What is your stance on police brutality? 

Everybody is responsible for their own actions. If I am in a fit of rage and I kill someone it is my fault regardless of what fueled it. If you are in uniform and you have been given the responsibility of protecting the citizens of the country but you use that for your own selfish benefit in order to survive, it is still your choice, a voluntary one. It is your choice for survival and when you exercise it unnecessarily as well, especially with SARS officials they just kill and they don’t care. 

My point is no matter what comes into being there is a reason for the problem; there is a reason for the way I am. It might be my upbringing, the things that I read, or the childhood that I led. There is a reason why everybody is the way they are. If we want to solve something, for instance, if you want to understand where Louis Vuitton shoes Khannah Black is wearing comes from, you can start by simply understanding what the LV stands for; when did shoelaces start being invented and leather; who designed the first shoe; what did people wear before the first shoe was invented; what is the atomic composition of the kind things that was used to produce it. I think that is where you start. If you want to understand police brutality, you have to understand why they are the way they are; you have to know what brought them about and why they feel the need to be that way in order to survive. I feel, personally, that they are the way they are because of Nigeria; they only exist because the system exists as it is. We should not be surprised by their actions, we should figure out the people that allowed them to execute the actions.

I love what the Cavemen are doing; they are good friends of mine. They came for my debut. I am a huge Cavemen fan

made kuti

Who would you like to work with in the industry? 

Anybody and everybody. You would be surprised by the kind of features I have already done. I don’t want to spill the tea, but I have done a lot. I have done about four or five from names that you would know.

Who do you admire?

I love what the Cavemen are doing; they are good friends of mine. They came for my debut. I am a huge Cavemen fan. I really like what producers like GMK are doing. I am cool with Nigerian artistes. What I see a lack of is musicianship – people that are intentionally challenging the current process. I like it when a whole generation is going in one direction and someone says, “Oh okay fine but what if we go this way?” 

Made and Femi Kuti
(L): Made’s father, Femi Kuti (R): Made Kuti

Importantly, why did you decide to drop your album alongside your dad?

For Legacy+, dad worked entirely on his own purpose and I worked entirely on mine. It was dad’s idea to do a joint album, and then we did a little bit of research and found out that it had never been done in the whole world and human existence. No parent and child have released two separate albums as one album, and you know Nigerians can be proud. We felt really special, and also the context of it embodied my life because a lot of what I have is really thanks to my father. So I was so happy that I could step out into the world by doing a project with him. It really opened so many doors for me and markets that I might not have reached. Internally it just felt good, I played bass and sax on his album so I felt connected to his side as well. It was really nice.

I am cool with Nigerian artistes. What I see a lack of is musicianship – people that are intentionally challenging the current process. I like it when a whole generation is going in one direction and someone says, “Oh okay fine but what if we go this way?” 

made kuti

How is it that you play every single instrument? 

What happened was, first I dabbled in a lot of stuff. When I was younger I picked up the drums for a while and then the trumpet, sax, and I picked up the bass when I was about 16. Everything I learned then I just picked up separately, and for like 3 years straight I only played piano. So what happened was when I finished from Trinity and I graduated, I came back to Lagos and started writing the album and the problem I encountered was where to record, because I wanted to record like I did in Paris. There was the problem of how to get the musicians that I worked with there, and I was like ‘I can play the drums myself and probably the trumpet and sax, and every other instrument.’ So I started to write the music and practice everything I was writing. If I write a complex drum pattern, I made sure I could play it before I finalized it. So we got into the studio and for every track we played drums first; because I notated the music the structure was already set. Then I transported it to Logic and then I played to the backing track. And then, everything else comes next. The only people that helped me with the album were my siblings. 

Do you think this solo instrumentation would be your style going forward?

I don’t know. I have a band now. For instance, the intro that we played for my debut I wrote it in about 15 minutes with the band. It was the fastest thing I ever wrote. I liked it. I think I might compose with my band going forward. 

How would you describe yourself? 

I will describe myself as my band name which is The Movement. It represents progress in more than one way –philosophically, musically and culturally. Also the movement as in dance – pure form of joy, which is what I try to do. Try to enjoy my life and progress. That is why the album is called For(e)ward. The bracket in E is because it is my first body of work so it is my foreword as well.

1 comment
  1. Such a beautiful read, I enjoyed every bit of it and oh the pictures are amazing, they compliment the stories so well. Loved it

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