Getting back to the essence of Afrobeat is the central aim of Femi Kuti’s No Place for My Dream, the seventh album in the world-renowned Nigerian singer’s 26-year career. But how does one define the essence of such a complex music—one that, since its creation in the late ‘60s by Femi’s father, Fela Kuti, has blended funk, jazz and African folk.
Femi Kuti was born Olufela Olufemi Anikulapo Kuti on June 12, 1962 in London. He grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, where, at 15, he started playing saxophone in his father’s band, Egypt 80. In 1986 he formed his own band, the Positive Force. His first record was released in 1995 by Tabu/Motown, followed four years later by Shoki Shoki (MCA), which garnered widespread critical acclaim. In 2001 he collaborated with Common and Mos Def on Fight to Win, an effort to cross over to a mainstream audience, and started touring the United States with Jane’s Addiction.
In 2004 he opened The Shrine, his club, where he recorded the live album Africa Shrine. After a 4-year absence due to personal setbacks, he re-emerged in 2008 with Day by Day and Africa for Africa in 2010, for which he received two Grammy nominations. In 2012 he was both inducted into the Headies Hall of Fame (the most prestigious music awards in Nigeria), was the opening act on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ European arena tour and became an Ambassador for Amnesty International. He continues to expand the diversity of his artistry on his new album (2013) No Place for My Dream. Femi Kuti is now a judge on Nigeria’s huge TV show Nigerian Idol.