If you love Afrobeat and you live in Toronto, chances are you attended the Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 concert at the Phoenix on Saturday night. A rare opportunity to catch the “young king of Afrobeat” live, the concert was part of Seun Kuti and Egypt 80’s tour with their latest release “A Long Way to the Beginning”.
Hosted by Uma Nota, Toronto’s Brazilian, Latin, Caribbean, funk music events specialists, the show was the ultimate Afrobeat party. Just one week after Toronto’s Afrofest, Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 were the not-to-be-missed live act of the summer.
Openers for the night were two local Afro-funk acts: playful funk band Luvmenauts, and the danceable Asiko Afrobeat Ensemble. Highlights were Luvmenauts’ buoyant surf track “Let’s Have a Pop and Chips Party” and enchanting onstage Afrobeat dancing during the Asiko set. Both acts, comprised of skilled musicians, ripped during their solo sections, overall playing solid sets.
Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 were an electrifying live act, consistently upbeat from start to finish. The performance took off when Seun Kuti commanded the stage with a powerful sax phrase and his irresistible presence. A fish in water, he took to the stage naturally and elegantly. Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 peformed nearly 2 hours of energized, mesmerizing Afrobeat, proving the quality of their music with impeccable live instrumentalism. The stage was ornate with the Egypt 80 members grooving to create a voluptuous sound. The expressive performance on stage charged the audience with energy, which filled the Phoenix with an African groove and made for an exceptional Afrobeat dance party.
Bursting with energy, Seun Kuti made some mid-set declarations. After performing the song “IMF,” off of his new album, he professed his disdain for international aid. Next, he explained how his song “Black Woman” was an expression his feminist belief that “without the black woman there is no African culture”. His statements were met with cheers of solidarity from the audience, and the band proceeded to perform their set.
Empowered by the audience, Kuti introduced one song, “Higher Consciousness,” as “the solution to inequality”. It is difficult to ignore the intentional politics of the Afrobeat genre. Afrobeat is an expression of political conviction, which is evident in Seun Kuti’s live performance and impassioned speech, as well as the subject matter of his songs. This powerful political conviction is conveyed by Kuti’s music, which is able to affect both the body and the consciousness through the groove and the message.
My expectations of the Seun Kuti show were exceeded; I was expecting a fun, light and uppity performance, but what I experienced was a charged display of African political consciousness that was grounded by fervent musical ability. I was moved by Seun Kuti’s willingness and courage to stand by his musical expression of African social consciousness, and I think the success of Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 lies in this conviction. Their performance was moving and passionate, musically sound, and impossible to stand still to. The Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 concert is already in my memory as one of the best live shows I’ve ever attended.