Throughout his life, Nigerian musician Fela Kuti had a message: Give voice to the oppressed, and hold corrupt governments accountable for their oppression.
Seun Kuti, Fela’s son, shares that message — one that has particular resonance in the US after a wave of anti-establishment populism helped elect Donald Trump the next president.
“The class struggle in the world means that the elites always [try] to put a lot of division in the working class and poor people of the world,” says Kuti. “It’s the same kind of oppression and economic destabilization that is felt by the worker in Texas, in Flint, Michigan, that is felt by the workers in Lagos, in Johannesburg, everywhere. It’s the same. because the elites created a system whereby they can move their capital as they like, but labor cannot move. Labor is not as fluid as the capital. So, workers continue to live precarious lives, while the rich can take their money and look for poor labor elsewhere. Labor cannot take itself to look for a better life elsewhere.”
Kuti knows these are trying times. He feels the polarization everywhere he goes. But he draws inspiration from his 3-year-old daughter, who gives him a reason not feel discouraged, and to keep thinking of ways to make the world a better place.
“Since I had my daughter I’ve had to intensify my studying,” he says. “I’ve had to intensify my understanding. Because I feel like I made a selfish decision to bring her into this world. I never consulted her. I and her mother, we made her and we brought her into this world. This world that is so upside down, so topsy-turvy. I have to double my efforts to make sure it’s a better place for her to grow up in.”