Made Kuti: Life In Music
Words By – Josephine Agbonkhese
Christened Omorinmade Anikulapo-Kuti, afrobeat singer, songwriter and instrumentalist, known professionally as Made Kuti, is the grandson of legendary Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and the son of Femi Kuti.
Made’s early years were spent growing up in the New Afrika Shrine where he was surrounded by music early on –fiddling with instruments as a toddler. He played the trumpet at three, took to the alto sax at five, picked up the piano at age eight, the drums and guitar at twelve, and the bass at fifteen.
The alumnus of Trinity Laban Conservatoire, London, and Founder, The Movement, a new generation Afrobeat band, has been a major force in his father’s band, Positive Force, playing at legendary venues like, Glastonbury and the Hollywood Bowl since age eight.
Made, who released his debut album titled “Foreward” in 2021, with which he addresses Nigeria’s many societal ills, speaks of his life, music and style in this interview with Allure.
What was growing up as a young Kuti like?
It was a very liberating childhood: growing up around a lot of music and very conscious people. My father wasn’t the type to have trivial conversations; so, whenever we sat down to talk, which was very often, it was often about character, the world, music, life and death, the future, the past, and anything that left me thinking. I was very lucky to be able to ask questions and get honest answers as well.
Did you also grow up in the shrine? What was the experience like?
Yes, I did. It was everything a child could dream of. My dad played four times every week, so, I got to be a part of this massive musical movement with four to five thousand people coming to every show at the time. During the day, I would walk off to visit friends, to play football, and sometimes, to just find new places to see. I didn’t have a bedtime during holidays, and I could disturb customers at the shrine by being a troublesome young boy jumping over empty tables. But none of that distracted me from the value of the music, the message it was carrying, the mission my father was on, and the beautiful things the shrine represented. It was really just a free-learning experience.
Would you say music chose you or the thought of being a Kuti made you choose music?
Music chose me. But it’s also fair to say music overwhelmed my space; so, it was very easy for it to inspire, influence my tastes and ignite my passion for it as it has.
How would you describe your kind of music?
Progressive Afrobeat. Music that understands what has been,what is, and what it can be. Music that explores and represents values that I cherish, by carrying what I learn and experience through it.
You’re a multi-instrumentalist; which instrument is your favourite?
I try to practice all of them fairly evenly. It’s too difficult to pick a favourite because they each allow me to express myself in different ways.
How does being the grandson of the legendary Fela Anikulapo-Kuti influence your genre of music?
Very much so. Mostly because of being intelligent enough as a musician to understand musically just how exceptional Fela was. But, I feel the same way about my father, studying how he pushed the boundaries of the genre with albums like Shoki Shoki and Fight To Win.
Your lyrics sound very motivational rather than agitate; why the deviation?
My lyrics express my state of mind at the time of writing them. Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on myself. I really believe some of the greatest challenges we have as individuals are the ones we face with ourselves. So, as I think of how to better myself and become a better brother, son, partner and citizen, I try to show my thought process through my lyrics and music.
What contemporary twist do you try to bring to the lineage?
Musical exploration. Listening, learning, absorbing, and then creating. Trying to find musical universes, Afrobeat has not yet traveled.
What inspired your band’s name The Movement and what year was it launched?
It was launched this year 2021 in February. I wanted a name that represented everything I wanted the band to be about. Movement like groove and dance, but also, the ideological goals of the band of the music being progressive, positive, and conscious. So, it’s a movement of the mind and of the body.
Describe your relationship with your father Femi Kuti…
A blessing. I am equipped to experience life as a young man in a country like this because of the way he raised me by being so present, and honest; and having the kind of attributes a young boy would like to see in his father and respect. He was always very physically strong, and goal-orientated. He used to do a thousand push-ups and sit-ups each day, and still practice his instruments for 10 to 12 hours. It was the level of respect I have for him, and the time he intentionally made out for me as his son, that has kept me grounded.
How do you successfully manage a band and still work for your father’s band?
We’re still trying to find a balance. I’ll be going on tour with my father’s band for a month soon and we’ll see how it goes when I’m back. What I know is, it’s a very comfortable environment; so, I can feel relaxed as I navigate it.
What’s your relationship with other artists?
Over the past year, I’ve worked with the Cavemen, Runtown, Kida Kudz, and Korede Bello. They’ve been absolutely wonderful. The Cavemen in particular have been like brothers since I came back to Lagos.
What’s the most interesting thing about being a Kuti?
The diverse misinterpretations about our reality.
Your relationship with your mum is enviable; how has she been an influence?
My mom has been such a massive support pillar and genius mastermind since I started my career. So much of what has gone on in the band and for the band, have been thanks to her and her company, FK Management. From costumes, to everyday clothes, to shows, sponsorships, event management and planning, major future plans, you name it. She’s been here breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for us; really believing in what we are doing and what we stand for.
How do you relax?
I spend time with my family. Maybe gist and watch a movie with my partner, play Fifa with my dad, chess with my little brothers, or watch how my youngest sister is growing and outsmarting all of us. Treated myself for the first time in a long time with a trip to Jara Beach Resort with my partner and it was absolutely amazing.
Describe your fashion sense?
It was very bad until we started working with my friend and stylist Dolapo Bello. He owns Braimien. Because of him, all of a sudden, everyone thinks I actually have great fashion sense; but it’s really just him being incredibly creative by knowing my character/personality and taste, and creating outfits that suit them. He’s amazing.