Seun Kuti has officially bagged his first Grammy nomination ahead of the illustrious awards scheduled for February 10, 2018.
The youngest son of the Anikulapo Kuti clan is among the front runners vying for the prestigious Grammy plaque in the World Music category at the 61st edition of the awards.
This is his first ever nomination and he picks up the baton that has been passed down from his elder brother, Femi Kuti, who has been nominated four times in the ‘World Music’ category.
Femi was first nominated in the ‘World Music’ category at the awards in 2003 and has since been considered in three other years; 2010, 2012 and 2013, but he has however been unable to win any yet.
And in a year when Femi released his 10th body of work ”One People, One World”, it is his younger brother, Seun who has been recognized by the Academy with the consideration for his latest studio album, ”Black Times.”
He joins the likes of King Sunny Ade who is the other singular home grown artist who has been nominated for the Grammy award. KSA has been nominated twice, 1983 and 1988.
With a family name like Anikulapo-Kuti, it is both a gift and a curse, a door-opener and a political set-aside.
The Kuti family has given the music industry a phenomenon like the late Abami Eda, Fela Kuti whose legacy as a musician and an activist impacts not just the music space but culturally and a living legend in his son, Femi Kuti, who has carried the family torch gloriously over the years.
Amidst this level of true greatness, it becomes often easy to overlook the work that Seun Kuti has been putting into his career since he released his debut project, ”Think Africa” in 2007.
In eleven years leading to his recent album, ”Black Times”, Seun Kuti has released three other LPs alongside 2 EPs and has toured more countries than majority of his pop contemporaries.
In celebration of his 21st year as a performer, Seun Kuti who turned 35 earlier in January released his fourth studio album, ”Black Times” in March 2018. ”Black Times” is the album that has finally seen the leader of the new Egypt 80 band cast aside the shadows that trails his family name into becoming a man of his own.
With its fine balance in providing revolutionary themed messages complemented by upbeat dance grooves, Seun Kuti finally crafts an album steeped in career-defining sounds and global appeal earning him critical acclaim from both local and foreign media.
Seun Kuti’s nomination is no fluke, 2018 has not only seen him produce his best body of work yet, but he has also been at his most vocal on social matters, wielding a presence that is a demonstration of his maturity and identity, while constantly touring and performing at top festivals.
The nomination comes as a truly big deal whether we have ‘cancelled’ the Grammys [like we rush to do when our favourite names do not get nominated] or not, winning it is a whole different ball game.
Adding a Grammy nomination to your resume as an artist is a big perk and like stated by concert data provider, Pollstar in a 2010 research, there is an afterglow that comes with the award financially especially for big touring acts.
This year he is up against names like fellow first-timers, Mali’s Fatoumata Diawara with the album ”Fenfo” and Niger-born Tuareg musician Bombino for ”Deran”, but his biggest competition will likely come in form of Soviet group, Yiddish Glory for their album, ”The Lost Songs of World War II” and South Africa’s Soweto Gospel Choir, who have been nominated on four occasions and emerged as winners twice.
Lumping up all these artists whose only commonality in their brand of music is their use of instrumentals is one thing the Grammys need to address as they have stubbornly refused to acknowledge the variety of sounds that a continent like Africa produces to the landscape, instead of using their power to recast them into a ‘World Category’ box that doesn’t fit, but that is a topic for another day.
One thing that may work in favour of Seun Kuti unlike with Femi Kuti is how this album particularly resonates with a major populace, especially back home.
While his stage presence is without doubt revered, Femi’s albums usually gain more appreciation outside our shores, but across the end of the year lists of a number of publications that have emerged in the past weeks, Seun Kuti’s album sits comfortably on most, even making the top five more often than not.
Afrobeat may not necessarily be in search of any mainstream validation, but Seun Kuti winning this will only confirm what the urban community have come to realise; Nigerian music has earned its stripes globally and a first Grammy win will add more than a little tingle or thrill to our efforts.