Business as usual...
Jon Lusk 2008-10-21
Not counting live albums, collaborations and compilations, this is Femi Kuti's first album proper since Fight To Win in 2001. The press release claims the pressures of touring, keeping his Lagos venue The Shrine open, and family commitments have helped lengthen the gestation of Day By Day. You can probably add the difficulty of working in the Nigerian music industry and life more generally in one of Africa's most chaotic cities. Even so, having it released in the same month as a strong debut by his younger brother Seun seems like unfortunate timing, considering the fact that he's still up against the impossible task of living up to the legacy of his infamous dad, Afrobeat originator Fela Kuti.
Femi has apparently also been honing his instrumental skills, and now plays organ, soprano, alto, (sic) barytone and tenor sax as well as trumpet, although the credits aren't detailed enough to show when his other musicians are playing and when it's him. The guest rappers and R&B artists that appeared on Fight To Win are conspicuously absent, and although Femi is now more influenced by jazz, Day By Day has a more faithfully Afrobeat feel than previous releases, partly because of the emphasis on instrumental textures. Given that Femi has never been an entirely convincing lyricist or songwriter, this is a good thing, with the likes of Do You Know and Tension Grip Africa among the highlights; his band Positive Force sound better than ever before.
Although religion has surfaced before, Day By Day also has far more explicit references to Christianity than ever, faithfully reflecting the way Nigerians are increasingly turning to the church for answers, as the rather ponderous title track relates. But if the frantic Demo Crazy is anything to go by, Femi's is a questioning rather than blind faith: ''We no ready to fight/ Because we wait for jesus xrist/ To come down with im shining light or something''. More familiar themes include corrupt politicians, resource plundering multi-nationals (You Better Ask Yourself) and the plight of the poor. Business as usual, then, although business could always be better.