Femi Kuti on How He Approaches Protest Music

How do you approach protest music?

Femi Kuti: For me, I have to think of how to pass a bitter message to open people’s consciousness. It’s like having to take a bitter pill with a sweet drink. I use the music as a sweet drink, and the message is a bitter pill. Now, the people will not want to believe you are sick. No matter where you are, if you have to take a pill, you are disgusted: “No, I do not want it!” So, with a child, you have to be like, “I am going to give you Fanta or Coca-Cola, if you take this pill with it.” And then they are more likely to cooperate with you. So, it’s like using the music to hit on one’s subconscious, and then, eventually, “Oh, is this what this is about? Wow!” and then people get fascinated and they become part of things.

It’s also like awakening one’s consciousness. We are all involved, whether we like it or not, and it just takes something to open it. You cannot believe that, because you are having a good life and all is well with you. It’s like believing that, since you have nobody in your family that has died of cancer, to hell with people who have cancer. What kind of thinking is that? “Oh, I thought nobody in my family would ever die.” It’s an inevitability that one day we are all going to die, and if you pass through life believing that you are not going to die, then of course your consciousness is not awakened. I give you something to awaken your consciousness, so you do not take things for granted in your life.