Q&A With Brighton-based Afrobeat Legends Lakuta
Formed in Brighton, international groove collective Lakuta have been hailed by the likes of Annie Nightingale, Craig Charles, Basement Jaxx and Lauren Laverne. Their infectious, uplifting beats demand you dance, while their lyrics stand strong against inequality and prejudice.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Lakuta just in time for their Brighton performance at Concorde 2, where they’ll be supporting the legendary Seun Kuti and Egypt80.
When and how was Lakuta formed?
We were formed in 2008 by percussionist Cicely Taylor, who brought together a group of musicians with a shared love of tropical music such as Afrobeat, highlife and soukous with a background of playing in jazz, funk, Latin and East and West African music.
Which musicians are your biggest influences and inspirations?
Too many to mention! We are influenced by many of the musical styles that Fela Kuti said Afrobeat is formed from: funk, jazz, highlife, and traditional West African drumming and singing traditions. So in this way you can include Fela, Toni Allen, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, and so on as some of the building blocks of our musical influences – giants of music.
We love loads of modern bands like Hiatus Kaiyote who reference a wide variety of styles – like we do. Our singer Siggi has influences from East African and Gospel traditions. Our percussionist Cicely brings in elements of Latin Percussion to the mix; she has been influenced by Giovanni Hidalgo, Nana Vasconcelos and Airto Moreira.
You are undoubtedly a global act. How do you combine aspects of your respective cultures in your work?
We are very much a product of post-colonial Britain: we’re the sounds and colours of our generation. We have grown up listening to, dancing to, and playing the huge variety of styles of music that reflect the huge diversity in UK culture. Just look at the current new wave of jazz musicians coming through that reference hip-hop and drum N bass, for example.
Some of us are second or third generation immigrants from a number of different countries, so there are influences from within the family home, but more than that, culturally we are British and are a fantastic example of the range of musical influences that modern British musicians draw on.
What’s it like to work with Seun Kuti & Egypt80?
It has been a dream come true! We’re joining him on a number of dates for his UK tour. It’s been such a fantastic experience to meet some of the original members of Egypt80, and Seun is such a dynamic and talented performer and band leader. He is such a passionate individual and we feel very aligned in our political beliefs with them.
Their shows are more than just a performance – they’re an experience. They have been very generous and warm-hearted to us, very complimentary and supportive of what we’re doing.
You guys cover some pretty big social issues in your music, for example in Bata Boy and So Sue Us. How has the reaction to that been? How did you choose the topics?
The reaction has been really positive. It’s more like the topics chose us: we’re very interested in the world around us and we’re very passionate about equal rights for all, no matter what race, gender, or sexuality you are.
It can be really cathartic to write a song about something you feel strongly about, as it’s so easy to feel disheartened or powerless. We’re not scared to call out injustice where we see it: we don’t feel that that should be a taboo thing to do really – it’s just common sense! People can choose to respond to the music or the lyrics, or both.
If you could travel back to one decade, based on the music of the time alone, what era would you choose?
We couldn’t decide! Our drummer Pete said the 60s as it was the golden era of jazz and soul. Cicely the percussionist said the 70s due to funk & afrobeat. Siggi said it was the 80s due to all the eclectic music. Luke the guitarist said: “Why would we go back when we have all the music now?!”
You are playing some pretty massive festivals this summer. How is the preparation for these going, and what can festival-goers expect from Lakuta this year?
Preparation is going really well, we’ve got some great new jump-up tunes and we’re really looking forward to our summer festival dates!
This year’s Secret Garden Party will be the last ever of its kind. How do you feel about that?
It really is the end of an era, and we’re really honoured to have been invited to play the very last event.
When you guys aren’t on stage or rehearsing, what non-musical hobbies do you like to dabble in?
We have tonnes of hobbies! We have quiz-masters, keen woodworkers, mountaineering enthusiasts, foodies, massage lovers and kitten cuddlers.
We’re also big fans of hot sauce, which Brighton Hot Stuff noticed and released a special edition condiment just for us.
DOUBLE J said your music has ‘a good message to it’. What is your message to the world?
In most general terms, our message is simply about encouraging people to be kind. To listen to the world, think about issues, but also to have a lot of fun at the same time.
What’s next for Lakuta?
We have some great dates in UK and Europe coming up over the summer, and we’re writing and recording new material all the time – watch this space!