Last part of our three-part interview. Seun Kuti talks to PAM about two new songs on his recently released album, Black Times. The first, “Theory of Goat and Yam” evokes the rampant corruption in Nigeria, the second, “Struggle Sounds”, talks about the cruciality of standing united in the face of social injustice.
Can you explain this ‘theory of goat’?
The ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, when asked about corruption in the country, explained that it’s not that the politicians want to be corrupt, but they are all like goats: when you put a yam next to your goat, your goat cannot help but eat the yam. Imagine! This analogy is so crazy! First of all, we are humans, we are not goats. Goats don’t know about ownership. We know what is ours and what is not… So imagine “they can’t help themselves when facing the money.“ They have a term in Nigeria to describe when you are living good, eating good, spending your wealth… it is called “chopping life.“ You “chop life!“
All Nigerian elite are well aware of the death and destruction of Motherland people. For example, if you are supposed to build a hospital, and instead of building the hospital you steal the money, everybody that dies as a result of the nonexistent hospital is on you. So, when you “chop life,” understand also that you chop the life of the people.
In the song I’m saying the “goats,“ our rulers, they eat the yam and chop the life. We the people, who just work hard, we eat grass. So they flip it: We as humans, eat grass and the goat eats yam… In the song I give some examples of some goats that stole some yam. It’s a fun tune, it came to me as soon as I heard Goodluck Jonathan’s interview, I thought I had to write a song about that : the theory of goat and yam. So I didn’t write a song, I actually wrote about a theory, because that’s the new theory— that men think like goats in front of other people’s money!
In the song “Struggle Sound” you say, “The system says we’re different, but the struggle makes us one.” Can you elaborate?
All over the world, the poor and the working class believe in the narrative of the elite. In Europe they say, “Don’t worry, at least you are better than the Black man.” In Arab countries they say, “Oh don’t worry, Allah is here for you. The others are not faithful.” In Africa, it’s the same shit, and everybody believes in this narrative. The class struggle is the ultimate struggle on this Earth. The elites do not respect humanity or nature. They destroy nature and humanity. We are here to protect nature. As humans, we evolved to have a consciousness about protecting nature, but the elite have betrayed this for profit.
I’m a Pan-Africanist. There has been 400 years of propaganda about who I am, and nobody speaks against it. It is necessary to speak for myself and to speak for the Motherland people. More importantly, we have to understand that there is a false narrative and then we must realize we share a common oppressor. The struggle makes us one. In fact, at the end of the song I say, “I make struggle music as the voice of the people / Struggle sounds as the weapon of the future / Cause the bigger picture just needs more color…” and that, for me, says it all.
Black Times is now available via Strut Records.