Five years after Nigerian Wood, Keziah Jones is back with his most personal and political project yet, wearing the outfit of an Afro superhero. That superhero is "Captain Rugged", his quirky and socially committed double. A graphic novel as well as long player, the album chronicles the Captain's adventures in Lagos.
From his birth place in Makoko, the Nigerian slum version of Venice - an illegal water settlement on stilts with the Lagos region - through to the loud industry of the bus stations of Obalende.
Nigerian, Afropolitan, universal, Captain Rugged tells us about modern Africa and its urban movements. From his youth amongst the ghettos and skyscrapers of bustling Lagos, flying around in his ankara cape and shaking the city with his angry beats: "Here I come, an Afro Superhero, Captain Rugged", cries Keziah. His Afronewave echoes his rebellion: a concept album in the shape of a manifesto.
"I've been nurturing this character for the past ten years. This superhero business is a satire on power, politics and magic. I'm telling the epic story of refugees, immigration and exile, I wanted to portray these personalities as particularly rugged and robust: they're survivors, superheroes. African superheroes... that was my ambition for this album."
Keziah is following in the footsteps of Fela Kuti, a fellow countryman and great defender of pan-africanism who was imprisoned several times for speaking out against the Nigerian dictatorship. "I met Fela in the year before he died, and he emphasised to me the necessity of creating music that relates directly to reality."
Locating his superhero in Lagos allowed Keziah to breathe real life into Captain Rugged, creating a powerful, outspoken and liberated avatar.
Keziah Jones assesses the relationship between the northern and southern hemispheres. "What I want to show the world is the modernity of post-colonial Africa, far from the image that the western world carries of a continent devastated by famine and/or war. I'm talking about young urban Africa: 20 million people live in Lagos! Modern contemporary African culture is a reality. Today, African culture has proven its vivacity and is nourished by the Diaspora."
His music is his own, all based around a soulful genre he created: Blufunk. Rhythmic, organic and infused with a punk-funk attitude crossed with Yoruba rhythms. Recorded between London and Paris, mixed in New York, the album Captain Rugged has a psychedelic quality that he sums-up with a rather engaging: "George Clinton sharing a joint with Fela". His latest album is his most meaningful yet, and acts as a bold, hopeful statement here from Captain Rugged and Keziah alike.