On Monday 8 June, the United Nations will launch its second-ever fully digital rendition of its annual World Oceans Day event in celebration of its 2021 theme, The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods. Produced in partnership with the non-profit organization Oceanic Global, presented by Blancpain and supported by La Mer, United Nations World Oceans Day 2021 (UNWOD) will be a day-long event featuring keynote speeches, panels, presentations and musical performances kicked off by the United Nations Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly, with leading voices including: Sylvia Earle, Gael Garcia Bernal, Alessandra Ambrosio, Jean-Michael Cousteau, Sam Waterston, Nathalie Kelley, Danni Washington, Céline Semaan, Amanda Cerny, and more.
While traditionally an in-person event at the UN Headquarters in New York City, due to COVID-19, UNWOD became fully virtual and open-to-the-public for the first time in 2020. This year’s celebration will again be open to the world by livestream from 10:00AM-5:30PM (EDT) on the United Nations World Oceans Day website and the Oceanic Global website as well, with the content reshared on the social channels.
Music is a universal language and impactful tool to raise awareness, appeal to emotion, and inspire meaningful action. While most of Seun’s and Fela’s music deals with social justice issues, social justice enables the people and governments to be more passionate and careful stewards of their seas. Amplifying global music and the arts has always been integral to UN World Oceans Day and this year’s all-star line-up features artists and activists alike hailing from: West Africa, Columbia, England, Cuba, USA, Sweden and beyond.
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 will be performing songs from his most recent album Black Times as well as a brand-new song entitled “Move” during the event’s closing concert, Concert For The Oceans, a collection of musical performances that will unite people from home in celebration of our ocean, raise awareness and highlight the need to create a sustainable and inclusive ocean space. From 4:00PM-5:30pm (EDT) the closing concert will feature additional performances by international musicians including EARTHGANG, Angélique Kidjo, Bomba Estéreo, Little Dragon, Valerie June, and Penguin Cafe.
“I’m proud to lend our voices to the UN’s call for responsible stewardship of our oceans,” Kuti says. “We and our fellow performers on the world stage hope to make that world more generous, kinder and more livable to its underrepresented people, who bear the brunt of catastrophic environmental degradation.”
The youngest son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, Seun Kuti is the standard-bearer of the Afrobeat Movement, a role he was literally born to play. He started opening for his dad at age nine and joined the band before he was twelve. He assumed leadership of the band Egypt 80 following his father’s passing in 1997 and has led it ever since.
Along the way, Seun both performed his father’s compositions and also added his own twists to the seminal music, digging deep into various African traditions to reflect the continent’s struggles and cultures. In 2011, Seun recorded From Africa with Fury: Rise, his first album for Knitting Factory Records. Co-produced by Brian Eno and John Reynolds, this live set proved to be his breakthrough, and landed on both Billboard and digital international charts. Today, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80—still retaining three-quarters of the group that played, protested, and were arrested with his father—hopes to return to touring the globe relentlessly, reclaiming their reputation for playing multi-hour shows as heavy on group improvisation as they are on composition. His latest recording, Black Times, received a Grammy® nomination in 2018; he joined Knitting Factory Management’s artist roster in March of this year.
The annual United Nations World Oceans Day event comes midway through “World Ocean Week” (1-14 June) during which subsequent events hosted by members of the Friends of UN World Oceans Day platform and other ocean enthusiasts from around the world will continue the conversation surrounding the official theme of UN World Oceans Day 2021- The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods.