Friday, May 25, 2007

I'll say it again: O F E G E



For a band that was so insanely popular, Ofege seem to have had frustratingly little written about them. They usually garner a cursory mention at best in most books about African pop, they don't get written up in even the most fastidious magazines, they are rarely ever included on compilations of Afro-funk and rock. Until their recent embrace by the psychedelic rock community, Google searches on them barely shored up any significant responses. If not for the persistent, nostalgic (and often contradictory) ramblings of various aging Nigerian hipsters, I might be tempted to believe that their own-time renown was little more than a myth.

The cloud of mystery surrounding Ofege is thickened by the fact that even the sleeve notes on their albums are woefully inadequate in providing us with much knowledge about the band. Even their debut, Try and Love offered only this sparse scrawl on the back on the album to introduce the new band on the scene:

Music for all songs - Meme
Lyrics for all songs - Melvin
Except It's not easy - Alade
Produced and directed by Odion Iruoje
Recording Engineers - Emmanuel Odenusi/Kayode Salami


Thankfully, Ofege's sophomore effort, 1975's The Last of the Origins at least lists the names the musicians on the back. So we learn that Ofege is made up of Paul Alade (bass, vocals), Dapo Olumide (keyboards), Melvin Noks (whose government name I'm told is Melvin Anokuru, though I've also heard him referred to as Melvin Ukachi) (guitar, lead vocals, percussion), M-Ike Meme (drums, vocals, percussion) and Filix Inneh (vocals, gong) (GONG?!?)

Unfortunately, in none of the photos of the band I've ever seen are they they shown playing, or even holding their instruments, so it's hard to correlate the names to any of the faces shown on their album covers.

Anyway, The Last of the Origins. I have no idea what that title is supposed to mean, and I'll admit that this is the Ofege album I listen to least. While Try and Love had the ebullient charm of a bunch of stoned teenagers just rocking out for the funk of it, it seems that Odion Iruoje tried a bit too hard to groom them into a "real" "professional" band.

The album is mixed in a much more balanced fashion than the front-loaded guitaristics of the debut, and there's a lot more emphasis placed on the singing and lyrical content... Which are mostly not that great, despite songwriting contributions by all the band members. The guitar hysterics--the thing that the band does best--in general are pretty much reined in, and oddly enough, Melvin Noks is credited as the rhythm guitarist on this album, with the "1st guitar" credit going to Berkley Jones (of BLO) and "2nd guitar" to Olushoga Benson. To top it all off, after being recorded in Lagos, the tracks were shipped off to Abbey Road where they were remixed and "sweetened" with string synth textures by Francis Monkman of the British proggers Curved Air.

I'm told that this album was released shortly after the boys graduated from St. Gregory's, and I know that some (if not all) of the members went on to attend the University of Lagos. I can only assume that they continued to play as a band there, but study time must have gotten in the way of studio time, because Ofege would not put out another album until 1977's buoyant Higher Plane Breeze (which, hopefully, I will be posting soon).

DOWNLOAD THE LAST OF THE ORIGINS!

Update o5/01/07: Link resurrected.

23 comments:

John B said...

Several months ago I digitized a couple of LPs by Christie Essien Igbokwe, "Taking My Time" (Soul Train STR 001, 1986) & "It’s Time" (His Master’s Voice HMV 066, 1988).

In keeping with the spirit of the last few postings, I'd be happy to convert them to MP3 files & post them at Sendspace, for anyone who's interested.

Let me know.

AFKAP of Darkness said...

I'd love that, John!

(btw i've been meaning to email you the past couple of days... i think i'll drop you a line tonight!)

John B said...

Here's the Sendspace link:

http://www.sendspace.com/file/g3g3gn

If you have any trouble downloading, let me know.

matt said...

Thanks John

AFKAP of Darkness said...

good show, JB!

Vincent said...

Hello and thanks for giving me a link. I must however apologise for probably misleading your readers. It was just a few months ago when I actually learned that fufu is a primary staple in African cuisine, and not just a nonsensical word I used to describe my eclectic music tastes. Nevertheless, I am a fan of the Afrobeat sound, especially the rare stuff, so I must thank you for providing more.

AFKAP of Darkness said...

it's all good, Vincent... my tastes are probably just as eclectic as yours!

we're concentrating on African music for now (well... Nigerian, anyway) but pretty soon we'll be getting into a lot of other wild stuff!

chinedu dafriquan said...

The sonics are more polished on this one but the songs are definitely more restrained. I like it. Especially the instrumental joints like "Ofege in concert". Also sorrow sounds somehow modern. At some points reminds me of Jack White...lol...

chinedu dafriquan said...

oh and thanks.
can't wait for the last album.
p.s. i am gonna send these to my old man, see if they ring a bell. he was one of those "in-people"/hipsters at University of Ibadan in the early 70s.

Jakob Hellberg said...

I really dig this band. And I would LOVE to hear more from Aktion! Thanks a lot for these!!!

AFKAP of Darkness said...

there's actually TWO more Ofege albums... and they're both pretty damn good (though oriented a bit more towards groove/danceability than ragged rock)

i'll try to get them up soon (Aktion's album, as well!)

tomorrow i'll probably put up some BLO since i already have it digitized.

AFKAP of Darkness said...

hmmm... i have to think about the Jack Black comparison, though!

chinedu dafriquan said...

I was referring to Jack White of the White Stripes.
Jack Black...I dont think I have heard any of his Tenacious D stuff. Which reminds me, I been meaning to rent "School of Rock"...

AFKAP of Darkness said...

oops... sorry! i knew you meant Jack White, but for some reason, whenever i want to say his name it comes out as Jack BLACK.

(Black has said that if he and White are ever in the same place at the same time, the universe will probably implode!)

The Squeegee said...

the file has expired... anyone care to re-upload? word, james

AFKAP of Darkness said...

i'll re-up this (and the other Ofege album) tonight, squeegee!

Nordy said...

Can't wait for the re-up. I just got around to listening to the Flashback: A Decade of Hits 1970-1980 compilation that was posted a while ago. Man, that scratched me right where I was itchin'!!

Keep up the great work, Afkap...your blog is my new shit. Love it.

AFKAP of Darkness said...

it warms the cockles of my heart to know that someone out there is connecting with this stuff, Nordy... thanks!

The Squeegee said...

THANX for the re-up!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

thanks for ofege i have been looking for these albums for ages, i just stumbled on this website by mistake. By the way , i think their best work was 'try and love" thanks guys for making my day

Comb & Razor said...

anytime, my friend... thank you for stopping by!

wolfman said...

you gotta save me and repost the linK!!! thanks!!!

funmi Davies Farodoye said...

What a life? The exit of Ofege is worrisome and annoying. We loved Ofege but hardly knew something about them. They owe their fans serious apologies. What a life? Their short reign was shrouded in too much secrecy.