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.