Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Nigeria 70: The Definitive Story of 1970s Funky Lagos
If I were asked to isolate a single event that sparked off the current vogue for funky 1970s Nigerian music of the kind we have been checking out here at With Comb & Razor, I would tarry not a second before citing the October 2001 release of the Nigeria 70 compilation on the much-missed Strut Records. The label--via its Club Africa compilations and reissues of music from bands like Lafayette Afro Rock Band and Oneness of Juju--had already done much to ingrain African funk into the fiber of dance music orthodoxy.
(The contributions of French label Comet and the UK's Harmless Records are not to be slept on, either.)
Nigeria 70, though, took things to the proverbial next level. Never before had an African funk anthology been so handsomely packaged and meticulously researched. Whereas most compilations of the day were offered sandwiched between overused stock photos by Adrian Boot and Malick Sidibé, with threadbare sleevenotes that often seesawed between cavalier and apologetic ("We really have no clue who this Beninois musician is or anything about him... But isn't this track great?"), Strut dispatched a team--including BLO's Laolu Akins--to Lagos to excavate rare gems, untangle credits and rights, interview players and scenesters, and assemble a robust booklet and audio documentary on the development of Nigerian popular music.
Also impressive were some of the more interesting and fairly unprecedented compiling choices. Rather than sticking firmly within the safe and assured market of the standard Afrobeat/Afro-Funk style familiar to the hipsters who bought all the Fela reissues, they included left-of-center selections like the Allah-exalting heavy metal of Ofo & the Black Company, Bongos Ikwue's Bible-thumping country-rock, and William Onyeabor's bizarre brand of one-man Afro-technofunk.
Nigeria 70 was a prestige release that showed that there was more to Nigerian music than Fela and King Sunny Ade, and is a holy text among the new wave of Afrobeat bands that is arising in various points around the globe. Thinking that it would be a good primer for the kind of music we've been sharing, I had considered posting the collection here, but I wasn't sure it was kosher: Yes, it is definitely out of print, but somehow I didn't think it had been long enough... Plus, I kinda know people who know people who were involved in the compilation's production and I didn't want to get them (or myself) in trouble.
But hey... Our friend Matt just alerted me this morning that some other blog has the whole thing (plus the documentary) up on their site. So, er... You might as well grab it if they're offering it, right?
I'm not gonna publish the download links on this page, but you can go get them HERE.