Thursday, June 14, 2007

Taiwo & Kehinde (with a 'K')

I suppose we can forgive Mr. Baker for butchering the given name of one of the Lijadu Sisters; he most likely had not met too many Yoruba twins at that point. You see, the Yoruba people (due to a genetic predisposition that has yet to be fully explained) have the highest birthrate for twins in the world, and they're all named Taiwo ("TIE-woe") and Kehinde ("KEH-yeen-DAY"). The protocol is that the firstborn twin is named Taiwo ("s/he who tastes the world first") and the secondborn is Kehinde ("s/he who follows behind") but Kehinde is actually considered to be the older twin (as the position at the "back" of the womb suggests having gone in first) who waits for Taiwo to go out first and make sure that it is safe to emerge into the world.

Although they exist as two separate physical bodies, the twins are believed to share the same soul. Their individual personalities are aspects of a single inteligence, and that entity is complete only when Taiwo and Kehinde come together with their spirits, their hearts, their voices in harmony.


Last time, I mentioned that BLO broke up after Phase IV while the members studied in London. Thing is, they didn't exactly "break up," since they continued to play together; they just weren't releasing music under the BLO shingle. These were the days when the Nigerian music industry had that major label dough and a lot of artists were being flown to London to mix--or even just to record--their albums. In this context, Berkley Jones, Laolu Akins and Lemmy Jackson became three of the most in-demand session men, playing on albums by the likes of Christy Essien, Sonny Okosuns, Kris Okotie, and the Lijadu Sisters. The latter act, of course, was an act with whom BLO had a considerable amount of history, having been bandmates in Tee-Mac's Afrocollection and Ginger Baker's Salt:

In fact, according to Akins, BLO's formation was spurred by the Lijadus' decision to leave Salt and venture off on their own.

It was, perhaps, quite natural for Taiwo and Kehinde to feel more comfortable with each other than in the midst of a bigger ensemble. They had been singing together since childhood, often doing session work and performing in local festivals. In 1969, they cut their first album as a duo, Iya Mi Jowo and after the Salt tour they released Mother Africa. Their relationship with producer Biddy Wright was a fruitful one, yielding the impressive LPs Danger (1976) and Sunshine (1978). I'm not sure why they opted not to reprise the collaboration on their next album; instead they turned to their old Salt cohorts Berkley and Laolu (along with syudio stalwart Odion Iruoje).

Where the Wright-produced albums featured breezy, melodic Afro-pop (that frequently leaned more towards the "pop" than the "Afro"), Jones, Akins and Iruoje plant the twins firmly in a world of rhythm. With their luminescent voices dropped into a dubby juju soundscape, surrounded by pitch-dark basslines and the incessant chatter of talking drums, the twins sing back mostly in Yoruba (as opposed to the English of the Wright albums), making full use of the language's percussive and tonal properties. And somewhere on the horizon, Lemmy Jackson chips in with buzzing clavinets and stately piano riffs that fall somewhere between the church and the supper club.

The result is the Lijadu Sisters' most successful and widely-known album (which was reissued in 1984 by the US label Shanachie, and was a college radio favorite through the decade).

The Lijadu Sisters - Horizon Unlimited (1979)

Keyboards - Lemmy Jackson
Gube (bass drum) - Tony Adeleye
First Talking drum - Soji Adenle
Maracas - John Akanmu
Second Bass Drum - Ladi Oguntunwase
Rhythm Guitar - Alao/Tunde Peters/Glenis Martins
Lead guitar - Frederick Ramm
Drums - Laolu Akins
Drums - Buttley Moore
Ekwe & clefs - Friday Jumbo
Bass guitar - Richard Archer

Produced by Berkley Jones/Laolu Akins/Odion Iruoje
Recorded at Decca Studios, London



John B said...

What you say about the prevalence of twins among the Yoruba is quite interesting.

When I was in Nigeria in '94 and '95 (mainly in the Igbo-speaking areas around Owerri, Onitsha and Aba), I was surprised to see, on an almost daily basis, albinos. This was quite surprising to me as it has been years since I have seen an albino here in the U.S.

A couple of years ago I came across this passage in the book "Mutants" by Armand Marie Leroi (Viking Press, 2003), a scholarly study of genetic mutations:

"...About 1 in 36,000 Europeans is born albino, and 1 in 10,000 Africans. But the number jumps to 1 in 4500 among the Zulu and 1 in 1100 among the Ibo of Nigeria, and in very local populations the number can become even higher..."

As to why this high prevalence of albinism among the Igbo, I have no idea, nor does the author. One might speculate, though, that the widespread practice of polygamy might allow certain genetic traits, like the prevalence of twins among the Yoruba, to become established in various populations.

John B said...


How about posting "Sunshine" or one of the other Lijadu Sisters albums also? I already have "Horizon Unlimited" (Issued as "Double Trouble" in the US) and I love it.

AFKAP of Darkness said...

hey John... thanks for commenting! i've been meaning to email you the past couple of nights, but i've been falling asleep pretty early!

the thing about the albinism among the Igbos is interesting... i'm trying to remember if the majority of albinos i knew in NIgeria were Igbo or not.

lighter skin, hair and eyes are not uncommonn traits in many parts of Igboland (including among a lot of folks on the maternal side of my family), but most of the time they're not completely devoid of melanin... just a bit low on it so they have a ruddy or coppery tone (of course, that has a lot to do with the African sun, too)

i wish i knew what causes unique genetic traits like that to take root in particular populations... i've read some explanations of the Yoruba twin thing that suggest it has something to do with the high estrogen content in yams, which are a staple food among the Yorubas. but of course, yams are a staple foodstuff through West and Central Africa. so why isn't the accelerated twinning taking place across the entire region?


anyway, yeah... when i posted Horizon Unlimited, i actually expected that most people would have it already since it's been around on the world music circuit for some time now. hopefully, i'll be able to digitize some stuff these weekend and i'll be putting up Sunshine and Danger (and other rare stuff)

John B said...

Yes, it's a mystery. I'm no expert on genetics, but you would expect albinism to be LESS common among Africans than Europeans, as albinos are prone to skin cancer and thus you would think that particular mutation would be eliminated from the gene pool from exposure to the tropical sun.

As regards twins, Dympna Ugwu-Oju, who is herself a twin, writes in her book "What Will My Mother Say?" (Bonus Books, 1995), that in her part of Igboland (near Nsukka), up until the 1950s twins were commonly left in the bush to die. It was considered a disgrace and the mother had to undergo a cleansing ritual.

AFKAP of Darkness said...

yeah... regarding twins as an abomination to be abandoned/killed was an unfortunate practice that was common to many peoples, even the Yoruba at one point. they got over it pretty early (i suppose because of the increasing twin birthrate) and started regarding twins as a special blessing.

to be honest, i didn't know that the practice continued inIgboland as late as the 1950s... that's a bit surprising to me, as i thought it had been abolished much earlier than that (hell, Scottish missionary Mary Slessor is a legendary figure in the Calabar area for ending the practice as far back as the late 19th century).

but then again, a lot of curious customs persisted for a LONG time in Igboland, such as the caste system.

John B said...

There are a number of practices described in Ugwu-Oju's book that my wife, who is from the Orlu area, found odd or out of the Igbo mainstream (Nsukka, of course, is on the northernmost border of Igboland).

An Igbo sociologist I read, I think Elizabeth Isichei, contends that the "Igbo people" are actually an amalgam of a number of cultural groups united mainly by their language (which of course has numerous dialects), and that even within Igbo territory there are enclaves that retain features of their earlier ethnic identity.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it was only after the Biafra war that the Igbo began thinking of themselves as a distinct people. Previously they had identified mainly with their sub-groups or localities.

AFKAP of Darkness said...


there was definitely a new Igbo nationalism that flourished in the 1960s (particularly in the wake of the Igbo persecution that led up to the Biafran War) but i don't know for sure if that was the beginning of the concept of Ndi Igbo, or "the Igbo people."

i wouldn't be surprised to learn that it happened much, much earlier than that... as far back as the slave trade era.

like, the Yoruba were not historically "one people" either; from what i've read (i think it might have been in Ned Sublette's Cuba and Its Music) the Yoruba people never thought of themselves as "Yoruba" before that point, but the idea of "Yoruba people" made it easier to inventory the large numbers of slaves being taken from the various related but independent ethnic groups in the region now known as Western Nigeria.

what i find really interesting, though, is the sub-groups who have stubbornly resisted this amalgamation. like the people of Asaba and other regions around the delta: they have Igbo names. they speak a dialect that sounds like Igbo to me. yet they vehemently insist that they are not Igbo (at least most of them I know do!)

John B said...

I stand corrected. What you say about some "Igbos" not identifying as such is true, for instance the writer Elechi Amadi, who is from Port Harcourt. His book "Sunset in Biafra" is an account of his adventures supporting the Federal side during the Biafra War. At one point Amadi was arrested by the Biafran government and thrown in prison. The arresting officer, more in puzzlement than anything else, asked him, "here we are fighting for our survival and you want to write stories?"

Amadi has an Igbo name and is an Ikwerre, by all accounts an Igbo sub-group, but refuses to identify as Igbo.

I don't bring this up to endorse the sort of "Igbocentrism" or chauvinism that is so common in the Igbo community. I suppose Amadi can identify himself however he likes. It just seems that there is an element of self-interest involved here, a desire to get in the good graces of the "victors" following the war.

AFKAP of Darkness said...

you know, i never looked at it that way... but now that i think about it, it makes perfect sense, really.

especially when you consider all the allusions to the Delta people (and pretty much most non-Igbo Eastern groups) feeling "betrayed" after the war.

(i never knew that Elechi Amadi did not consider himself Igbo, though!)

John B said...

It's been some time since I read "Sunset in Biafra." It's out of print and I don't have a copy.

As I recall, Amadi invoked that old bugaboo of "Igbo Domination." To hear him tell the story, his people, the Ikwerre, were the victims of a sort of cultural imperialism whereby they gave up their own language and started speaking a sort of bastardized Igbo. So, by this telling, the Ikwerre, although they speak Igbo, are not Igbo anymore than the Irish are English.

Fair enough, but by my understanding the absorbtion of various groups by the Igbo did not occur through military conquest but by cultural diffusion, trade and intermarriage, etc. So Amadi's "argument" is really just a house of cards.

AFKAP of Darkness said...

yeah, i'd agree that Amadi's argument is pretty shaky, but still it's deliciously ironic that this cultural diffusion that's effected by trade and intermarriage be viewed as a vehicle for Igbo cultural domination... considering the fact that there's been a good dea of hysteria among Igbo thinkers surrounding the idea that this very cultural diffusion is fatally diluting Igbo culture and contributing to the gradual extinction of the Igbo language itself!

Anonymous said...

Can you pls help repost this album? Would love to have a copy.

Comb & Razor said...

Oh, so this link is dead too?

Ummm... Just email me directly.