Flash Domincii was a bit of a big deal in the 1960s but today he seems to be mostly forgotten, along with the colorful London highlife scene of which he was a mainstay. African pop music had supported an enthusiastic hepcat following in London since at least 1945 when the West African Rhythm Brothers steamed through Trafalgar Square on V-E Day. When rock & roll exploded on the mainstream in the late 1950s, illustrating the general public's growing taste for "primal" rhythms, many trendwatchers expected its popularity to be fleeting as the audience's palate would logically gravitate toward more rhythmically potent and exotic sounds such as West Indian calypso, South African kwela and West African highlife.
(Such predictions were not unique to the UK, as we are reminded by the kitschy 1957 American teenpic Bop Girl Goes Calypso--its plot centers around an uptight grad student who scientifically calculates that rock & roll is soon to be supplanted by calypso.)
Details on the life and career of Flash Domincii are sparse, so I've never ascertained his real name, date of birth, or even when and where he started playing music. What is clear to me, though, is that he is a Nigerian Yoruba and and seems to have represented a bold new generation of highlife players, arriving on the scene about a decade after the 1950s heyday of London African music luminaries like Nigerians Ambrose Adekoya Campbell, Ginger Folorunsho Johnson and Nat Atkins (born Obafunsho Akinbayo) and the popular Ghanaian bandleader Cab Kaye (a.k.a. Augustus Kwamlah Quaye, father of musicians Caleb, Terri and Finley Quaye, and who was once erroneously believed to also be the grandfather of Tricky).
Domincii's Supersonics included old hands such as West African Rhythm Brothers percussionist Ade Bashorun and Calabar trumpeter Sammy Obot (who led Ghana's unofficial national orchestra, the Broadway--later Uhuru--Dance Band), as well as several rising Young Turks: saxman Teddy Osei (who would go on to cofound Osibisa), guitarists Akanni Akinde (of Victor Olaiya's Cool Cats) and Fred Coker (cofounder of the Afro-rock band Assagai, whose lineup included Terri Quaye), bassist Charles Ononogbo (also of Assagai), drummer Gasper Lawal, percussionist Ayinde Folarin (who played on some of Fela's earliest recordings and later in Assagai, but is probably best known to beatdiggers and psysch heads alike for his role on Demon Fuzz's Afreaka!*) and multiinstrumentalist Peter King.
But the one thing that signified more than any other Domincii's radical standing as a captain of highlife's new wave was the use of the organ, an instrument of sacred connotations that had never before been played in the profane context of highlife. At the time, the organ was showing up with increasing frequency in progressive rock but there's something retro and conservative in the way it underscores the subtle, churchy flavor of the melodies, reminiscent of I.K. Dairo's. In fact, the organ's reedy texture recalls Dairo's accordion, and with the strong Yoruba accent of the music, prominent use of talking drums and and twangy guitars, a case can be made that Domincii's Supersonics served not only as a training ground for the burgeoning Afro-rock generation, but as also an indicator towards the direction juju music would take in the next decade.
Over the next few years, Domincii would further experiment with the possibilities of highlife orchestration, but he appeared to be too far ahead of the audience--or maybe they were just turning more toward other genres. The Supersonics disbanded in 1970 and Domincii dropped off the radar, reemerging in the 80s with a more Ghanaian-influenced sound and an increased appreciation for reggae and jazz.
FLASH DOMINCII & THE SUPERSONICS - THE GREAT & EXPENSIVE SOUND OF THE SUPERSONICS (Fisher Music, 1967, FMLP002)
Sammy Obot - Trumpet
Peter King - Alto sax, flute, violin
Teddy Osei - Tenor sax
Akanni Akinde - Rhythm guitar
Fred Coker - Lead guitar
Charles Onos - Bass guitar
Eddie Davies - Organ
Gasper Lawal - Drums
Ayinde Folarin - Conga drums
Ade Bashorun - Bongos
Osun - Talking drum
Flash Domincii - Vocals
Recorded at Maximum Sound Studio, London
Download the zip HERE. Or download track by track:
(You'll notice that I've taken a new approach to delivering the music, especially for my folks who want/need to download one track at a time. Let me know if it works for you or if you find it unthinkably stupid.)
*I didn't upload it and I haven't downloaded it either; I just happened across it while searching for an article with which to explain Demon Fuzz to the unaware. So help yourself... Hopefully it is what it says it is!
Update 5/25/08: Sorry, kids... Had to kill the links. Sincerest apologies to Mr. Domincii; no harm was intended.