Sunday, November 04, 2007

Keep On Tryin'

I know some of y'all wondering why I haven't been posting the vintage Nigerian tunes lately, especially since there's so much stuff I promised I was gonna put up like a million years ago (the rest of the BLO discography, the remaining two Ofege albums, the Lijadu Sisters' Sunshine, Gbubemi Amas's Grill album, the Kiki Gyan story, etc).

I apologize for slacking on that, and I promise that I will get to it soon. I've been pretty busy lately, and can you believe that my developmentally delayed ass is still having trouble digitizing the records? sigh It's crazy... I bought a new pre-amp, switched from Final Vinyl to Audio Hijack Pro, even changed the damn cartridge and yet my recordings are still coming out all distorted and yucky-sounding. I'm really at wit's end at this point!

Fear not, though: I'm determined to lick the problem this weekend by hook or by crook, so (Jah willing!) we should be back back to our regularly scheduled programming this week. I want to work on improving the general quality of the accompanying articles, too. As I've said before, one of the most frustrating things about trying to write about Nigerian music is the lack of preexisting documentation of the subject. That's kinda the reason why I wanted to do it in the first place: just to offer some kind of substantial content for someone to find if they happened to Google "Jake Sollo" or "Felix Lebarty." But, y'know... I'm actually starting to question whether I'm really even qualified for the job.

I mean, the majority of the stuff I write here is pulled from memories of things I saw and heard when I was 8, 9 years old, or articles I read in the Sunday arts section of the Nigerian Concord or Lagos Weekend well over two decades ago or something. Every day I become more conscious of gaping holes in my knowledge and it drives me crazy. Just the other day I found some (minor) errors in one of my past posts and it upset me much more than it probably should have, but I'm a stickler for accurate information. I just need to do a gang of research, basically. And it's kind of hard to do it from where I am right now, but I've been working on lining up interviews with some of the Nigerian musicians from that era, so hopefully we'll be seeing more of that around here in the near future.

When I got back from Nigeria last year (come to think of it, this weekend makes it exactly one year. wow.) I was seriously thinking about writing a book about Nigerian music from the 1960s to the 1990s. Later, I talked to Obafunkie and learned that he had a similar idea and we kicked around the idea of collaborating. I guess it would be good to have a volume like that in existence, but I wonder who its audience would even be. Part of what makes books on music history worth reading is putting down the book, going to the record store, picking up the music you just read about and appreciating it in an enriched context. But most of this music has never been reissued and is virtually "lost" right now... Only a small cult knows of its existence. Which is why I guess it's important to continue raising awareness about it, I guess.

But I have to think about whether I'm going to continue posting full albums, though. Originally, I had flirted with the idea of essentially putting my entire record collection online (like a lot of the Brazilian bloggers seem to do), but we quickly settled into this Nigerian groove, so I figured we'd stick with that. But the truth is, I always felt a little uncomfortable with it on some level. One one hand, this was mostly music that was not only out of print, but was completely unavailable commercially, so it's not like we were messing with anybody's money by sharing the music here (and I'm definitely not making any paper from it).

On the other hand, I just don't feel 100% about participating in the free distribution of musicians' work without their consent. Confession time: When I stumbled upon BLO drummer Laolu Akins' daughter a while ago, I wanted to ask her for an interview with her father, but I chickened out because I felt somewhat embarrassed by the fact that I had posted his albums here. I wondered how he would feel about that, especially since he is a longtime advocate for artists' rights in Nigeria.

And then it becomes even more troublesome since I know for a fact that some of the musicians I write about here are actually suffering tremendous hardship today after being shafted by The Industry. Of course, it's not like their conditions would have been improved in any way if these records were left to molder in some leaky-ceilinged warehouse in Onitsha, so I tell myself that by getting the music out there, we increase the chances that someone might reissue it and make sure the artists receive some degree of fair remuneration for it.

(Were I not putting all my energy and resources into this movie business, I would probably be trying to start some kind of West African Blood and Fire Records. I guess Soundway is the closest thing to that right now, and they're doing a great job so far.)

I know the popular idea these days is that the forces of market and the winds of technology have decreed that the mores of the traditional record industry must die and all music must be free but I'm not completely sold on it. even though I download a boatload of music myself, I'm still kinda old school about intellectual property rights.

Anyway, I'm rambling more than I intended to. I just wanted to post some music right quick, this time the album Keep On Tryin' by the band called Cloud 7.

Cloud 7 were much beloved in the 1970s and 80s; I think they were one of the earliest reggae bands in Nigeria, though it seems they were less inspired by dready vibrations from Kingston than by mellow sounds from Peckham. Listening to them now, I can detect the strong influence of UK proto-lovers singers like Honey Boy, Winston Groovy and Ginger Williams (all of whom were insanely popular in Nigeria, by the way).

I'm aware that this music will probably not be to everyone's taste, gentle readers; in fact, I believe I myself described them in a previous post as "sucking." I always found lead singer Cliff David's lyrics to be meandering and prosaic, and the gently skanking, synth-laden riddims brings to mind collar-popping okoros with three buttons unbuttoned on their shirts, peacocking around in pointy white shoes and thinking they're the biggest bobos on the block. But at the same time, I remember fun-fille Saturday mornings spent cleaning the house as "Stop What You're Doing" played on the radio. And I'm cleaning the crib today and listening to this album and... I think I'm kinda getting into it!

So yeah, if nobody else feels me on this, I know that a lot of my peoples in Nigeria will probably appreciate it.

Download the album as a Zip file from Megaupload HERE or go HERE to DivShare where you can download either the Zip or preview and grab the tracks one by one (for my folks with slower connections or if DivShare is just on its usual bullshit).

Obviously that is not the Cloud 7 album pictured above... I forgot to scan the cover this morning, so that's just up there as a placeholder for now (That One World LP is pretty good, though).


matt said...

You are going to love the next set of releases from Soundway:
Feb with NIGERIA SPECIAL, Modern Highlife, Afroi-Sounds and Nigerian Blues, 1970-6
Nigeria Disco Funk Special: The SOund of the Underground Lagos Dancefloor 1974-79
Nigeria Rock Special: Psychedlic Afro Rock and Fuzz Funk in 1970s Nigeria.

I just got a promo of the first one listened to a bit this weekend..cracking stuff....

Comb & Razor said...

wow! well, i'm certainly looking forward to that!

i remember reading about the Nigeria Special on your page way back in... April or May, i think. i wondered why i never heard anything about it again.

what are the release dates? i haven't seen any mentions on the Soundway site...

matt said...

Nigeria Special is Feb 10, 2008 and the rest to follow during 2008 I expect.

matt said...

Heres the tracklisting:
01 Ayamma - Anambra Beats
02 Okwukwe Na Nchekwube- Celestine Ukwu & His Philosophers National
03 Amalinja - The Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination
04 Akula Owu Onyeara - The Funkees
05 Oja Omoba - Dele Ojo & His Star Brothers Band
06 Koma Mosi- The Harbours Band
07 Nekwaha Semi Colon - The Semi Colon
08 Osalobua Rekpama - Sir Victor Uwaifo & His Melody Maestros
09 Onwu Ama Dike - St. Augustine & His Rovers Dance Band
10 Feso Jaiye - The Sahara All Stars of Jos
11 Ema Kowa Iasa Ile Wa - Mono Mono
12 To Whom It May Concern - Tunji Oyelana & The Benders
13 Ugali - The Tony Benson Sextet
01 Asiko Mi Ni - The Nigerian Police Force Band (“The Force 7" )
02 Torri Wowo - Godwin Ezike & The Ambassadors
03 Belema - Opotopo (Easy Kabaka Brown)
04 Alabeke - Dan Satch & His Atomic 8 Dance Band of Aba
05 Arraino - Popular Cooper & His All Beats Band
06 Simini-Yaya - Collins Oke Elaiho & His Odoligie Nobles Dance Band
07 Buroda Mase - Bola Johnson & His Easy Life Top Beats
08 I Want A Break Thru’ - The Hykkers
09 Business Before Pleasure-George Akaeze & His Augmented Hits
10 Omo Yen Wu Mi - Shadow Abraham with Mono Mono Friends
11 Blak Sound - Leo Fadaka & The Heroes
12 Eguae Oba - Osayomore Joseph & The Creative 7
13 Akpaisong - Etubom Rex Williams & His Nigerian Artistes

Comb & Razor said...


that is a seriously hardcore compilation, man!

February can't get here fast enough!

much props to Miles and the crew!

Vincent the Soul Chef said...

I must chime in on your feelings about posting music by simply saying this: the mere fact that corporate "Amerika" just doesn't give a damn about us diehard music lovers anymore makes it almost mandatory for us to engage in blogging. How else will we be able to support these artists if we are not exposed to their music. Oh, I know, the majors think that we really want to spend a month's rent on Hanna Montana tickets or (God forbid) the new Britney Spears EP... RIGHT! At least the online outlets do offer a bit of variety, and let's not forget the mighty eMusic service to which I've been a faithful subscriber for the past four years. If not for them, I wouldn't have nearly as many CDs as I do, so they will always get my support and a monthly debit of 25 bucks. See, I DO support GOOD artistes (a message to the powers that be)...

Keep on fighting the good fight; someone out there will pick up on what you're putting down and support the artistes that you feature. I look at my blog stats daily and almost always see that someone has clicked one of my many links to Amazon, etc., and more than likely purchased a CD or a download or two. Essentially what we're doing is offering free advertising, doing the job for those who are too lazy to do it for the artistes anyway. Hell, we should get a cut from the majors for that, but since we truly love the music that we post, we're showing that we CARE about them a hell of a lot more than they do. I hope that I made a valid point that makes sense, because I vehemently stress that there is more music out there than the disposable pop music that basically sells itself, and that music deserves just as much promotion from and by any means necessary so that those artistes can afford to pay their rent and put food on their table.

On a lighter note, I am also looking forward to those Soundways comps. They look fantastic!

Peace and blessings.

Comb & Razor said...

you speak the truth like you were ODing on sodium pentathol, Vincent...

it just bothers me that modern music listeners have grown to feel so... entitled. they truly believe that free music is a right and not a privilege. in some weird way, i think they're actually somewhat contemptuous of the artistes who produce the music.

i'll probably expand this idea in future posts... i just wonder whether by providing free music, we're somehow helping to fuel that sense of entitlement.

i like to think that the freebies encourage people to go out and buy music. i mean, i hope that is the case... but i just don't know.

Wes said...

I'm begging you to keep posting your naija pop recollections. Seriously. There doesn't seem to be any other resource. What you do is incredibly valuable.

Comb & Razor said...

LOL thanks a lot, Wes... i will keep on tryin' (in the meantime, anyway!)

Måns said...

The freebies DOES encourage people, me at least, to go out and buy the music. Problem is, as you said, it's nowhere to be found, most of it. Well ebay of course, saw the Gbubemi Amas's Grill album go for well over 300 dollars, not really an option for me..

On the other hand, when (and if) this music gets the reissue treatment, I reckon most of us who appreciate it will buy it, like all the terrific comps already out there (thanks soundway).
So I say; keep 'em coming!
And oh: thank you for a wonderful blog, informative and interesting indeed!

Comb & Razor said...

thanks a lot for the comment, and for the encouragement, Måns!

Temi said...

Man, keep on posting, there is a whole generation of music history that might be lost otherwise. A book would definately be a dope and might even generate enough interest for some stuff to be reissued.

Comb & Razor said...

i hear you, T... thanks for commenting!

jon said...

Just a quick note before i read the rest of your post. If you want any Audio Hijack advice, I may be able to help. It's the app i use and i love it, especially the useful FX like gain doubler and the graphic eq etc. Watch your input levels as digital don't like going into the red hardly at all. If what your getting is distorted it sounds like something is getting too much signal somewhere down the line. Good luck. Now to read the rest.

Comb & Razor said...

thanks for the offer, Jon... but as i mentioned in my next post, i just went and got a USB turntable and am now using the application that came with it (Audacity).

i'll probably switch back to Audio Hijack eventually, though... it seems like a pretty versatile program but my sound card just standing in the way of me reaping its full (hell, even its basic) benefits.