Monday, December 10, 2007

Wake Up Your Mind

Yes... Back to business.

The past week or so has been so busy that I've hardly had time to check out my favorite blogs, let alone post anything on this one, so yeah... I know I've got a backlog of requests to get to.

I promised my man Calumbinho that I was going to throw up Joni Haastrup's Wake Up Your Mind like three or four days ago and my pal Ofon has been waiting for Haastrup's Monomono albums for months now--one of the reasons I delayed on the Monomono stuff was because I had been trying to secure an interview with Mr. Haastrup, and that hasn't quite worked out yet. I'll keep trying, but in the meantime, I guess I can at least make Calumbinho happy!

Let's see... What to say about this record? Well, it's the one and only solo album by one of Nigeria's most respected and beloved musicians. While Joni Haastrup is mostly unknown to kids who came of age in the 1980s (my generation), among the folks who were grooving in the late 60s and the 70s, the mere mention of his name is apt to elicit responses of tremendous affection and awe. I've gotten the sense that more than any other single musician, Joni Haastrup embodied the all aspirations of Nigerian music in the post-highlife era.

Earlier in his career, he was billed as "Johnny Haastrup"; the later "Joni" spelling appears to be a tip of the hat to Jimi Hendrix, and like Hendrix, Haastrup exuded the aura of an individual who just has music spontaneously pouring out of his soul. He started performing as a teenager in the town of Ilesa, singing in school bands with his older brother, guitarist Segun Haastrup. During a trip to Lagos, the brothers tried out for immortal bandleader Bobby Benson's Jam Session Orchestra; neither of them made the cut, but Joni brought the house down with his animated Chuck Berry impression. Soon thereafter, legendary trumpeter Victor Olaiya witnessed Joni's energetic dancing and singing in a high school drama group and was sufficiently impressed to recruit the youngster to join his Cool Cats band (in which no less a personage than Fela Ransome-Kuti had apprenticed in the late 1950s). This was 1965 after all; the rhythm of Lagos nightlife was changing. "Beat music"--rock & roll and soul--was seeping into the scene and Olaiya (true to his reputation as "the evil genius of highlife") presciently realized that he would have to incorporate the new foreign sounds. The Cool Cats became The All Stars Soul International, which Joni Haastrup fronted for a year and a half.

In 1966, saxophonist Orlando Julius (a contemporary of Fela, credited in some quarters as the true originator of the term "Afro-beat music") released the album Super Afro Soul on which Joni Haastrup featured as a guest lead vocalist on a few tracks, such as "Bojubari" and a "copyright" of the Temptations' "My Girl." The album was a momentous success, helping to usher in the ascendance of soul music and cement Joni Haastrup's reputation as "Nigeria's Soul Brother Number One."

During the war, beat groups prevailed: Segun Bucknor & his Soul Assembly, The Strangers, The Clusters (whose lineup included future BLO members Laolu Akins and Mike Odumosu and, briefly, Joni Haastrup) and The Hykkers. It was with the latter band that Haastrup was sitting in when he caught the attention of Ginger Baker, on his first visit to Nigeria in 1970. Baker was so besotted by Joni's electrifying stage presence that he snatched him off to London to join Ginger Baker's Air Force. Baker envisioned him playing a multiinstrumental role, which was initially a surprise to Joni:
There was a lot of misconception about what I could do. When I went with Ginger, he saw me singing. He never saw me play an instrument, but he had this great belief within himself that I could play any instrument. So he wanted me to play the organ because Steve Winwood was leaving. And he also wanted me to play guitar because Denny Laine was leaving. So I got into London on a, I think on a Tuesday. The first gig was on Thursday. I have never heard the music of the band. I don't know what they sound like. I don't know anybody in the band but Ginger. I've never even heard Ginger play drums face-to-face except on record. He wants me to play organ and guitar and sing in this big ten-piece band with Graham Bond and Bud Beadle and all these people. And I uh, and I said, "Well, Ginger I don't really play any of these instruments. I'm just a singer." And he goes, "Hey! You can do it. You can fuckin' do it." [laughter]
It's a testament to Haastrup's innate musicality that, despite his initial reservations, two days later he was playing guitar and keyboards in the Air Force!

Haastrup returned to Nigeria later in the year, playing the keys for Baker again in Salt.



(Yes, I've posted this video before, but I wanted to point out something I didn't mention before: Mr. Muttonchops in the red tank top? That's Tunde Kuboye, later of Jazz 38 fame.)

Joni hooked up with Kenneth Okulolo, who had played bass in Olaiya's All Stars during Haastrup's tenure with the band. He served as Haastrup's co-pilot in Monomono, one of the earliest afro-rock ensembles to capitalize on the success of Osibisa. The band's 1972 debut album, Give The Beggar a Chance, was met with massive success in Nigeria and beyond, and the 1974 followup, Dawn of Awareness was picked up for international distribution by Capitol Records.

Confident that Monomono was about to cross over into the big time, Haastrup traveled to the US to urge Capitol to back a tour for the band. Capitol balked, and Haastrup returned to Nigeria dejected. He made another attempt in 1976, but when it became clear that Capitol was not interested in promoting them, Monomono disbanded. It was at this point that he recorded his solo album, with some assistance from some of his bandmates.

Wake Up Your Mind was released in 1978, the year after FESTAC, so it's unsurprising that it finds Haastrup in a pan-Africanist mood. In the music, one can hear echoes of Stevie Wonder, Kool & the Gang, Mighty Sparrow and even KC & the Sunshine Band's Bahamian junkanoo-inspired disco, as the lyrics exhort the unity of the African disapora. The album is definitely designed for maximum crossover effect, but Haastrup has never been shy about his ambitions to transcend the conventional ideas of what an African musician should sound like:
[We need to] show the African musician as an artist first, then as an African... We can be pop, we can be rock, we can be jazz, we can be soul, we can be everything because in actual fact we have [made] an incredible contribution to all of that already. So why deny ourselves, or why deny us, the opportunity to cross over into the commercial industry.
I don't know to what degree the album was successful in penetrating the international market, but after Wake Up Your Mind, Haastrup left Nigeria pretty much for good. He worked as a session musician and producer in London and by the early 80s he was in the Bay Area, fronting Joni Haastrup & the Afrikans and doing more session work (most notably on several Chris Isaak albums from the late 80s up until the mid-90s).

Just yesterday, I was chatting with Calumbinho about Joni Haastrup and he made an interesting observation about Joni's singing. Despite his reputation as a showman, his vocals have a decidedly understated quality to them, and even when if he's singing in Yoruba and you don't understand the lyrics, you can feel the humility, honesty and intense love radiating from his delivery, much like Milton Nascimento. By all accounts, Joni is a really zen dude, and while's he's been a practicing Buddhist for many years, music is his real religion. As he says: "I just want to play my music and make people smile, keep people happy. Not limit myself to what people think I should be."

Today he still lives, plays and teaches in Oakland, California.
JONI HAASTRUP - WAKE UP YOUR MIND (AFRODESIA, 1978, DWAPS 2053)

SIDE ONE
1. Free My People
2. Greetings
3. Wake Up Your Mind

SIDE TWO
1. Champions and Superstars
2. Do the "Funkro"
3. Watch Out





All Joni Haastrup quotes above culled from Breakout: Profiles in African Rhythm, by Gary Stewart, 1992, University of Chicago Press.

Update 1/27/08: Damn... I just noticed that I said the bass player in that clip was Ken Okulolo when I meant to say Tunde Kuboye! Damn... My bad. Wires got crossed there. I've fixed it now, anyway. My apologies for the misinfo!

33 comments:

calumbinho said...

I am SOOOOOOO happy indeed !!!! Thaks a lot for this post - especially for the music, but also for the info, since I've been loving this man for years but knew almost nothing about him. How frustrating that I actually lived near the Bay Area for a year and a half, but had not yet heard his music then, so I didn't go and pay my respects to him as I would today.

If Mr. Haastrup gets to read this, I would like to send him all my love and respect for the joy he's given me with his music, and also my sincere wish that he'll get back to the studio & on the road with his own material.

Putting it bluntly - Joni Haastrup & Monomono have made my life better.

Comb & Razor said...

i'm sure he'd be really happy to hear that, Calumbinho... hopefully i can get in touch with him soon!

"Big Al" Marghreb said...

Awesome! Can't wait to hear this. Great and great quotes. I hope you get to interview him (so, you know, I can read it).

Comb & Razor said...

heyyyy.... Big Al!

i just noticed that you got some updates.... i got me some reading to do tonight!

"Big Al" Marghreb said...

Come on in the house!

And thanks to that post now I've gotta go out and buy some Air Force. I thought I was set with the Stratavarious you so kindly posted, but now I've got to haul my holiday-strained wallet down to DustyGroove and put my hands on this business.

Temi said...

Monomono's tire lo ma da nigbehin is one of my favorites jams from that era, its great to learn more about them.

ehirim said...

Man,

A thorough and brilliant piece shedding more light on Joni Haastrup and Kenneth Okulolo. I think it would be a good idea if the two could embark on a tour to relive the old school vibes. You really did a good job digging out stuff about these guys.

Kudos and keep it up.

Comb & Razor said...

Ehirim... as in Ambrose?

welcome to my spot, sir... and thanks for commenting!

hopefully, i'll be doing a piece on Ken Okulolo soon, as well. it would be a great thing if he and Joni could could get together and do some stuff. i believe he lives in Oakland, too...

Comb & Razor said...

Temi:

that's one of my favorite jams too... i wanted to throw it somewhere in here, but i might as well save it for the full Monomono post!

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

oooh, weee.... I am listening to just the intro of free my people and this stuff is too funky! Nice!

Thank you for introducing me to him. I lived in Nigeria in the late 80's to early 90s and unfortunately I am unfamiliar to him. I come from a family of die hard Fela-maniacs and my grandmother swore she would only cheat on my grandpops with Michael Jackson. haha.

I got here through African geek's blog, he put up a post (last year) about your nollywood ambitions. I got curios and came by. Will take a look at your archives to see how much you achieved.

Nice post!

Comb & Razor said...

welcome, SOLOMONSYDELLE... thanks for stopping by!

i actually haven't checked out the African geek in a while because he hadn't updated in a little bit... i know he had some strong opinions about Doris Lessing recently. i should get obver there...

20 Cent said...

I got only one word : Thanks !! Or maybe more : Thank you so much !!! I've just discovered your fabulous blog and I became quickly addicted. Love the music, love the writting style, love the knowledge,... Please go for your idea to write a book, I will read it for sure.
Again : Merci beaucoup Comb & Razor !!!
Mister Vinz.

Comb & Razor said...

un grand merci pour les compliments, Mister Vinz!

i'm glad you're enjoying the blog, because i'm certainly enjoying writing this stuff, sharing the music and making new friends every day!

jon said...

Another killer selection my friend! Can't wait for the Monomo post.
best,
Jon

Joe said...

Oh, thank you for this. I've wanted to hear it for ages. I'm actually a little surprised that "Greetings" isn't the lead-off track, given that song's intro. Great stuff. Thanks also for all the information--this blog has really filled in my knowledge not only of the music, but the stories behind it.

DJKalil said...

Joni is my god-uncle. He is so far from zen but hes still family. My father, Baba Ken Okulolo is playing bass on some of these tracks. Cheers

Comb & Razor said...

Jon:

Monomono is coming soon...

Joe:

glad you're feeling it, man... i won't lie; just knowing that folks are digging the music (and my roughhwen ramblings) gives me much encouragement to continue!

DJKalil:

i was actually planning to get in touch with your dad this past weekend but i was unable to get around to it... i've been thinking about doing a piece on Kotoja and Nigerian Brothers, though.

yo, hit me up at combrazor at yahoo dot com, man...

20 Cent said...

My Mom was used to say that there is no stupid so I'm gonna ask...
Is it foolish to imagine to reissue an album like the "Step Three" of Blo, or this "Wake Up Your Mind" of Joni....?

20 Cent said...

What she said was that there is not stupid QUESTION...Wrote it to speed lol

Comb & Razor said...

that's a pretty good question, 20 Cent...

i don't think it's too far-fetched to imagine some of these records being reissued. after all, BLO's Chapter One was reissued on vinyl, and Soundway reissued Geraldo Pino's Afro Soco Soul and Let's Have a Party. and some Orlando Julius records have been reissued, too.

as i said before, for a while i was contemplating starting a label to put some of these albums out myself... but at this point, i'm not sure.

as you know, the record industry is in transition right now; i don't know if this is the best time to be trying to sell records.

maybe when things stabilize a little bit, though...

hell, maybe YOU can be the one to do it!

(i was just checking out your blog, btw... you got a nice mix of music up on there!)

20 Cent said...

You know what Comb, you make me feel great... I will really love to be the one to do it and being in touch with you make me feels that it could happen...So I'll try and if I can achieved that, you will be the one I'll ask to provide knowledge ;)
Besides, you're very welcome for the Kusini stuff, my blog is really not as serious as yours. I just did it to keep in touch with my music mates in France, as I leaved few month ago to stay in London... But if it can be usefull for you, I feel great again.

Comb & Razor said...

most definitely, man! i'm loving the stuff you're posting!

but seriously... i think it's something to look into. people still buy records in places like France and the UK, but right now in the States? that shit is pretty much dead for now...

anyway, i'll hit you up on email later... we can chat about some stuff!

20 Cent said...

I didn't dare to ask you...but you read my mind mate...
Look for your email with great feelings !!!

Ike Chime said...

Fantastic reconnecting to Joni Haastrup feelings after many decades. I was one of them kids that enjoyed JH music in the 70's and I was a regular at this joint I can't remember the name now, near Ojuelegba roundabout. I went into his dressing room once and told him how much I love his music. Thanks Comb&razor, is it possible to post 'give a begger a chance'? Peace

Comb & Razor said...

i'll be posting both Monomono albums soon enough, Ike! somehow i've been unable to post anything at all for the past 2 weeks but i'll be back soon...

thanks a lot for commenting!

Blake said...

Hey,

I just discovered this blog when searching for some Joni Haastrup info ; "Greetings" off the Nigeria '70 comp is one of the most amazing songs I have ever heard! This album looks amazing, and this info is superb, but is there any way to get those mp3's? The links are dead! Thanks again!

xensma said...

bonjour!!
many thanx for your nice blog you're doing a great job and day after day the blogosphere is bringing to me new sounds and afrofunk stuffs but i cannot download the tracks from joni haastrup i was so happy to find it "enfin" and now i'm sad...is it possible for you to fix it??? please.....thanks again!!!!

Comb & Razor said...

thanks a lot, xensma!

looks like i might have deleted the Wake Up Your Mind files from the server (by accident? on purpose? can't remember...)

email me at combrazor (at) yahoo dot com and i'll send them to you directly, okay?

Seal67 said...

Hi,

As usual I come over here for inspiration, will say Monomono's first album Dawn of awareness has to be the absolute best he ever did, amazingly the album almost didnt happen in that he lost the cream of he original personnel- apart from Kenneth Okulolo who learnt his craft under Steve Rhodes, he had to recruit a completely new set of guys, some of them complete greenhorns who he schooled in a non-stop marathon of two weeks. The main strength of the album being the chemistry between his Bass heroics and Jimi's Keyboard and Guitar works/vocals. Thanks for this strong post dude our lives have been made better, salut!

Comb & Razor said...

thanks a lot, Seal67... you know how much i always value your contributions!

(oh yeah... i think i ended up killing the links in this post, so if you need the music, just email me directly)

Kim Kokosky Deforchaux said...

Is there any possibility you could re-up this album? I've been looking for it for such a long time and it seems I just missed it! I would really appreciate it!
Thanks anyway, I think your is amazing!

afrobeat said...

Hey Comb&Razor:

Just saw that u wrote a comment on one of my published stories I found on your homepage. You said you don't mind about re-publishing but with proper credits ...

Sorry for that, its gonna be changed soon and next time anyhow I will remember ... read your blog frequently, amazing one ...

Greetz from

http://afrobeat-music.blogspot.com/



Comb & Razor said:

HI there... I don't mind you re-publishing some of my work here, but I'll have to ask that you properly credit me and link my blog as the source from which you got this material.

Otherwise, I love what you are doing with this site!

Comb & Razor said...

No problem, afrobeat... Thanks!