Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Meri Kirisimasi!

I realize that not everybody observes the yuletide (I'm not necessarily a big Christmas guy myself these days) but we all like music, no? SO in honor of the season, here are a few tracks from my baby Martha Ulaeto's 1983 LP Christmas Africana (and more).

Martha Ulaeto - "Keresimesi Odun De (Christmas Has Come)" (Yoruba)
Martha Ulaeto - "Nwa Ga Zo Uwa (The Little Redeemer)" (Igbo)
Martha Ulaeto - "Kiri-Simasi Bo Sa! (It's Christmas!)" (Ijaw)
Martha Ulaeto - "Eyen A Mana Ono Nyin (Unto Us A Child Is Born)" (Efik)
Martha Ulaeto - "Gbo Ohun Awon Angeli (Hear The Angels Singing)" (Yoruba)

Produced by classical flautist Tee Mac Omatshola Iseli, Christmas Africana offers Western standards such as "Ave Maria," "Go Tell It On The Mountain" and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" as well as a multilingual smorgasbord of Nigerian Christmas songs such as "Keresimesi Odun De" (by noted Yoruba composer Dayo Dedeke) the Ijaw "Kiri-Simasi Bo Sa!" written by Martha's mentor, Adam Fiberesima, and "Nwa Ga Zo Uwa" (by musicologist and Radio Nigeria legend Lawrence Emeka).

"Gbo Ohun Awon Angeli" is a time-honored hymn of the Yoruba Christian canon and it has been recorded a number of times, including on the 1979 LP Black Bethlehem by famed pianist and composer Akin Euba.

Released on Euba's own BMI (Black Music International) label, the album is mostly a collaboration between Euba and Art Alade (best known as the leader of the Jazz Preachers in the 1960s and as the host of TV's Bar Beach Show in the 70s) along with a host of instrumentalists and singers (including Funmi Adams, who would enjoy moderate pop success in the 80s).

(That's Euba and Alade, seated at the keyboard at right)

Akin Euba - "Gbo Ohun Awon Angeli" (solo by Art Alade)
Akin Euba - "Keresimesi Yi Ma De O"
Akin Euba - "O Come All Ye Faithful"
Akin Euba - "The Birth of Christ" (solos by Afolabi Ajala-Browne and Funmi Adams)

Interestingly enough, Richard Bucknor--the brother of 1960s soul man Segun Bucknor--performed on both of the recordings featured above; he sang in the chorus on Black Bethlehem and played piano on the "Western" songs on Christmas Africana.

And while we're on the subject of 1960s soul men, I just learned this afternoon that the great Geraldo Pino--the man who brought soul music to Nigeria--passed away last month. Can't believe I missed that... Considering the fact that he seems to have died on the same day as Miriam Makeba, I suppose it's somewhat understandable that the news might have been overshadowed a bit.

Also today, a friend in Accra informed me that legendary drum hero Kofi Ghanaba (Guy Warren) died on Monday night. Some more info can be found HERE.

Rest in peace to both of these mighty elephants of African music.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Musique d'enfer!

Stumbled upon this on Youtube. After watching it like 12 or 16 times, I just had to share it!

I don't really expect anyone else to get the joke here, of course; most Nigerians probably know Nel Oliver primarily for the 1998 ballad "Baby Girl," but amongst my circle of friends and family, this song--or rather, this video--was a running in-joke that just got funnier and funnier with each passing year.

I mean... It was jut so priceless: exaggerated, TV commercial-style drama, overheated histrionics, naff choreography, four-for-fifty kobo Michael Jackson imitators, extreme closeups of prodigiously mustachioed lips, white-framed plastic glasses--it had been a while since we'd seen a Nigerian music video that exulted so gloriously in its unabashed early 80s-ness!

The thing is, though: this joint dropped in 1989/90, by which time it felt absurdly anachronistic. But it was still a lot of fun because it was so... Well, I can't say that we were yet familiar with the term, "camp," but I guess we recognized it when we saw it!

I later learned a lot more about Nel Oliver, though. For one thing, he's not from Nigeria at all, but from the neighboring Republic of Benin. (Which is probably why he's singing in French, duh!) (Though to be honest, I don't remember even noticing that for a long time--we thought that on the chorus he was exclaiming music funfair! rather than musique d'enfer!) And more than that, long before Angelique Kidjo ever picked up a microphone, Nel Oliver was Benin's first international superstar.

In this interview with our friend Samy, Beninois organist Charles Rodriguez suggests that Nel Oliver was playing in Cotonou's Daho-Jazz Orchestra as early as 1958 or 59, but unless he started performing professionally while still in primary school, I seriously doubt Oliver is old enough for this to be accurate. (Besides, in the booklet to Analog Africa's excellent African Scream Contest compilation, bandleader El Rego mentions that he didn't form Daho-Jazz until 1962.)

Other accounts have Oliver starting his career in the late 60s with Ryda-Jazz, but what we can be sure of is that he made his big splash when he moved to France around 1975. His earliest releases, such as "The Trip" and "Hi-Fi Woman" were recorded with the legendary Paris-based American funk band Ice (a.k.a. The Lafayette Afro Rock Band) and Oliver soon established himself as a sturdy soul star, even becoming the first black African to run his own recording studio (the... interestingly named Spade Music) in Paris, where he recorded releases such as 1983's "I Got A Flash."

Oliver returned to Benin in 1987. In order to facilitate the development of the local music industry, he built Nel Oliver Studio in Cotonou, where he continues to record his own music as well as discovering and producing new artists. A true elder statesman with three decades of achievement under his belt... But here at With Comb & Razor, "Wadjo" will always be his magnum opus.

Musique d'enfer!

Sunday, December 21, 2008


(Someone requested The Doves' The Lord is My Shepherd in the comments, but it might be a while before I can rip that... So I hope this does the trick for now.)

Like The Apostles, The Doves (or The Doves of Calabar) were frequently invoked sans the The in their name, bestowing them with a certain ethereal aura (and potentially engendering latter-day confusion with a really deck English rock band).

Also like The Apostles, I thought they were a gospel group for a while--but I think I can get a pass on that account because most of their songs did feature a strong spiritual redolence in both music and lyrics. Harmonically and melodically, they were driven by a slightly melancholic undertow, and the vocals had a certain shrillness to them that was characteristic of the Nigerian Christian music of the time.

This is some Sunday afternoon music. Like when you'd come home from Sunday school and gobble down your lunch and run over to your best friend's house and push the doorbell, but nobody would answer. So you'd push it again and still nobody would answer. You'd know someone was home, though, because you could hear muffled voices and wah wah wah sounds coming from within.

So you'd take a deep breath and ring the bell a third time. The door would swing open and you'd instantly regret it; there's your friend's mother, still dressed in her church clothes but her eyes flaring with distinctly unChristian contempt.

Da, my friend, why are you ringing my bell anyhow! she'd spit.

You'd probably been hoping your best friend's brother, or at least the housegirl would answer the door, but his mother? Negotiating a conversation with other people's parents can be like trying to defuse a ticking bomb; trip the wrong circuit and you're blown to smithereens.

Sorry, ma! you'd quickly gulp.

Good afternoon, ma! you'd nervously add after a moment, making sure to sound off the salutation loud and clear because you remembered that the first time you met your friend's mother--when you came over to collaborate on a Geography homework project--she'd hadn't heard you greet her good afternoon and your friend later told you that his mother didn't like you because she'd felt you lacked home training.

What are you looking for! she'd bark.

You'd ask her if it was okay for your friend to come out and play, adopting that supplicating manner that parents seemed to find so satisfying. Behind her, you can see a few grownups in the parlour, drinking Champion ("The beer for winners! Have a Champ, BE a Champ!") out of dimpled-glass steins, and chortling in Annang. You notice that the wah wah wah you heard earlier comes from the TV: the day's transmission hasn't yet started and the screen beams out the vivid color bars of a test pattern, overlaid with keening, plaintive music.

He is eating! your best friend's mother snaps. Wait here on the verandah! We have guests!

So you'd sit on the verandah and wait.

After a while, your friend would come out, his hand crusted with eba and afang soup, saying Hold on let me wash my hand and come!

While you wait for him to return, it might occur to you guys have been best friends for a long time--almost two years--and he practically lives at your house. He's cool with your parents, he eats lunch at your house on schooldays, he watches CHiPs with you on Saturday afternoon, running around the living room pretending to be Ponch & Jon and jumping all up on your mom's good furniture. And yet, in all that time, you've never actually set foot in his house. (Not counting the two or three times you were allowed to sneak into the kitchen through the back door to drink a glass of ice water between backyard sessions of "Police & Thief.") You're always waiting on the verandah.

The door opens and you hear your best friend talking to his mother in Annang. Years later, when you remember this scene, you might recall that as your best friend closed the door behind him, his mother muttered something about unege--the word by which they disparagingly refer to the Igbos, a tribe that many Nigerians view as the repository of most of the world's venality and duplicity. A tribe that, coincidentally, you happen to belong to.

But this probably won't resonate with you for a few more years. At the moment, you're just hoping that your best friend has at least tried to explain to his mother that you actually did say good afternoon to her that day of the Geography assignment but she didn't hear you because she was busy yelling at the driver for leaving the gate open.

You'd feel your best friend's damp hand smack you on the back as he shouted Okay, let's play CI5! And then he'd run down the steps trumpeting the theme from The Professionals.

You'd watch him racing down the street, steering an imaginary Ford Capri. After a moment, you'd run after him.

In the scenario outlined above, the music playing over the test pattern on the TV in the parlour would have probably been from The Doves' I Seek To Know This World.

The Doves - "Strange Land"
The Doves - "I Shall Be Free"
The Doves - "Lawrence Rest In Peace"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another haunting track from Henry Pedro

It seems a lot of people really felt Henry Pedro's "Midnight Sun" above all the other songs featured on the "Naija Sounds in Country & Western Music" mix... And to think that I almost left it off because I felt it didn't blend in with the other tracks and I thought a lot of people would find it crude, naive and boring! My friends, forgive me for the gross underestimation of your commendable scope and taste!

Anyway, there are a few lovely tracks on Pedro's Tender Loving LP and I've got another one here today:

Henry Pedro - "Angel"

I'll probably put up another at some point in the future, but as a bonus, here's the isolated "Midnight Sun."

Henry Pedro - "Midnight Sun"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Down here in Sodom

As 2008 winds to a close, I think I will spend the rest of the month mostly filling overdue requests and posting up old entries from the vaults that I never published for whatever reason. This one here is for my girl Tutu who requested it in, like, January.

The 1984 release of Lamentation For Sodom by Tera Kota (nee Gboyega Femi) remains--in my mind at least--a major turning point in the direction of Nigerian pop music.

I was in Form One when the record came out. I remember sitting in the school art studio trying to stay awake through a highly abstract lecture on the terracotta sculpture of the ancient Nok civilization when the art teacher suddenly digressed and spent the rest of the period going on about this musician named Tera Kota and how awesome his album was.

I was unfamiliar with this Tera Kota fellow and considering myself a pretty hip cat, I set out to hear him. Over the Christmas break I caught the video for the album's title track on NTA 6 Aba. "Oh, it's reggae," I thought, a bit disappointed.

Now, I listened to reggae back then, but I wasn't into it like that. Of course, "raggae" had enjoyed widespread popularity in Nigeria since the late 1960s and at least since Sonny Okosuns' "Help", most Nigerian musicians routinely included a reggae cut or two on their albums.

The difference was that up until then, reggae was viewed primarily as a style of music, unburdened by any particular ideology or lifestyle. It was just a particular beat and tempo, not unlike jazz or rock & roll. Most of the Nigerian artists who specialized in reggae--Cloud 7, Iyke Peters, Yinka Abayomi and the like--and even the very popular foreign reggae artists like Honey Boy, Ginger Williams and Winston Groovy--all of them used the reggae beat as a vehicle for delivering songs featuring conventional pop subject matter ie kissing and dancing.

But roots reggae, with its militant message of righteousness, revolution and Rastafar-I (and the rampant smoking of Indian hemp that all this implied)... For me and my crew--clean-cut pop/funk/disco kids who were then gravitating towards the emerging hip-hop scene--roots was what we thought of as "senior brother music"; the kind of thing listened to mostly by people guys older than us but younger than our parents. Radical university students, Youth Corpers, the unemployed neighborhood dudes who hung out smoking cigarettes in the front of the corner shop, the more conscious-minded street touts... That was their music.

What Tera Kota did was drag this scene from the fringes and install it firmly at the center of the popular culture.

While there had been other artists like Bassey Black & the Natty Messiah or even Pazy & the Black Hippies who had made nods towards roots culture in the past, none had done it as uncompromisingly as Tera Kota, or on as large a scale. In contrast to the glamorous and decadent image of a lot of musicians during the boogie era, Tera Kota was aggressively ascetic and asexual, and projected an aura or personal purity that bordered on misogynistic. He made it abundantly clear that he did not mess with the opposite sex (whom he referred to as "Jezebels") and would not tolerate even the most casual interaction between himself and any Daughter of Eve.

Furthermore, Lamentation For Sodom was more slickly packaged than any Nigerian roots reggae before it. Producer Lemmy Jackson recorded the album in Lagos with top-of-the-line session players (including members of the Cameroonian Mighty Flames Metallik Funk Band) and then took the tracks to London for overdubs by leading lights of the UK reggae scene such as keyboardist Paget King (known for his work on records by Honey Boy, Dennis Bovell and Linton Kwesi Johnson) and the inventor of Lovers Rock, Nigerian-Scottish guitarist John Kpiaye.

The result was a Nigerian reggae album with a big, world-class sound that was the perfect soundtrack for a society in transition.

Nigeria was going through a turbulent period: the military had recently seized control of the government and instituted a repressive dictatorship, the economy was plummeting, corruption was running wild, public morale was crumbling. Roots reggae became the voice that expressed the frustration and disillusion of the people in a failing nation. And unlike the case with Fela's music, nobody got hurt--no names were named and all criticisms of the government were cloaked within Biblical imagery and rendered comfortingly ambiguous.

Femi explained his scriptural allusions and prophetic aspirations in a 1988 interview with Prime People:

All the difficulties of the average Nigerian notwithstanding, Tera Kota says Nigeria still qualifies as 'Sodom.' 'Sodom' is Tera Kota's reaction to what Jamaicans call 'Babylon'. According to him, Babylon is oppression of blacks by whites, and Sodom is "oppression of blacks by blacks, as in Nigeria." He claims that Africa is no Zion, a black paradise.

"Nigeria is still 'Sodom'. If I had the foresight to sing about Lamentation for Sodom, and four years later people are still lamenting, then people should take cognizance of my messages. What I described in Lamentation is still happening."
Thus was the new paradigm set. Right before my eyes, the students and even some of my younger teachers who had been wearing bowties and suit jackets with the sleeves rolled up and hotcombing their hair back to look like Michael Jackson all of a sudden were sporting berets and dark shades and had stopped combing their hair altogether. Reggae music was the Sound of Now. The floodgates were opened for The Mandators, Majek Fashek, Ras Kimono, Amos McRoy Jegg and scores of other Rasta reggae singers to follow and Tera Kota very quickly got lost in the stampede. He never scored another big success despite repeated attempts, but for a few months in 1984, he was the man.

Tera Kota - "Lamentation For Sodom"
Tera Kota - "Nitori Owo"
Tera Kota - "On The Run"

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Best. Band name. Ever.

The Vitamin Explosions were a moderately popular local band in Calabar when I was a kid (though I think they might have actually been based in the nearby town of Uyo).

I don't remember that much about them except for their name, though because... Da, they're called THE VITAMIN EXPLOSIONS. A name like that really stood out among the litany of local luminaries one might hear listed on the radio: Kingsley Burstic Bassey, Basco Bassey, Bassey Archibong, Bassey Black... and the Vee-tameen Ex-PLO-shun!

(Another cool name I thought was "Darlington Duke.")

Like most of the Calabar club bands of the time, the Vitamin Explosions played guitar danceband highlife and fairly perfunctory pop numbers, but once in a while they could throw in a curveball like this spacey Efik afrobeat:

Sunny Risky & the Vitamin Explosions - "Atak Mfat Eyen"

From the 1982 LP with Sunny Risky, Ikpong Owo (I know, I know... It's misspelled on the cover).

Friday, December 05, 2008

How are my links?

Are people still having trouble downloading the links, particularly Wednesday's?

Please check in here and let me know if you're still getting the "Not Available on this Server" message.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Where Naija meets Nashville...

We've talked before about the immense popularity of "sentimental" country music in Nigeria, so just for kicks I just decided to assemble a sample pack of indigenous takes on that particular sound.

Believe me, I know a lot of you are not going to be feeling this one, but just indulge me, 'kay?

(I nicked the photo above from Sea Never Dry, on recommendation by Zim. Sure, the posse of African desperadoes in the pic are Congolese and not Nigerian, but you get the general idea being conveyed, don't you? Besides, the Seydou Keita image I had up previously was Malian and much more obtuse.)

DOWNLOAD Naija Sounds in Country & Western Music

1. "Midnight Sun" - Henry Pedro
2. "Going Back To My Wife" - Emma Ogosi
3. "Baby You" - Joe Nez
4. "Concert Fever" - Dedication
5. "Ever Liked My Person?" - Christy Essien-Igbokwe
6. "Where The Wind Blows" - Eric Kol
7. "Come Right Back" - Ofege
8. "Believe In Me" - Ed Jatto
9. "I'll Put It Right Again" - Oby Onyioha
10. "Show Me A Virgin (In A Maternity Ward)" - Bongos Ikwue

EDIT: Now @ 192 kbps! Sorry... I accidentally posted a mono mix the first time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Farofa, a meal composed of cassava flour toasted in fat or grease, is a staple food in Brazil. It is also the name of a musical movement launched in the 1970s by the Nigerian musician known as Eppi Fanio.

Fanio never really achieved major fame outside of western Nigeria, and even there his dance troupe, the Farofa Dancers, were probably more acclaimed than the music that guided their spectacular gyrations. For a while, though, Fanio seemed determined to establish Farofa as a musical brand that would be every bit as revolutionary and inextricably associated himself as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's afrobeat.

This intention was made clear in the sleeve notes of Fanio's 1975 debut, penned by producer Odion Iruoje:
For some time, it seems that the popular music of the west Coast of Africa has been in the doldrums. Apart from Afro-beat which came into being since 1965 and some occasional Afro-rock hits, nothing seems to be forth-coming by way of another original African popular music. This record has been produced to fill that gap.

By successfully blending authentic African rhythm, played by the natives themselves, with some other musical influences, EPPI FANIO has created an Afro-folksy beat music which, at the same time, is appealing to both jazz and classical music enthusiasts.

With an approach as fresh as this combined with innate creativity and solid musical background, we can be sure that EPPI FANIO is going to be with us for a long time and "FAROFA" is the beginning of his beginning.

(Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that Iruoje would be so dismissive of the music of the first half of the 1970s, considering all the amazing, vital records that he himself produced during this period.)

The Farofa sound never really caught on the way it was hoped to, though. Part of the problem (in this writer's opinion) lay in the fact that it was hard to figure out exactly what it was--initially it seemed to be Yoruba folkloric music draped over afro-rock underpinnings furnished by musicians like BLO's Berkley Ike Jones and Ken Okulolo of Monomono; later Fanio turned a bit more towards melding his folksy melodies with disco, then funk and boogie and whatever else was the big sound of the day.

Another problem was Fanio's apparent mild-mannered musical presence. It takes a BIG personality to single-handedly establish a musical brand and the humble, retiring Fanio never really exuded that on record. He has, however, remained an industrious and articulate figure in the music scene and commanded respect amongst of his peers as the president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigerian for a period during the late 1990s.

Here are two tracks from the 1975 LP Farofa. The lead vocals on "Here's My Love" are performed by Eric Kol, then freshly late of The Immortals.

Eppi Fanio - "Here's My Love"
Eppi Fanio - "Ikoko Ti Yio Jata" (On Perseverence)"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lagos City Transport

MsMak requested this one yesterday.

As has been previously established, Nigeria had long been one of the world's most important markets for reggae music, and by the mid-80s reggae was the chief indigenous genre, largely displacing styles like funk, R&B and even highlife.

While most of the reggae artists of this period were rootsmen in the Marley-Tosh mold, there was also a slightly younger generation of raggamuffins who gravitated more towards the more current dancehall style then known as "rub-a-dub" and microphone heroes such as Frankie Paul, U-Roy, Eek-a-Mouse, Barrington Levy and especially Yellowman.

Too Low For Zero (or TLZ) were among the earliest exponents of this style to blow up in Nigeria and were significant for their integration of the "fast-chat" style made famous by UK dancehall MCs like Smiley Culture and Asher Senator. The big hit from their 1987 debut Emergency, was "Molue," a tribute to Lagos city's ubiquitous cadmium yellow sardine-can public buses.

(Man... A bus ride really was 20 kobo back then. That's crazy!)

Too Low For Zero - "Molue"
Too Low For Zero - "Cool Stylie"

(I had to dig pretty deep for this one, so I apologize if it's kind of rough on "Molue.")

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

We're back! (In other news: Jake Sollo still awesome.)

Technical problems kept us away for a minute, fam... You might have noticed that none of the links on this blog were working for a while there.

Well, the issues with the server have been resolved and we're back in business... And to kick things off, here's a little Jake Sollo mix I threw together this morning:

Oh Remember Me: Tribute to Jake Sollo

Track list:

1. "Let Love Begin" - Galaxy
2. "Close to Me" - Tom Youms
3. "My Best Friend's Girl" - Jake Sollo (feat. Morris Michael)
4. "No One Can Stop Us Now" - Jide Obi
5. "Cheerful Giver" - Esbee Family
6. "Love in My Heart" - The Mandators
7. "My Star Will Shine" - Julius Martins
8. "Love Everlasting" - Chris Mba
9. "Oh Remember Me" - Ken Eme/1st Flight
10. "Boats Without a Hope" - Jake Sollo
11. "I Want a Break Thru'" - The Hykkers
12. "404" - Jake Sollo
13. "Weebo-Me Weebo" - Jake Sollo

Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba (1932-2008)

So I wake up this morning and we've lost another legend of African music... And I mean, one of the titans.

Over the years, the continent has produced scores ofincredible musicians who have represented her admirably on the world stage, but ask me and I'll tell you that on a macro scale, there are probably only three true game-changers, three whose influence effected a paradigm shift in the way (sub-Saharan) African pop music is perceived universally: Miriam Makeba, Franco Luambo Makiadi, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

None of them left standing.

ROME (AFP) — South African singer Miriam Makeba has died aged 76 after being taken ill near the southern Italian town of Caserta following a concert, ANSA news agency reported Monday.

She died overnight after taking part in a concert for Roberto Saviano, a writer threatened with death by the Mafia, the Italian agency said.

Miriam Makeba, known as "Mama Africa", was the legendary voice of the African continent who became a symbol of the fight against apartheid in her home country.

She died just after having sung for half an hour for the young author of "Gomorrah" at Castel Volturno near Naples along with other singers and artistes.

She was taken ill and was quickly taken to a clinic in Castel Volturno where she died of a heart attack, ANSA said.

Miriam Makeba was born in Johannesburg on March 4, 1932. She made an international farewell tour in 2005.

Born from a Swazi mother and Xhosa father, Makeba captured international attention as vocalist for the South African group, The Manhattan Brothers, while they toured the United States in 1959.

The following year, when she wanted to return home to bury her mother, the apartheid state revoked her citizenship and later also banned her music. As a result she spent 31 years in exile, living in the United States and later in Guinea.

She became the first black African woman to receive a Grammy Award which she shared with folk singer Harry Belafonte in 1965.

Two years later her fame sky-rocketed with the recording of the all-time hit "Pata Pata" (Xhosa for "touch, touch" describing a township dance) although she unknowingly signed away all royalties on the song.

She hit an all-time low in 1985 when her only daughter, Bongi, died aged 36 from complications from a miscarriage. Makeba did not have money to buy a coffin for Bongi, and buried her alone barring a handful of journalists covering the funeral.

But she picked herself up again, as she did many times before, like when her father died at a young age, or when she recovered from cervix cancer, or her many unhappy relationships, or unfounded rumours of alcoholism, according to her biography.

She returned to South Africa in the 1990s after Mandela was released from prison but it took a cash-strapped Makeba six years to find someone in the local recording industry to produce a record with her.

She since released "Homeland" which contains a song describing her joy to be back home after the many years in exile in which she spoke out against apartheid and testified twice before the United Nations.

"I kept my culture. I kept the music of my roots. Through my music I became this voice and image of Africa and the people without even realising," she said in her biography.

That was a Swedish TV performance of "Khawuleza" from 1966.

I'll try to put up a fuller memorial a little later.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dr. Orlando Owoh (1934-2008)

Orlando Owoh dies at 74

The legend of Kennery highlife music, Dr. Orlando Owoh on Tuesday passed on at 74, report. Victor Akande and Dare Akindehin

Legend of Kennery highlife music Dr. Orlando Owoh is dead.

The musician died on Tuesday at the General Hospital, Ikeja, Lagos where he had since been on admission, following a long illness associated with stroke. He was 74.

Born as Stephen Oladipupo Olaore Owomoyela, the Kennery Music king, was until his illness and eventual death, the toast of highlife lovers, owing to his romantic voice, philosophical lyrics and energetic stage performances.

Members of the arts community have expressed sadness over the loss of the man they describe as a rare gem.

A cultural activist and Editor of The Guardian on Sunday, Jahman Anikulapo said the sad news got to him while celebrating the landslide victory of Barack Obama, the US president-elect.

Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), yesterday expressed shock at the sudden death of Orlando.

Fashola, in a condolence letter to the widow, Shade, described him as an exceptional human being whose musical talents remained unrivalled till the very end.

He said: "The passage of Dr. Orlando Owoh, as he was popularly known, at this time has left a big vacuum which would be very difficult to fill".

Fashola said with a brand of music which was inimitable, Dr Owoh departed with fond memories of his very rich contributions to national development through his strong messages against socio-cultural and political ills.

Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel described Owoh’s death as "unfortunate".

He spoke yesterday through the Chairman, Ijebu East Local Government Area, Hon. Tunde Oladunjoye, who visited the late musician’s family to deliver Daniel’s condolence message. Oladunjoye said:"The death of the highlife musician is a colossal loss to the arts and culture community because he was an embodiment of talent; a composer, guitarist, producer and multi-talented instrumentalist."

Oladunjoye, who was Management Adviser to the late musician’s recording label, Owoh Records, said he would be remembered for his unique sonorous voice that earned him the title Kennery."

He prayed God to grant his family, friends, fans and admirers the fortitude to bear the loss.

Born 74 years ago at Osogbo in Osun State to Jeremiah and Morenike Owomoyela, originally from Ifon town in Ose Local Government Area of Ondo State, Orlando became a musician at 12, despite opposition from his parents. He had left Osogbo for Ilesha, in pursuit of better life prospects immediately he completed his eight-year apprenticeship under his father.

Armed with a Standard Six certificate, he returned to Osogbo where his budding musical talent caught the attention of renowned artiste, Kola Ogunmola who eventually invited him to Ibadan in preparation for the First All African Games in Dakar.

He established his called Orlando Owoh and his Omimah Band in 1958.

His journey to stardom began with his debut album in 1960 under Decca Records. The first album, Oluwa Lo Ran Mi was followed by another successful one; Alantere Ijo Oyege. This album put him on a better footing.

His music, a fusion of highlife and juju, has recorded over 45 albums, including titles like: Ganja I and II, Dele Giwa and Money for Hand Back for Ground, Jobs Experience, Logba-Logba, Kangaroo, Iyawo Olele, Money palaver, Tribute to Fela, among others.

Orlando Owoh & his Young Kenneries - "Easter Special/Baba Wa Silekin/Obinrin Asiko Lagbo"

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hail to the Chief

Look, I'm not one of those people who thinks the world's gonna change overnight, but it still is history, ain't it?

Besides, it gives me the excuse to post this totally sweet, bluesy afrobeat from my man Cody:

Cody ChesnuTT - "Afrobama"

EDIT: Okay, I was able to fix the problem with Dreamhost, so we've got a proper (as in "non-Zshare) link now.

Monday, November 03, 2008

"Made in Nigeria" Part 7 is up on Boogieheads Radio!

Soundzzzzz of the 80s... And this time, it's a special guest mix by yours truly.

(I apologize for the slightly ropey production... I had some soft- and hardware issues to contend with.)

Check it out
Click here to listen

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Well, I'll be...

Back in this post, I wrote:

I remember seeing [Martha Ulaeto] on TV singing "Everlasting" and "Ije Lovu" surrounded by a bunch of dancing kids, looking like a sexy music teacher. I begged my mom to buy me a music magazine that had an article about her in it (I can't remember what the magazine was called but I do recall that the cover of that particular issue featured Eddy Grant wearing an uncomfortably tight pair of football shorts).*

Today, our friend Zim sent me this:

Me and my mates used to devour Africa Music whenever it came out, trading issues and reading them over and over until they disintegrated into pulp. Most of the material I write on this blog is based almost completely on my memories of stuff I read in this magazine when I was eight, nine, ten.

Re-reading them now, I'm actually kind of impressed with myself for how well I've remembered it all. (Even though I could not for some reason remember the name of the magazine.)

Thanks, Zim!

*It seems that Eddie's shorts aren't quite as tight as I remember them being, but you can still pretty much see his junk.**

**Come to think of it, why did that particular detail even persist in my memory? >sigh<

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Old school Naija types... Help me out please!

There's a song I've been trying to find for years now.

It was popular around 1985 or so. Had kind of a calypso or dance band highlife sound to it, but oddly enough it was a breakdance anthem at my school. (Long story...) It was sung by a man and a woman and the lyrics went

This kind of (wo)man, I never see o!
This kind of (wo)man, I never see!

I find am so tay I tire!
I find am for far away!
Na im I like, na im I go live with o!

This kind of (wo)man, I never see o!
This kind of (wo)man, I never see!

I have asked everybody and nobody seems to remember the song, but it was big for a minute, man... Somebody has got to know what I'm talking about!

In fact, I just realized that actor and comedian Patience Ozokwor (a.k.a. Mama G) recorded a cover version:

Anybody know who did the original? I remember hearing back in the day that the record actually was not Nigerian, but came from Sierra Leone or Cameroon or somewhere. I don't know for sure, though...


Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The band was officially called The Apostles (or The Apostles of Aba), but as some of their album covers announced them simply as "Apostles," I grew used to calling them that. Something about dropping the definite article makes the name infinitely more mysterious, otherworldly and intangible.

When I was coming up, throughout Ngwaland you would see their albums--particularly Wisdom and the eponymous debut LP that pictured the band dressed in white like a contingent of angels--displayed in every family's living room. I actually thought they were a Christian group, though... Perhaps they were at the time; I know a few of the 1970s eastern rock bands that managed to hang around until the late 80s and early 90s increasingly began to dabble in gospel and mellow reggae as their original fan base grayed.

Here, though, we have an offering from the band's heyday, when their hair--and that of their audience--was still black (and beautiful).

As the sleeves notes put it in wonderful Onitsha pamphlet-esque prose:
There is no doubt that the Apostles are just about the biggest thing to hit the Nigerian Pop Music scene, recently. Perseverance, endurance, hard work and able Leadership of Walton Arungwa-- Group's Lead Guitarist are the Magic in their Success.

The Apostles have to their credit four hit Singles; amongst them are "Down, Down the Valley", which served for them as an introduction to the music world, and a quality album captioned "The Apostles" which is still hitting the Country Bang Bang.

Now what I have to say about this one--BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL ALBUM have already been said about hit albums of the Beatles, Jackson 5, Commodores, Meters and Osmond Brothers. For modesty sake, let me say that BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL is ONE of the best of its kind. It will get you wrapped up.


Apostles - "Black is Beautiful"
Apostles - "Ndi Nkwa"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Born Throw Away

I haven't had time to post much as I've been working on a few projects that I hope will come to light soon, but I figured I'd try to get to some of the requests that have piled up over the past few months.

For example, when I was still in Nigeria, ambinwoke asked to hear some music from Victor Chukwu... I never did find the particular Victor Chuks & the Black Irokos album that I promised, but I did manage to pick up a somewhat raggeed copy his LP Akalaka.

(Not sure what year this is from... Judging by the attire worn by the musicians on the cover and the fact that the record has the old pink and orange Tabansi label, I'm guessing 1977-ish.)

Victor Chukwu - "Born Throw Away"
Victor Chukwu - "Ogbu Mmadu"

Feel free to hit me up with more requests, folks... I'll try to fill as many of them as I can!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Before They Were Pop Stars: Felix Lebarty

In 1982, mere months after the release of Felix Lebarty's blockbuster debut, Lover Boy, a second Lebarty album hit the market. But rather than following the tried-and-true industry tack of designing the sophomore album to capitalize on the success of its predecessor by churning out a batch of similarly-styled hopeful hits, it offered a dramatic reversal in sonic direction.

And it confused the hell out of everybody.

The baffling thing about Girls For Sale was the fact it just plain didn't sound like the Lover Boy that the audience had quickly grown to know and love: Not only was Jake Sollo's slick discolypso pop nowhere in evidence--in its place a gritty, lo-fi rock sound--even the braying vocals sounded little like Lebarty's cooed come-ons. All in all, it bore more resemblance to an album by Ofege or The Apostles of Aba than to Lover Boy.

The reason for this incongruity was the fact that Girls For Sale was made up of tracks Lebarty had recorded earlier in his career, before he was discovered and groomed for pop stardom by Kris Okotie. The exact date of the recordings is not clear to me (though from their sound, I would guess sometime in the late 70s) and neither are the circumstances by which they came to light, but in a 1989 interview with Prime People magazine, Lebarty blamed it on singer, producer and then-chairman of the Professional Musicians Association of Nigeria, Tony Okoroji:
"That guy really wanted to mess me up, and I can never forgive him. We talk and all that but each time I see him he's like someone who doesn't like musicians.

"The day I learnt that Tony Okoroji was behind the re-issue of my first record--Don't Take My Girl--while my "Lover Boy" album was still on the charts was the saddest day of my life. It was like you've struggled for a long time and someone tried to turn the heat off your album.

"I regret knowing someone like him. People reacted to it as my follow-up album to Lover Boy. Can you see the damage?"

(Personally, I had assumed that Girls For Sale was a collection of demos--"Don't Take My Girls" is the title of one of the songs, by the way--but Lebarty here describes it as a reissue of an earlier album. I don't know anything about that, but of course, like I said before, music from the Edo-Delta region is often obscure to the rest of the country. Does anybody from that area know if Lebarty released an album locally before Lover Boy?)

In any case, the album provides an interesting glimpse into Lebarty's formative years. Note that "Mr. Big Brother" was refurbished on Lover Boy as "My Number One" and its lyrics seem directed toward Felix's older brother, highlife bandleader Aigbe Lebarty.

"Girls For Sale"
"Mr. Big Brother"


Somewhat related... but not really:

When I made my last Felix Lebarty post, an Anonymous commenter chided me for repeating the rumor that Felix was a cab driver in the US:
hello everyone,its a pity that mostpeople dont really know about felix personal life,he never stayed in the states to drive cabs,because he never stayed there for too long,he was always there for recording his songs,and that was all and about nameing his song after dateing someone is a big lie,coz all the names he used in all songs where all fake, no names in all his ever exited in true life.this things said about him are rumors,dont beleive evry thing you read.........

So it is with some degree of satisfaction that I point out this recent interview I came across yesterday. In it, Lebarty confirms the taxicab thing:
We learnt that things became very tough for you before you left the US.

(Laughs) Let me tell you, I think it is a very big secret. Any man that understands what living a good life is, you cannot find him going broke for too long, because he will always find a means of making ends meet. He will always look at what is happening and fits himself into it. The only people that go broke are those who are not willing to condescend to the level they should; people who are proud. Even in my negativity, I would come to you and ask you how you are making it.

Was that what you did when you went to the US?

On my first visit to the United States, I was received like a star by my community. But when things became tough I asked them, 'Oh boy, how una dey make money here?' They told me it is either you sell drugs or get involved in 419, or drive a taxi.

So, you decided to become a cab driver.

Yes. I put all these things together and I said that people who were driving taxis were not doing an illegitimate job. They could make $80 per day at that time. If you drove from morning till 11 p.m. or midnight, you could make $300. I bought a cab and they started saying 'oh, a star is driving taxi. These people are going to finish you.' But I told them to tell everybody who cared to listen that I was a taxi driver here. I was even the person that broke the news. I bought three more cabs and employed drivers. So, when they drove, I would take $50 from them. So, I earned like $180 a day. As the money was coming in, I was investing it. I came to discover that I was better than those that were selling drugs.

And now that I think about it, he also alluded to all this on his little-remembered (and for good reason!) 1992 LP, 419:

Felix Lebarty - "Missing You"
Felix Lebarty - "419"

> chuckle <

Anyway, it's a good thing Felix didn't get mixed up in that business because singer Chris Mba got busted last just week. Poor guy!

Friday, October 17, 2008

We Shall Win!

The mid-western region of Nigeria--an area once known as Bendel State, but now subdivided into Delta and Edo States--has produced a great many outstanding musicians. However, few of them get the opportunity to rise to national prominence largely because the region is composed primarily of minority ethnic groups.

Yes, you have your Sir Victor Uwaifo, Sonny Okosuns, Kris Okotie, Felix Lebarty, Evi-Edna Ogholi-Ogosi and others, but for each one of these, there are scores of talented artists whose fame never extended much beyond their immediate locality, so I'm always happy when I discover some of them.

Until recently, Pogo Ltd was unknown to me... though a few of the members were not: the Benin-based band was made up of guitarist Emma "Cherry" Ogosi, bassist Robo Arigo, keyboardist Emman Osagie Iguagbonmwen, drummer Mike "Gasper" Okuofu (though they all traded instruments) and lead singer Pat "Finn" Okonjo, former frontman of The Hykkers.

(click to bigificate)

They seem to have been fairly popular down there, but the only album from them I have encountered is the reggae set We Shall Win, which I shall--by way of an educated guess--date to 1979.

Interestingly, I found that I was actually familiar with at least one song on the record, the title track:

Pogo Ltd - "We Shall Win"

It was a ubiquitous anthem during the era of the struggle against apartheid, but I actually thought it was an ages-old church song or a public-domain standard or something... But then again, it has somewhat specific references to then-current events involving Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith and South African President John Vorster. So yeah... This must have been a pretty big hit for them.

It would seem that Pogo Ltd broke up soon after We Shall Win: In 1981, Emma Ogosi embarked upon a successful solo career as a country singer, and then later as producer/husband of mid-80s reggae star Evi-Edna Ogholi. Robo Arigo also launched a less sensational (but still very interesting) career as a solo artist and producer. Pat Finn Okonjo went and got himself a 9-to-5, working at the Nigerian Television Authority's Benin office.

When (the awesome) Jake Sollo returned to Nigeria after his long London sojourn, he looked up his old Hykkers buddy Finn, with a mind to putting the old band back together. I don't think that project ever came to fruition in the midst of Sollo's busy schedule, but Pat and Jake did collaborate on the album In The Beginning in (again, educated guess) 1982.

Among the tracks is a reprise of Pogo Ltd's big hit:

Pat Finn - "We Shall Win"

(By the way, I have been wondering whether Pat Finn Okonjo is related to renowned economist Prof. Chukwuka Okonjo, who also happens to be the father of Nigeria's former crusading Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and grandfather of novelist Uzodinma Iweala. Anybody know?)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jake Sollo is Awesome! Part 2: Ken Eme/1st Flight, Veno and the Prophet "V"

Just so that there is no confusion, let us make this point perfectly clear right from the get-go: Jake Sollo was the hottest, the most prolific, the very best music producer in Nigeria during the first half of the 1980s... and perhaps ever. He is awesome!

A little background: Sollo (nee Nkem Okonkwo) started his career in the 1960s with The Hykkers, a "beat" group formed at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

The Hykkers - "Stone the Flower"

The Hykkers remained a popular draw across the country throughout the Nigeria-Biafra war but disbanded shortly thereafter. Sollo subsequently joined the Aba-based Funkees, who soon became instant superstars due to the East-Central State Broadcasting Service's heavy rotation of a rough demo called "Akula Owu Onyeara" (check out the more polished--but still raw and funky--officially released version on Soundway's Nigeria Special). The Funkees phenomenon spread across the country, into Cameroon and eventually to England where they were championed by legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel.

By 1976, with creative and personal tensions slowly disintegrating The Funkees, Sollo was offered the golden opportunity to play with the creme de la creme of Afro-rock groups, Osibisa.

Sollo's distinctive rhythm guitar graced hits like "The Coffee Song," but his tenure with Osibisa was short-lived: On July 19, 1977, as the band prepared for a historic performance at London's Royal Festival Hall (captured on the double LP Black Magic Night), Sollo and two other recent Osibisa recruits--keyboardist Kiki Gyan and conga man Kofi Ayivor--failed to report for duty. Gyan--feeling shortchanged by group leader Teddy Osei--had convinced his fellow newbies to join him in a work stoppage to force the management to grant them a raise.

The gambit backfired; at the eleventh hour, a furious Osei called the band's former keyboard player Robert Bailey, percussionist Darko "Potato" Adams, and BLO bassist Mike Odumosu to play the concert, and fired the three mutineers. Author Charles Aniagolu writes about the aftermath of the incident in Osibisa: Living In The State Of Happy Vibes And Criss Cross Rhythms:
Like Wendell, Spartacus and Loughty before them, the three dissidents soon realised [sic] they'd made an awful mistake. They became regretful and penitent, appealing to Teddy to overlook their pertinacity and let them back into Osibisa.

Teddy refused. "We felt that clearly they had jumped into the fire with their eyes open and had no one else to blame but themselves for their misfortune". They later relented and reabsorbed Kofi Ayivor, but not the other two. Within a couple of years, a very frustrated Jake Solo [sic] was dead, killed in a car crash in Nigeria. After a series of fits and starts, Kiki Gyan moved back to Ghana and became a junkie--hooked on heroin.

Even recognizing that Aniagolu is an ardent Teddy Osei sympathizer who spares no efforts in his book to portray all who defy Osei as losers, I wonder if his decision to gloss over Sollo's subsequent career and describe him as "very frustrated" was motivated by any special insight into the man's life. Because from where I'm standing, Jake did just fine after Osibisa. He got steady work as a session man and producer in the London scene and his dance card stayed full upon his return to Nigeria in 1981, especially after the enormous success of Felix Lebarty's Lover Boy.

As the London Era drew to a close with the budgets (and visas) to record in the UK becoming increasingly scarce, Sollo set up shop in Enugu, recording at Tabansi Studios and Rogers All Stars Studio (located in the nearby commercial hubs of Onitsha and Awka respectively) and started cranking out records at a furious clip.

During this period, Sollo was the most in-demand producer in Nigeria. His specialty was bouncy, high-gloss boogie, though he occasionally produced artists in other genres as well. Regardless of which style he was working in, though, a Jake Sollo production was instantly recognizable: the fat, angular basslines... the chirping and chattering guitars... but the chief sonic signature of Jake Sollo records was probably the squiggly and squelchy sound of the Prophet "V".

While the Prophet-5 synthesizer had been introduced in the 1977 and quickly become a hot piece of hardware among art-minded rockers like Kraftwerk, Roxy Music, Talking Heads, Gary Numan and New Order, by the early 1980s there were still less than 2000 of them shipped and I believe Sollo had the only one in Nigeria.* The revolutionary polyphonic sound of the Prophet allowed it to be a more convincing replacement for horn arrangements. Sometimes Sollo utilized the synth sparingly, as an accent... and other times, he virtually slathered his tracks in it.

A fine example of Sollo's heavy Prophet style would be the work he did on the album Winner and Loser by Ken Eme (1st Flight). I wish I knew more about him/them; as it is, I'm barely certain about whether he was a solo artist or part of a group!

I first encountered this record in 1983 (or maybe early 84) when the music videos were played on NTA 9 Calabar. As I mentioned before, the immediate appeal of the video was the fact that they looked really cool. Unlike a lot of groups of the time, they seemed to have a coordinated style and gimmick (they wore boots and sweet flight jackets) and they had some awesome breakdancing (by this time, though, we still referred to this style of dancing as "Electric Shock!"--yes, with the exclamation point). The videos billed the artist as "1st Flight" (with a logo showing a low angle of an aeroplane taking off) and they seemed to be a trio... or at least a duo (it was a bit hard to distinguish the actual group members from the dancing extras sometimes). I recall hearing on the radio that the group's lead singer was named Ken Eme.

Now I have the album in front of me and it says both "1st Flight" and "Ken Eme" on the cover, and while he's pictured chilling with one of the other guys on the back, the other fellow remains unidentified. Apart from Sollo's semi-regular session men like bassist Modjo Isidore and pianist Sony Enang, the only person credited is Ken Eme and the LP label doesn't mention 1st Flight at all.

Oh well...

Anyway, here's one of my favorite cuts from the album--a funky neo-calypso banger called "Love is What You Need." (Listen to it over good speakers or headphones and dig all the cool stuff Jake's got going on with the guitars in there!)

Ken Eme/1st Flight - "Love Is What You Need"

I never heard of 1st Flight again after 1984, and they seem to have been erased from the popular consciousness, because apart from my boy Enyi, I cannot find anybody who remembers them. Even my older sister with whom I used to sing the title track, Donny & Marie style--I asked her if she remembered "Winner and Loser" and started singing it; she looked at me like I was crazy!

The style on display on "Love is What You Need" reminds me a lot of another Jake Prophet track: "Groove I Like" by Veno. This song (which has been a favorite among boogie lovers over the past year) is from the album Nigeria Go Survive, from 1985. The release of this album marked (for me, at least) a distinct detour in the direction of Nigerian popular music. Maybe because there wasn't as much Jake Sollo music around after it? Someone told me Jake died while working on this album, but I'm not sure that's correct. (The car crash that claimed Jake and Al Jackson Nnakwe was in late 1985). Anyway, this album was co-produced by Roy Obika of the Esbee Family, and much of it really doesn't sound like Jake's work. Is it possible that Obika completed Sollo's work after the accident?


For now, enjoy the Jake Sollo awesomeness!

Veno - "Groove I Like"

*We-ell... Come to think of it, William Onyeabor must have had one too, right?

Friday, September 26, 2008

No More Water

It's raining like the dickens here and there's a flood watch on, so it's not without a tinge of irony that I post today's funky nugget, "No More Water in the Well," by Bongos Ikwue & the Groovies.

Unlike most of the forgotten Nigerian musicians who eventually find their way onto this page, Bongos Ikwue is an artist whose name and music still resonate with a large portion of the Nigerian populace. Known primarily as the folky and philosophical troubadour behind sentimental favorites such as "Still Searching," "Sitting on the Beach" and "Cock Crow at Dawn," Ikwue is acclaimed as one of the most sensitive songsmiths in Nigeria's pop canon; many forget, though, that he started out as a righteous rocker.

Ikwue's 1973 debut, the heavily psychedelic You Can't Hurry the Sunrise (produced by Ginger Baker and Jide Alawiye), was one of the first releases from Baker's ARC label, but Ikwue soon signed up with EMI where he recorded a string of classic LPs through the 1970s (including the rarely-seen self-titled set from which today's track is taken).

Ikwue's star dimmed somewhat in the 1980s due to poor handling by his new label Tabansi, and a bit of embarrassment surrounding the widespread rumor that his calypso ballad "Mariama" had been addressed to the First Lady Maryam Babangida, with whom he had allegedly enjoyed a passionate affair in their younger days.

Bongos has since retired to his native Benue State where he has established himself as a magnate in construction and manufacturing. He has long promised a return to the music scene, though. In fact, I think I recall him featuring on a record with some rapper a few months ago and announcing that his new album was completed and would be out later this year. I sure hope it doesn't suck!

Bongos Ikwue & the Groovies - "No More Water in the Well"

(Sari fa' di likkle skip dem)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Akwassa? Eureka!

Ahh... How I love it when the pieces fall together!

La'ila by Akwassa, DWAPS 54, 1975. This is a record I've had for some time, featuring a band I've never heard of, so I was just about to throw up this post as yet another terse "I don't know nothing about this artist but ain't it sho nuff funky"-type comment. However, as I waited for the tracks to upload, I took a few moments to peruse the back cover...

Akwassa--a mysterious duo made up of Felix Day (Hayman guitar & vocal) and Kevin Coburn (organ, piano, synthesizer & vocal). Never heard of either of them. These guys chose some... interesting stage names for themselves in those days, didn't they? "Kevin Coburn"? Sounds like the name of a late-1960s B-movie idol (or maybe a member of a C-list boy band from the 1990s). "Felix Day" isn't an altogether bad name, though... Has a ring to it... Felix Day... Felix Day....

Hmmm... That sounds a bit like Felix Odey, doesn't it? As in "Feladey," guitarist in the early-70s band Action 13, and later in Headzfunk and Bongos Ikwue's Groovies?

That would make sense, wouldn't it? Looking through the list of musicians who contributed to the album, apart from bassist Joe Castro the only name I recognize is Eddie Offeyi. I learned from our friend Seal67 (a close friend and occasional bandmate of Offeyi's) that Offeyi was the drummer in Headzfunk, so that's another connection right there.

By now, I'm pretty much convinced, but just to be completely sure, let's examine the available physical evidence, shall we? The only picture of Feladey I have on hand is the painting of him featured on the back cover of his 1985 album with the Jap Band, Japadodo (right). Let's compare that with the photo on the back of the La'ila LP:

I'd say there's a likeness!

Alright, so considering that this album was released in 1975, as was Aktion's Groove the Funk (which was recorded right after the dissolution of Action 13), that would mean Akwassa was a short-lived project Feladey was involved with between Action 13 and Headzfunk.

(By the way, I think the use of the synthesizer on this album sounds pretty far out for 1975... I wonder who this Kevin Coburn character is; he couldn't have just dropped off the scene completely. Maybe he changed his nom de rock?)

Well... Perhaps Seal67 knows something about all this. Or maybe we can get in touch with Feladey himself; he's still active in the industry as an artist (mainly in the gospel idiom), producer, manager and general music advocate.

(Sorry for the little geek-out, y'all... Here's some music.)

Akwassa - "Be Yourself (And Don't Let Nobody Be You)"
Akwassa - "I Don't Want No-Body (To Tell Me What To Do)"

Monday, September 22, 2008


As I have stated a few times before, I have something of a love-hate relationship with Nigerian reggae. I mean, I've actually warmed up to it considerably over the past year or so (mostly for scholarly reasons) but as I have precious little space in my personal collection (and even preciouser little money to spend on vinyl in this wintry economic climate), when I'm shopping I usually veto the Naija natty riddims right off the bat.

Thankfully, they're usually easy to identify too, since 1980s album designers took to stenciling jagged lettering and red-gold-green hues on every goddamn sleeve. Or my other rule of thumb is: "When in doubt, just avoid any LP that depicting persons with dreadlocks."

Pity me; for my prejudice almost made me pass on Pazy.*

In fact, I did pass on the record twice before I finally picked it up on a whim... Well, actually, it was a bit more of an educated process than just a "whim"; after all, my aversion is chiefly to reggae from the mid-1980s onwards and the orange-and-black EMI label on this disc suggested that it was from the 1970s... 1982 tops. And while I didn't recognize any of the musicians listed on the back (Pazy Etina? Makos? Colins Osokpor? James Etina?), none of them were credited with "Linn drum programming" or "synbass"--Jack Stone was even given as playing the organ and not "keyboards"! So yeah, I figured that if nothing else, at least this reggae record would be rootsier than the tinny Casio skank that scored much of the Babangida and Abacha eras.

Sure enough, the album does start off with a couple of decidedly tasty reggae cuts--one minute into the inaugural track, the lovely Carlton & the Shoes-esque "Comfort Me JahoJah" (never mind how it's spelled on the back cover), I already knew this was to become one of my favorite records--but soon veers off into some heavy psychfunkrock of the brain-frying variety.

Pazy and the Black Hippies - "Comfort Me JahoJah"
Pazy and the Black Hippies - "Elizabeth"
Pazy and the Black Hippies - "Wa Ho Ha"

Apart from Fuzzy (who I have assumed is the Fuzzy Gbagbi credited on the Sunny White LP) I haven't seen these guys names anywhere else. Wonder if they have any other albums.

*Ditto Muddy Ibe

Sunday, September 21, 2008

...Aaaaaaaaand yet more unknown soul.

Another artist I know absolutely nothing about. The album has a bunch of great musicians on it, though: the ebullient Mambo on drums, the ever-reliable Eddy Pollo on tenor guitar, the modest Eugene Ndema on rhythm, the aptly-named Soul on bass, the whiz kid Nkono Teles on keys and the underrated Eric Kol on background vocals... all pulled together by master producer Odion Iruoje.

Not too sure what "Burden Star" means, either; I thought it was "budding star." Oh well... Either way, it's a pretty cool track, I think.

Mikebbi - "Burden Star"

(Just in case it isn't completely obvious by now: Yes, I am kinda stalling to avoid having to write, y'know, actual posts and stuff.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

A little mo' unknown soul for Friday

Another mystery artist. I know nothing of this Sunny White or the Clinks. Nor am I familiar with any of the names in the list of musicians who played on the record (with the exception of saxophonist Fuzzy Gbagi Alto, who seems to have played on the similarly obscure Wa Ho Ha, by Pazy and the Black Hippies--more on that later).

Although I'm guessing this record is from some time between 1980 and 1983 (since the credits have it being recorded at Phonodisc Studios), the title track is on some throwback 1960 Stax tip.

Ahhhh... Let's call it what it is: it's a ripoff of "Soul Man," isn't it? (Rest in peace, Black Moses!)

Sunny White and the Clinks - "Rock On Your Feet"

(Couple of pressing flaws on this one, fams)