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.


Anonymous said...

I love the black bethlehem album,it is as close to the Black Madonna and precedes the now famous Benetton Blacknisation ad's.
I also loved your The Doves post that tribute to their vocalist reminds me of the tribute to Spud Nathan by that other group.
The tradition of tributes/dirges/elergies if you will in Nigerian music is quite fascinating e.g all the songs on the death of Rex Lawson by Saint Augustine etc and Ayinla Omowura's song on the passing of Yusuf Olatunji and Orlando Owoh for Ayinla etc.
I'm an ex.malabite by the way and talking of funny band names i'm digging the Marxist Brothers from Zimbabwe. Apologies for the longish, all-over-the-place spiel.

Comb & Razor said...

a MALABITE???? ha!!! my people!

thanks for your comment... i totally agree with you on the similarities between The Doves and The Wings. i've been trying to synthesize some kind of cohesive theory on the sort of mournful tone of a lot of the Eastern bands in the 1970s... hopefully, i'll be able to unveil it soon!

Marxist Brothers, huh? yeah... that one is pretty hard to beat as far as crazy names go!

Cinderelladragon said...

I have near mint copy of Akin Euba's Black Bethelem album. I don't know whether to sell it or not, have no idea how much it is worth. Would be grateful if anyone knows.

Comb & Razor said...

Well, Cinderelladragon... I'd say that its worth is pretty much determined by how much someone is willing to pay for it!

(email me - combrazor at yahoo dot com - and i might be able to give you some perspective on that)

John B. said...

What's a Malabite?

Comb & Razor said...

John -

The old main residence hall area of the University of Calabar was (is?) known as "Malabo" (as opposed to the old lecture hall/administration area which was called "Abuja") so students who lived in the hostels were called "Malabites" and "Malabresses."

it later just became a general term for any student of the university.

Anonymous said...

You certainly did not make my night. 'Heavy Heavy Heavy' passes away Kofi Ghanaba decides to leave us. I am not forgetting the Lady of Africa. What a year. RIP