Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stella Monye is here again!

I think I've isolated what I find so perversely appealing about Stella Monye's singing: it's the overwrought articulation!

Anyway I was trying to keep up the theme of synthy 80s stuff*, but this song is actually off the album Change of Hearts,
from 1990. Close enough.

Stella Monye - "Sallie Girl"

*Yes, Vinz... I was in the process of putting up the Wil Onyeabor last night, but I got a bit distracted. I'll get to it soon!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Some African electro from Dizzy K.

Earlier today in the comments for the last post, Birdseed enquired about Nigerian synth and electro music and I pledged to get some up soon. I was in the process of uploading some William Onyeabor (who I used to call "the Nigerian Thomas Dolby") when I accidentally deleted the file, but then I remembered that I really have never posted any Dizzy K music on this blog... which is crazy, because that negro was rocking my world in the 1980s.

Dizzy K. cut six albums between 1982 and 1989, almost always working with producer Tony Okoroji. Dizzy and Okoroji's earliest collaborations were standard, full-band, heavy boogie cuts, often leaning heavily on Michael Jackson's Off the Wall, but they soon switched tack to a more modern, stripped-down, synth-infused electrofunk sound. However, Okoroji had a relatively original (or perhaps conservative) approach to programmed music, often balancing out the thundering syndrums with organic percussion for a distinctly African electro sound.

This track from 1984's Sweet Music is a fine exemplar of the aesthetic of which I speak.

Dizzy K. - "Yes I Love You"

Great song for getting your electric boogaloo on, yeah?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

80s girl pop (III)

Not a lot of time today, loved ones--just gonna quickly drop this nice little rollerskating groove by Princess Bumy Olajubu, another young female singer who shone for a couple of minutes in the mid-80s.

This track comes from Bumy's Leo Man album... Damn, I can't even remember when this joint dropped! I'm gonna take a stab and guess that it's 1984 or 85.* The album was produced by guitarist Eric Kol, who also does some vocalizing on this track.

Princess Bumy Olajubu - "Tell Me You've Come to Stay"

*My estimate is based largely on the John Player Special cap Bumy wears on the cover. The John Player cigarette brand blew up around that period due to its sponsorship of an annual, nationwide breakdancing competition between 1983 and (I think) 1985, and John Player paraphernalia became much coveted streetwear for a hot second.

John Player's popularity seemed to fade with the breakdancing fad, though "John Player's" lived on as a slang noun and verb for hustlers, ballers and tricksters of all kinds before the term "419" came into vogue.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Now, um, usually I dont do this, but...

A couple of years ago, back when we were in the earlier stages of this filmmaking quest, Koko and I had a discussion about financing in which I ran down some of the creative methods through which other indie upstarts had raised the capital for their debut productions: Robert Townsend and the string of maxed credit cards that powered Hollywood Shuffle... Robert Rodriguez donating his body to science to make El Mariachi... Darren Aronofsky pulling together the completion funds for π by bumming $100 off of everybody he knew... Kevin Smith pawning a good portion of his cherished comic book collection to finance Clerks... Then Koko says to me: "You still have all those old records, don't you?"

"Yeah," I says. "Why?"

"You said a lot of collectors would pay good money for those things, right?"

"Yeah, I did mention that."

A tense silence fills the next few seconds, though it feels like hours. Finally, I speak: "I'm not selling my records."

"Why not? Don't you have multiple copies of a lot of them?"

"I have multiples of some of them, yes. And God willing, I will keep it that way!"


(Mind you, Koko was not asking why I was keeping multiples; he sincerely wanted to know why I kept ANY of them at all. As I've mentioned before, he has never had anything but contempt for the vast majority of Nigerian popular music and remains puzzled by my need to collect these records that he considers pure garbage.)

"You think I don't want to raise this cash, too? It's just that... Some things are more important than money."

Koko is genuinely bewildered now: "LIKE WHAT?"

At this point, I launch into a long spiel, the content of which I cannot remember. I am fairly certain, though, that it contained the phrases "guard our cultural heritage," "sell our birthright" and "FESTAC mask."

Koko is silent for a while, and then he says "Seriously... You have got to be the most un-Igbo Igbo man I have ever met in my life."

And that was that.

Well... Not really. Time and time again, the subject would intermittently re-arise, with Koko goading and pleading (and Enyi occasionally chiming in, asking what I had against making money while rhetorically questioning my Igboness), but like the eyebrows below Sylvester Stallone's Botoxed forehead in the new Rambo movie, I remained unmoved.

Flash forward to now: Some of you who shop for records on eBay might have noticed that over the past two or three months, I've occasionally been up on there hawking vinyl.

To what can we attribute my change of heart? Well...

1) Back when I first started (seriously) collecting old Nigerian records about 8 or 9 years ago, it was mostly a barren landscape. These things were hard as hell to find--even in Nigeria--and I had to go to often absurd and brutally taxing lengths just to find someone who remembered these records, let alone who could grant me access to them. Under these circumstances, I actually entertained the possibility that I was in possession of the last surviving copies of some of these albums, and I was like an ethnomusicological L.S.B Leakey digging up and preserving the fragile remains of a disappeared culture.

But with time, I've learned that it's not that deep. As the popularity of African pop music of all kinds has exploded over the past few years, all these rare vinyl nuggets have continued to come to light by the truckload, so it's not like I have to hoard and curate that much; there's enough vinyl to go round... provided you're willing to pay for it. And if so, why should you not pay me? Because, you see...

2) Comb & Razor, Inc. needs to acquire a few pieces of fairly expensive production hardware, and it's not like we can just charge it to the game. Also...

3) The amount of clutter in my pad is getting ridiculous. My sister visited this past weekend and threatened to call Niecy Nash on my ass.

So yeah... Let me officially state that I am indeed selling records, so if you want to buy them, come see about me.

Check back frequently, and add me to your favorite sellers ("combrazor" is the ID), as I'll be putting up more stuff with time. It'll probably be mostly Nigerian records of the type I post about here, though I might occasionally throw in other stuff, too. Also, feel free to hit me up with requests; I can't promise I'll be able to fill them all, but I'll try!

For some reason, I feel the need to apologize for placing this advertisement in this space: the idea of selling or shilling on this blog for my own pecuniary profit makes me cringe more than a little. But hey... The original raison d'etre of the blog was to document the making of TOO MUCH BEAUTIFUL WOMAN, and this is kinda part of that saga, so I guess I can get a pass here.

(Look at me, expressing embarrassment over mercantile activity! Seriously... What kind of Igbo man am I?)

Let the sell out begin!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Badu in Lagos!

Wow... Is it time for the This Day Awards time again already?

Looks like this year Erykah is headlining... Sure wish I be there to catch the show, but who am I kidding? They wouldn't let me into the This Day Awards even if I were to make it to Lagos this weekend.

That poster is kinda meh, though. Would've been cool if EMEK could have designed it. He's been handling most of Badu's graphics these days, including the New Amerykah album cover.

Check out this awesome metallic ink poster he did for her recent Tel Aviv gig:

So... Did you get your Nigeria Special yet?

Yes, this long-awaited CD compilation finally dropped last week and I meant to blog about it then too... But you might have noticed that I haven't really had the chance to post anything on this page for a while now. I've been spreading the word in other forums both on- and offline, though; so... did you all go out and cop it like I advised you to?

Believe it or not, but I haven't even gotten a copy myself yet! By the time I got to the record store on Thursday, they were S-O-L-D out! They said they're getting some more in by the end of this week, as well as the vinyl edition. I went ahead and reserved two sets of vinyl (the compilation is offered either as a double CD or as two gatefold double LPs). Traditionally I've never been the type who constantly insists on getting doubles on everything, but over the past year or so I have somewhat developed that habit. And hey... All Soundway's releases are so singularly dope and so beautifully packaged, you know that every single one of them is a collector's item in waiting!

So in the meantime, I'm just grooving to all the audio samples on the Nigerial Special site while I wait for my records to arrive.

Man, I cannot wait for Nigeria Rock Special and Nigeria Disco Funk Special to drop in the next couple of months... It feels good to remain excited about going to the record store even as bloggers proclaim the brick & mortar music emporium a thing of the past. Best believe that as long as labels like Soundway, Oriki, Analog Africa, Numero Group and Stones Throw keep on dishing out that good gravy, I'm gonna stay buying music no matter how antiquated that concept might seem in this brave new world!

Here's an ethereal taste, courtesy of our friend Timjim:

Celestine Ukwu - "Okwukwe Na Nchekwube"


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Still on that 80s girl pop

I actually was feeling Mandy Brown Ojugbana back in 1986. For one thing, her debut album was on Faze 2 Records, which was the hip, cutting-edge independent at a time when the traditional big record companies were slowly fading. And Mandy represented my generation with her poppy electro-boogie sound redolent of NYC freestyle. The big hit off the record was her cover of Bobby Benson's highlife classic "Taxi Driver," but there were a bunch of great songs on the LP. This was one of my favorites.

Mandy - "Touch Me"

(Sorry about the two small jumps... I really need a vacuum cleaner!)

Mandy cut another album and then promptly vanished from the scene. She reappeared last year, though, having relocated to Nigeria after almost two decades living in the UK. She blogs here.

Here are some clips from her recent appearance on New Dawn with Funmi Iyanda.

(Oh yeah... Just thought I'd mention that the dark-skinned girl in the red top on Mandy's right is media personality Tosyn Bucknor, daughter of, yep, the great Segun Bucknor.)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Yo pardon, this song been in my mind all week!

Stella Monye - "Satisfaction Guaranteed"

Stella Monye's a singer who hit the scene in the mid-1980s, just as my once-voracious appetite for Nigerian pop music was fast waning. So yeah, I wasn't really into this song when it came out... Why then has it suddenly taken occupation of my headspace 20 years later and doggedly refused to vacate?

It's actually a pretty good song, I think... It's just that as a record, it's emblematic of the malaise that gnawed through the Naija music scene after 1984 or so. The recording industry--like the rest of the Nigerian economy--had shrunken drastically; the (relatively) rich and buoyant production values that characterized much Nigerian pop in the post-Oil Boom era dissipated as records began to sound increasingly cheap, threadbare and slapdash.

I mean, can you believe that this rinky-dink production is credited to Lemmy Freakin' Jackson? The Quincy Jones of Nigeria? In '83 this record would have been furnished with lush strings, a punchy horn section and glossy choral overdubs and Jake Sollo seasoning the sauce with some spicy guitar licks. Come '85 and it sounds like it was recorded on a Casiotone in someone's kitchen, with the houseboy chanking away on an old guitar (whose strings he had to scrape with pumice to get the rust off) and Jake Sollo is listed as "Drum programmer."* (The bass work is decent, though.)

Stella Monye is a highly idiosyncratic and somewhat dramatic vocalist, given to fits of frenzy that often cause her to forget to sing directly into the microphone. (Or did Jackson just mike her distantly because of her tendency to shout a la Berry Gordy's treatment of Florence Ballard?) She's much more interesting live than she's ever been on record, though.

But yeah... I digs this record. I think. All week I've been just jamming it in my head, and it's starting to (" my rules... and conditions...") drive me crazy so I figured ("I've got everything... all the tools...") that if I posted it here, I might be able to ("...I! promise! you! SAAAA-TEES-FAC-TION!") exorcise myself of it.

What you think? Does it bring you satisfaction? Or something else?

*I think this might have been one of the last records he worked on before his death, too. Shame.

Edit 10/3/08: I think this record was released in 1985, not '86... I fixed that.