mix righteous fuzz guitar, bad-ass keyboards and ecstatic african rhythms and what have you got? celebration by aktion - a slab of of heavy afro-funk-pysch-rock from the hardest working band in 70s nigeria.
baad john cross’s new revolution is a afro-electro-funk-boogie-disco banger that could only come from 1980s nigeria. bright, optimistic, with an unrelenting eye on the dance floor, it is regarded by many as a prototype of the electro rhythms that would become the signature sound of nigerian boogie.
search the name ‘burnis moleme and the returns are sparse. you’ll discover that his track ‘where is the answer’ appeared on soundway’s excellent nigerian disco compilation, doin’ it in lagos. and there are a few entries about this pmg re-issue of light my fire. but other than that, he seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. he’s not even a minister of religion, the career path most nigerian stars from the 80s chose to follow. thankfully, we still have light my fire. produced by former funkee jake sollo and backed by a hot team of session musos including friday pozo, nkono teles and joseph ‘jojo’ kuo, burnis delivered a slab of slick afro disco boogie for the ages.
heaven sent from nigeria’s tumultuous east, the apostles have been preaching a particular blend of funky psychedelic soul/rock fusion for over forty years. on banko woman they threw a little afrobeat into the mix, creating an afro-funk disco bomb that has been energising dance floors ever since.
ofo the rock company (originally known as ofo the back company) were nigeria’s first acid-rock band. blending hendrix and deep purple with shamanism and a pro-black philosophy, they cut their teeth at fela kuti’s afrika shrine, developing a fearsome live reputation that intimidated every other band in lagos. no one wanted to follow the guys from ofo, not even fela himself.
segun bucknor fell in love with american soul music as a student at new york’s columbia university. otis redding, wilson pickett, sam cooke and ray charles hadn’t made much of a splash in africa at the time and when bucknor returned to nigeria in 1968, he was determined to bring the sound to a wider audience.
the result was brand of afro-soul that in turn became a proto-type of afrobeat. with his bands, the assembly and the revolution, he released a few politically charged tracks, but even with his energetic dance trio, the sweet things, turning up the heat, bucknor couldn’t compete with fela kuti.
at a time when bandleaders in nigeria used titles as an affectation, dr. adolf ahanotu was the real deal. he had a phd in music compilation and master’s degrees in education and communication. he also played a mean tenor sax, an instrument he mastered touring owerri with the mirabels.
in mid-seventies, nigerian bands came and went with alarming regularity, rising meteorically from the slums to stardom and falling back again just as quickly. masisi mass funk from anamara state was one such band. but during their brief moment in the stratosphere, they produced a funk gem in i want you girl.
the self-proclaimed funkiest band on the west coast of africa, the heads funk band, could arguably make that claim for the whole continent. featuring the slick guitar of felix ‘feladey’ odey, the slinky drumming of eddie offeyi and the swirling keyboard chops of kevin ‘fortune’ coburn, nobody was funkier. and that’s not even taking into account the dance floor monsters they were releasing at the same time as akwassa.
before he was nigeria’s self-proclaimed mr lover boy, felix lebarty was an upcoming musician in the country’s edo-delta region. his big brother, aigbe, was a legendary highlife bandleader, but felix paid his dues playing guitar with thony shorby nwenyi and the collection of stars, along with fellow star mighty flames bassist, willy nfor. perversely, girls for sale was released after lover boy, the slick disco album that cemented his place in nigerian music history. it is a collection of tracks lebarty made early in his career, when his music was rawer and his pickup lines less sophisticated and less practised.
robo arigo is an extraordinary multi-instrumentalist from nigeria’s ogun state. a founding member of pogo ltd, he played bass, guitar and organ on both their albums and plays all kinds of instruments, including cowbell, on sexy thing too. one listen to the record, however, (and a quick look at the back of the cover), and it’s pretty clear that playing bass is where robo’s heart lay. especially when he gets to slap it.
in the early 1980s, nigerian was booming and recording studios used the oil money sloshing around to fit their studios with the latest state-of-the-art recording equipment. with the equipment came a new, slicker sound and a new breed of producers like lemmy jackson, jake sollo, tony okoroji and nkono teles who became bigger stars than the musicians they recorded. such was the fate of sony enang with don’t stop that music
with the super wings in mutiny and a trail for the manslaughter of his former bandmate, spuds nathan, still hanging over his head, manford best came out swinging with come go with me. it’s a chirpy, calypso-influenced insight into the state of his mind and his first solo album.
it’s hard to get a handle on nigerian musicians nash dodoo, charlie cuul and jonas caulley. in 1980 they released an album of face-melting gospel boogie as the bml chapels. and in the same year, calling themselves the beta yama group, they put out free love, a belated love letter to san francisco’s summer of love and an album altogether focused on more worldly concerns. free love is a small slice of haight-ashbury transported to the polygram studios in lagos. ‘te revoir’ is mamas and papas jamming with sergeant pepper’s beatles. ‘free love’ offers a respectful nod towards je t’aime-era serge gainsbourg. sure, ‘revolution’ gets hard and funky and ‘rain’ flirts briefly with a calypso reggae sound, but the majority of the album is cheesecloth and flowers in your hair. insanely rare – and worth buying for the freaky cover art alone – free love is a funky, reverb heavy call for love, peace and sweet, sweet loving. what more could you want from an album?
a bona-fide nigerian prince and probably the only musician to have ever played with fela kuti, miles davis and bob marley, eji oyewole combined african highlife with western jazz to create a hybrid so that was as smooth as it was funky. his first album, charity begins at home was an angry tirade against corruption in nigeria. me & you is his ‘relationship’ album, a brighter and happier set of songs that sees eji all loved up, presumably with the mysterious ‘cameleon’ featured on the cover. eji’s flute is no longer a strident voice raised in anger. instead, on ‘me & you’ and ‘i’m a dancer’ it is a playful line of seduction. on the wonky and woozy ‘eniafelamo’ his sax is a post-coital salutation. even the one political track, ‘long live nigeria’, is a loved up call for peace, progress and trust. chilled, assured and dexterious, me & you is a sophisticated showcase of eji oyewole’s chops. ‘this is the beginning of an atomic musical evolution,’ he declares on the cover. ‘brothers and sisters, stay cool.’
how do you follow up a stone-cold afro funk classic like village boogie? simple. gather together some of the hottest players in nigeria, take them down to the phonodisk studios in ijebu igbo and let them loose on a bunch dancefloor fillers you spent the last four years ‘road testing’ in kaduna. and don’t forget to get lady franka and mariam pledge in on backing vocals. those girls know how to fire up a party. it helps, of course, if you’re steve ‘dudu’ black. steve had a god-given knack for writing combustible dance tunes and the contacts in the industry to get the likes of willy nfor, willy roy and felix lebarty to make them explode. from the opening track, ‘osasuima’, the heat never stops. on ‘no stopping me now’ and ‘ololufe/ stay the night’, it’s almost too hot to handle. polished in a studio in london while musical youth recorded pass the dutchie in the next room, happy birthday to u is the gift that keeps on giving – an irresistible blend of highlife, afro beat and afro funk that is guaranteed to start a party on any dance floor.
kiki gyan’s star didn’t burn long, but it burned bright. drafted into the afro funk super group, osibisa, at 15, he was millionaire by 18 and regarded as one of the best keyboardists in the world by 21. ‘life was good, man,’ he told journalist kweku sakyi-addo. ‘too good!’. in 1983 he dived head first into the new york party scene. he took a lot of drugs, spent a lot of time in clubs and got together a team of crack local musicians to record feelin’ alright, his third and final solo album. all the kiki gyan trademark elements are present and correct. the album is unique a blend of highlife music with electronic funk and disco. ‘rosemary’ follows the formula most closely and was a hit across nigeria and ghana. but on ‘give it to me’, ‘love to love you’ and the title track, you’ll hear a slicker, boogie-influenced sound that has made feelin’ alright one of his most sought-after albums. kiki gyan would never hit such heights again. his addictions eventually took hold and he died aged 47, destitute and alone. feelin’ alright remains one of the brightest stars in his extraordinary constellation.
after starting his musical carrer back in 1968, the nigerian artist, drummer, singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer steve black released his fantastic and unique album -village boogie!- in 1979. -village boogie!- really deserves the status of a legendary rarity and holy grail for fans of afro funk music.
grill by gbubemi amas is as smooth as the red cardigan artfully slung around his shoulders on the cover. whether he is running through the scales on a cover version of ‘fire and rain’, or trying on his calypso highlife moves on ‘ereyon’, you know amas is a man with a smooth line for every occasion.
limited to 500 copies only! emma ogosi has worn a lot of different hats in his career: former air force officer, guitarist with benin-based pogo limited, and husband and manager of nigerian reggae superstar, evi-edna ogholi. in 1981, he donned a sequined cowboy hat and released nobody knows. nobody knows is arguably the nigeria’s best – and perhaps only – disco country album.
the mighty flames were a crack bunch of cameroonian musicians, drawn to nigeria by the heavy funk sounds booming across the border like musical moths. for a short time in the late sentries they ‘owned’ port harcourt, destroying dancefloors with an incendiary sound that burned so heavily that it was phosphorescent. metalik funk band is the band at their most deadly.
SWEETER THAN HONEY - CALYPSO, MAHUNO AND HIGH LIFES CELEBRATION (LP)
12" Vinyl lp UK23.12.16
pat thomas and ebo taylor are the jagger and richards of nigerian highlife. drawn together by a mutual love of the genre – and an equally intense desire to stop it becoming moribund and bereft of ideas – ghana’s two most progressive musicians added a western twist to this traditional form of african music and gave it relevance again.
it’s no exaggeration to say that geraldo pino and his band the heartbeats kickstarted the whole soul/funk/afrobeat scene in west africa. mixing highlife, funk and jazz, and using the latest equipment, they laid waste to all before them. in 1966 fela kuti was a jobbing musician, eeking out a living with highlife bands. when gerlado pino came to town, it changed his life.
“pino tore up the scene,” he recalls in an interview with carlos moore. “i knew i had to get my shit together. and fast!”
steve monite’s album, only you, is a prime slab of nigerian boogie. it’s sinewy, compact and sexy, a little bit of disco mixed with a big dose of funk. loose and groovy, it’s a sonic seduction from another dimension. with legendary producer tony okoroji at the desk, and influential musician and sound engineer, nkono teles, creating magic on the synth, the title track is raw and melodic, dark and sweet at the same time.
leaning against a wall, his shirt unbuttoned to his navel and cradling a tumbler of something strong and sophisticated, tony igiettemo looks every bit the smooth talking 80s gent. when you put hot like fire on the turntable and drop the needle, however, it is immediately clear that smooth tony is also a little bit freaky. sirens, slap bass, squelchy synths and a titchy high hat that just won’t give up, hot like fire is a cosmic call from a dance floor on the far side of the universe.
in 1979, emma dorgu decided it was time to act. he’d torn up the lagos live scene with the thermometers and conquered the airwaves with the single, ‘world people’. but there were injustices afoot, not just in nigeria, but in south africa and zimbabwe and across the continent as well, and he felt that something needed to be done. roverman was his politicized call to action. blackman akeeb kareem lent him the instruments and let him rehearse in his sitting room. dorgu sets his stall out early in the reggae-tinged ‘free my people’ calling for freedom for south africa, freedom for zimbabwe, indeed, freedom for all. thankfully political injustice hadn’t rid emma completely of his urge to get on down. the new york ghetto funk of ‘roverman’ and ‘loving’ and the straighthead boogie of ‘afro fever’ leaven the message with a funky beat and an irresistible pull towards the dancefloor. on roverman emma dorgu has achieved that that rarest of beats, an album that challenges your mind while it speaks to your feet. protest music has never sounded so funky.
jungle juice is a paean to the redemptive powers of boogie – a slab of new york ghetto grooves getting its freak on in the jungles of africa. joe kemfa promises a magical party and that s what you get - from the straight-ahead party grooves of ‘jungle magic music’ to the more slinky and sinuous ‘jungle juice.’