273

Prince Nico Mbarga: Aki Special

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Prince Nico Mbarga: Aki Special You wouldn't guess by his diminutive stature, but Prince Nico Mbarga was one of the greatest giants of Nigerian music ever. Nico's record Aki Special marked the high point in his career: it featured the tune "Sweet Mother," which sold over 15 million copies and stands as the most popular African pop song ever.

Nico came from Nigerian and Camerounian roots, a polyglot who spent enough time in both countries to absorb a monster share of music and culture. For an extended period, he performed with a group called Rokafil Jazz, but he was unquestionably its star. Aki Special features seven tunes all about 8-9 minutes in length, drawing from the musical traditions of Nigeria, Ghana, Congo, New World centers like Cuba and Jamaica, and the great beyond. In 1977, this emerging mix made a great recipe for popular music.

Certain hallmarks of the West African highlife sound surface regularly on Aki Special. The interlocking guitars and drums, especially the congas, present a rhythmic foundation upon which Nico's vocals glide. On "Sweet Mother," the pulse turns toward calypso for a carefree, lilting dance rhythm. The words to the song formalize the deep respect African cultures have for their family: "If you forget your mother, you have lost your life." With lyrics like these and a light, refreshing groove, "Sweet Mother" transmutes a deep tribute into a joyous celebration. Maybe that's why it's the best-recognized song on the continent.

And if there's one thing that marks Aki Special, it's the upbeat frolicking spirit that runs throughout. There's nothing particularly complex or dense about these pieces, though they draw from so many styles and somehow integrate them into a seamless whole. Nico's septet makes it seem easy to assemble a tight, coherent unit from all these beats and patterns. But in the end, it's pure dance music. And in Africa, where the best music drives the shuffle of feet and the sway of hips, Prince Nico was King.

Visit Rounder on the web.

For more African music reviews, visit our special review page.


Track Listing: Aki Special; Christiana; Sweet Mother; Wayo In-Law; Free Education in Nigeria; Onye Ori Obi; Nature.

Personnel: Prince Nico: vocals, lead guitar; Jean Chachua: rhythm guitar; Morris: bass guitar; Ashagasha: drums; Thommysco Kumm: vocals; Pirol: vocals; Franco Okolo: congas.

Title: Aki Special | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Rounder Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Eleven Cages CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Afro-Caribbean Mixtape CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Wake Up Call CD/LP/Track Review Wake Up Call
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 27, 2017
Read The Late Trane CD/LP/Track Review The Late Trane
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Developing Story CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall) CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read "Coldest Second Yesterday" CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Just Get In" CD/LP/Track Review Just Get In
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 22, 2016
Read "Live in New York" CD/LP/Track Review Live in New York
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 8, 2016
Read "Love Dance" CD/LP/Track Review Love Dance
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 25, 2017
Read "Ida Y Vuelta" CD/LP/Track Review Ida Y Vuelta
by James Nadal
Published: December 30, 2016
Read "Imagination" CD/LP/Track Review Imagination
by Geannine Reid
Published: April 23, 2017

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.