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Various Artists: Lagos Chop Up

Chris May By

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An inspired trawl through the treasure trove that is urban Nigerian social music of the late '60s through mid '80s—a laid-back, all-night, intertribal dance party featuring classic highlife, Afrobeat, juju, and fuji hits of the era in all their four-track, one-take, original glory.

The '70s, give or take, were arguably the Golden Age of indigenous West African dance music: the decade before it forged wholesale fusions with Western pop and became global rather than local in genesis and outlook. Horns, electric guitars, and kit drums had been introduced from the West, and jazz and funk ran through highlife and Afrobeat, but in all other respects the music remained intensely African: sung in native languages, shaped by the region's traditional folk songs and driven by its uniquely rich cross-rhythms, and displaying a purely African sensibility in its lyric subject matter and extended playing times.

The album kick starts with the raw and youthful juju of Sir Shina Peters and Segun Adewale (trading together as Sir Shina Adewale). Adewale would go on to create the high energy yopop style which briefly threatened to dislodge established juju stars Sunny Ade and Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey in the mid '80s, and the cranked-up drive is apparent already. Other young radicals include Kollington Ayinla, whose intense, viscerally thrilling, drum-driven fuji displaced its more staid apala parent in the late '80s.

There are two superb Afrobeat tracks—Nigerian Army Rhythm Band's "Ebawa Se (Party With Us)" and Shina Williams & His African Percussions' fifteen-minute closing medley. The Rhythm Band's lineup includes saxophonist/bassist Ojo Segun Okeji, who had been a member of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's pre-Africa 70 group Koola Lobitos—the cool, chugging, jazz-meets-highlife groove is pure early Fela. Williams' more codified Afrobeat is propelled by a relentless and greasy organ, guitar, and drums groove, broken up by a raucous trombone solo and Fela-esque call and response vocals.

The rest of the tracks are mostly highlifes, in the style's various guises—the R&B tinge of trumpeter/vocalist Dr Victor Olaiya, the so-called Evil Genius of Highlife; the horns and guitars Eastern region style of Steven Amechi, Oliver De Coque, and Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson; and the more rootsical, percussion-dominated Etuborn Rex Williams and Workers Brigade Band #1.

In a word, it's heaven. As is the companion album Lagos All Routes, featuring more classic cuts from Ebenezer Obey, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Travellers Lodge Atomic, Super Negro Bantous, Haruna Ishola, and other rainforest and savannah spacemen.

Track Listing: Awe Ni Superstars (We Are Superstars); Omelebele; Uwa Idem Mi; Alhaji Sikura Adenni; Softly Softly Catchee Monkey; Ebawa Se (Party With Us); Selense; The Tragedy Story Of Two Friends; Onye Na Eli Nkwu (A Drinker); Owuno Oerina; Kpanlogo; Medley - Ise Aje Male (Any Work Is Hard)/Egbe Kegbe (Bad Company)/Emi Koni Koja Ayemi (I Know My Limits).

Personnel: Sir Shina Adewale; Dr Victor Olaiya; Etuborn Rex Williams; Kollington Ayinla; Ikenga Super Stars Of Africa; Nigerian Army Rhythm Band; Eastern Minstrels; Oliver De Coque; Steven Amechi & His Rhythm Skies; Cardinal Rex Lawson; Workers Brigade Band #1; Shina Williams & His African Percussions.

Title: Lagos Chop Up | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Honest Jons Records

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