Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

600

Various Artists: Nigeria 70: The Definitive Story of Funky Lagos

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Lest we neglect the under-represented sounds of West African funk, the folks at AfroStrut have put together a magnificent 3-disc compilation that celebrates the movement. Nigeria 70 reminds us of the spirit and diversity of the sounds that emerged around Lagos in the '70s with nearly 150 minutes of music. At the outset, let's make it clear where this set stands: at the very pinnacle of African music compilations ever released. The subject certainly offers a rich field to mine, and the producers have done an amazing job bringing the music to life.

First, a bit of history. At a vortex of influences from West Africa, East Africa, the Caribbean, North America, and its own rich traditions, Nigeria emerged as a potent musical force in the mid-20th century. The rich drumming traditions of Ghana and the New World African diaspora filtered through to Nigeria in the early '50s through highlife (introduced by E.T. Mensah, who on one occasion performed upon request with Louis Armstrong). Highlife fused the rhythms and styles of calypso, Cuban and Antillean music, and other traditions with Ghanaian drumming. Highlife was (and is) a music of social commentary, creative instrumentation, and an unshakable groove. As this music grew in popularity, it diversified into forms that increasingly included jazz elements, guitars, big bands, and emphatic vocals. Together with palmwine (urban folk music), juju (popular dance music), and fuji (which emphasizes lyrical content), highlife grew into a towering presence. Prince Nico Mbarga made "Sweet Mother" the best-selling record in African history (15 million sold, as well as an untold number of bootlegs). When the '70s hit, the time was ripe for funk to enter the scene.

The two biggest stars of Nigerian music, King Sunny Ade and Fela Kuti, had a huge impact on the entire continent. Both are represented here: King Sunny with a freewheeling band of 20+ musicians, and Fela with three different groups from '64, '71, and '76. It's hard to include enough Fela Kuti on a '70s Nigerian retrospective. (The title of the set comes from the name of a band Fela led.) Fela's talent lay in his pointed lyrics, his loose improvisational style, and an unswaying rhythmic energy. He gets down and dirty on the set's best track, "Jeun Ko Ku" (Chop 'n' Quench), which begs more than one shake of the booty.

But the producers also included a number of other musicians both well-known and more obscure. Blo, a band formed from the ashes of Ginger Baker's Salt outfit, occupies a niche heavily influenced by American psychedelic rock (no surprise there). Bongos Ikwue adopts the spirit of American blues and takes this approach to the extreme with "Woman Made The Devil" (suffice to say that the title summarizes his simple point, with no apologies). Orlando Julius builds chant-like vocals over oscillating rhythms on ""Alo Mi Alo," punctuated with instrumental solos and supported by heavy-duty drum underpinnings. Ofo The Black Company hits right at the intersection between psych rock and funk with their anthem "Allah Wakbarr." And Gasper Lawal goes right for the hip with a big band disco/funk treatment of "Kita Kita."

In addition to two discs of music, Nigeria70 also includes a third CD with a five-part documentary. If you want to understand how all the influences of Nigerian funk came together, this disc provides essential material. Rather than assuming a position of didactic intellectualism, it intertwines historical information with a variety of musical samples and testimonials. Also, the liner notes (16 densely packed pages) offer a heap of general background as well as detailed information on each performer.

This 3-CD set is a model for how compilations should be put together. It's required listening for anyone curious about the intersection between funk and West African music. Unfortunately, American distributors have backed off on this British production, and it is only readily obtainable overseas (eg. from Amazon UK). Let's hope the higher powers reconsider this unfortunate decision. This music deserves a wide audience.

Visit AfroStrut on the web.

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


Track Listing: CD1: Koola Lobitos, "Ololufe Mi"; Monomono, "Tire Loma Da Nigbehin"; Blo: "Chant to Mother Earth"; Fela Ransome Kuti & The Africa 70, "Jeun Ko Ku (Chop 'n' Quench)"; Tunji Oyelana & The Benders, "Ifa"; Bala Miller & The Great Music Pirameeds Of Afrika, "Ikon Allah"; Segun Bucknor & His Revolution, "La La La"; Peter King, "Shango"; Tony Allen & His Afro Messengers, "No Discrimination"; Sir Victor Uwaifo & His Melody Maestroes, "Akayan Ekassa"; William Onyeabor, "Better Change Your Mind"; Bongos Ukwue, "Woman Made the Devil."
CD2: Orlando Julius & The Afro Sounders, "Alo Mi Alo (Parts 1 & 2)"; Ofo The Black Company, "Allah Wakbarr"; Sahara All Stars Band Jos, "Enjoy Yourself"; The Funkees, "Dancing Time"; Afro Cult Foundation, "The Quest"; Joni Haastrup, "Greetings"; Gasper Lawal, "Kita Kita"; Lijadu Sisters, "Orere Elejigbo"; Fela Anikulapo Kuti & The Africa 70 with Sandra Akanke Isidore, "Upside Down"; Shina Williams & His African Percussionists, "Agboju Logun"; Sunny Ade & His African Beats, "Ja Fun Mi (Instrumental)."

Title: Nigeria 70: The Definitive Story of Funky Lagos | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: AfroStrut

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Sleepers Wake

Sleepers Wake

Various Artists
Snowfall

Winter Waltz

Winter Waltz

Various Artists
Winter: An Origin Records...

CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
DVD/Film Reviews
Read more articles

Related Articles

Read Everything's OK CD/LP/Track Review
Everything's OK
by Doug Collette
Published: December 16, 2018
Read Making Bones, Taking Draughts, Bearing Unstable Millstones Pridefully, Idiotically, Prosaically CD/LP/Track Review
Making Bones, Taking Draughts, Bearing Unstable Millstones...
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 16, 2018
Read Legacy CD/LP/Track Review
Legacy
by Doug Collette
Published: December 16, 2018
Read Other Life Forms CD/LP/Track Review
Other Life Forms
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 16, 2018
Read Live At Moods CD/LP/Track Review
Live At Moods
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 16, 2018
Read Runner in the Rain CD/LP/Track Review
Runner in the Rain
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 15, 2018
Read "Combo 66" CD/LP/Track Review Combo 66
by Doug Collette
Published: October 28, 2018
Read "Taktlos Zurich 2017" CD/LP/Track Review Taktlos Zurich 2017
by John Sharpe
Published: August 26, 2018
Read "Tschuss Jazz Era" CD/LP/Track Review Tschuss Jazz Era
by Chris Mosey
Published: July 5, 2018
Read "Steppin' Up" CD/LP/Track Review Steppin' Up
by Jerry D'Souza
Published: December 28, 2017
Read "The Space" CD/LP/Track Review The Space
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 6, 2018
Read "Bricks" CD/LP/Track Review Bricks
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 17, 2017