16 Oct 2021

Nigeria

UPGRADE

Totally awesome Afrobeatsoundz!

'Nigeria Afrobeat Special is the fourth addition to the Nigeria Special series, a project initiated by Miles Cleret, owner of the Soundway Record label back in 2004. Cleret's ambition to distinguish the blossoming music scenes of 1970s Nigeria has lent to an indispensable series of CD and LP compilations documenting the influence of western blues, rock and disco amongst artists and musicians versed in the local musical styles of highlife and juju.

It was Fela Kuti and his musical and political ideals that formed the core of afrobeat's message. Blending highlife, Yoruba music, funk and jazz, Fela dominated the musical tapestry of 1970s Nigeria and his influence in Nigeria and West Africa led to a craze where most of the bands of the day incorporated this new sound into their repertoires to satisfy the tastes of the audiences of the time. This compilation highlights some of those recordings that have, until now, not seen the light of day.

Appropriately, Fela's highly sought after version of 'Who're you' lends this set its lead. Originally released on 7” in 1971, It would later be re-recorded at Abbey Road for his album Fela's London Scene and here is re-issued for the first time ever.' -Soundway

Brimming with Sonic Treasures.

'If you have any of the other excellent "Nigeria Special" compilations from Soundway, you know what to expect: plenty of lively and propulsive songs with plenty of rhythm happening. In the liner notes, the compilers pledge to bring us listeners "some of the more obscure and unheard names and recordings from what was undoubtedly a time brimming with sonic treasures." And rest assured there are plenty of such musical jewels waiting your discovery on this CD.

The compilation starts with an early, fairly rare, version of "Who're You" by Fela Kuti from 1971, a song that he re-recorded for his Fela's "London Scene" album. Most of the reviewers on this page have dismissed this song somewhat, but I think it's an exciting, vibrant tune with some intense rhythms and wild organ playing. Among the other songs that impress me on this CD are the intense "Mind Your Business" by Saxon Lee & the Shadows International, the jazz-infused instrumental "Gboymojo" by Segun Bucknor's Revolution, "Hankuri" by Madman Jaga, and the slightly psychedelic "trance-like" feel of "Ariwo Yaa" by Bob Ohiri & His Uhuru Sounds. Another one of my favorite Nigerian musicians, Orlando Julius, contributes "Afro-Blues", a percolating instrumental propelled by "raw organ stabs and Orlando's sweet saxophone". Interestingly. the last track on this collection, the pleasing "Ole" is by the Black Santiagos, a band from Benin, but included here because the record was pressed and released in Nigeria.

As you would expect from Soundway, the CD comes with a 20-page booklet that includes a short essay about this period of Nigerian music, written by album compiler Miles Cleret, and capsule summaries of each track. The songs span the years 1971-78. Another very welcome release from Soundway that should please fans of 1970s Nigerian music.' -Donald E. Gilliland

Fela wasn’t the only Afrobeat star in 1970s Nigeria – but he was certainly the best.

'There has never been an artist quite like Fela Kuti. A singer, composer, bandleader, multi-instrumentalist and fiery political rebel, he didn’t just shake up the Nigerian music scene back in the 1970s, but he created his own fusion style of Afrobeat, one that’s still growing in popularity alongside the legend of the man himself. 

Fela was best seen on his home turf, playing in his club The Shrine in the Lagos suburb of Ikeja, where he often didn’t appear until the early hours of the morning, and kept playing until dawn.  His songs were always lengthy, and involved his trademark blend of American funk and R&B mixed with jazz improvisation, traditional Yoruba influences, chanting line-and-response vocals, extended solos on saxophone and keyboards, and then sudden furious outbursts in which he would denounce the policies of the military government of the day.

He was an exhilarating performer, and it’s only to be expected that Fela and his Afrika 70 band provide the rousing opening of an album dedicated to ‘The New Explosive Sound in 1970s Nigeria’. The track is called Who’re You?, a song that Fela released as a 7” 45 rpm single in 1971, and was later re-recorded at Abbey Road for his album Fela’s London Scene. This original version has not been re-released until now, and it’s a classic example of early Fela, mixing a driving funk rhythm with fine brass work, chanting vocals and playful improvised keyboard solos.

Fela set the pace, but others were bound to follow, and this cheerfully intriguing set also features ten of Fela’s competitors, who were never as inventive, brave or unpredictable as the great man himself, but still created some great dance music following his musical formula. There’s Eric ‘Showboy’ Akaeze mixing a sturdy R&B riff, impressive organ work and wailing rock guitar on We Dey Find Money; a light, funky work-out from Saxon Lee & the Shadows International; and a cheerful dance song from Godwin Omabuwa & His Casanova Dandies with Do the Afro Shuffle. And as a contrast to the upbeat dance material there’s Segun Bucknor’s Revolution with Gbomojo, a slow and moody saxophone workout set against a funk beat.

This collection is a reminder that Fela wasn’t the only Afrobeat star in 1970s Nigeria – but he was certainly the best.' -Robin Denselow

'Nigeria Afrobeat Special is U.K.-based Soundway’s fourth volume in a remarkable series that documents the many truly funky records issued in that country between the late '60s and late '70s, most of which have been quite difficult to come by for decades. While Fela Kuti is the undisputed father of Afrobeat, the many other recordings on this 11-track release showcase many interpretations of his creation. Most of these sides were issued by Universal Music Group-owned labels: Philips, Decca, Polydor, etc. A few come from EMI and HMV as well. Still others were on African-owned independents such as Tabansi and Ashiko. The array of artists here is also remarkable. It ranges from the well-known -- Fela, Orlando Julius, Saxon Lee, Segun Lee, Bob Ohiri -- to more obscure ones to Western ears. The titles however, are all killer. Standouts include the 7" version of Fela’s “Who’re You.” This version was recorded in Nigeria and later appeared in a much longer one re-recorded at Abbey Road on his London Scene album. It’s this version -- with its insane tempo and full drum and bass assault, and the folk song played as Fela’s keyboard solo -- that is far preferable. Equally intense is “We Dey Find Money,” a ten-minute burner by Eric Showboy Akaeze & His Royal Ericos. This adheres to the Afro-beat formula but moves into hard Southern funky soul grooves as well; it includes chanted highlife choruses, too. Guitars and keyboards are in full-on distortion mode to make this one narcotic, sweat-inducing track. Lee’s “Mind Your Own Business” is a snaky, winding, hypnotic number that reflects Afrobeat’s trippier side. The jazzy, more North African-sound of Afrobeat is reflected by Andrew “Madman” Jaga's “Hankuri," and features him fronting Sir Victor Uwaifo's Titibitis. (That’s Uwaifo on guitar.) The amazing dub-like reverb effects on Julius' “Afro-Blues” are remarkable for the time period, and the calypso influence on the music on Godwin Omabuwa & His Casanova Dandies' “Do the Afro Shuffle” is undeniable. Compiled, annotated, and sequenced by the irrepressible Miles Cleret, this is arguably the finest volume in the series thus far.' -AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek


1. Fela & Africa 70, The - Who're You? (Original 45 Version) 8:45
2. Eric Showboy Akaeze & His Royal Ericos - We Dey Find Money 10:09
3. The Anansa Professionals - Enwan 5:31
4. Saxon Lee & The Shadows International - Mind Your Business 9:57
5. Bongos Ikwue & The Groovies - Otachikpokpo 8:40
6. Orlando Julius & His Afro-Sounders - Afro-Blues 6:14
7. Bob Ohiri And His Uhuru Sounds - Ariwo Yaa 5:25
8. Madman Jaga - Hankuri 4:21
9. Godwin Omabuwa & His Casanova Dandies - Do The Afro Shuffle 5:33
10. Segun Bucknor's Revolution - Gbomojo 8:26
11. The Black Santiagos - Ole 3:15

Notes
22-page insert booklet includes liner notes and photographs.