12 Aug 2022

Psychedelic Africa

"The mix of styles suggests that the Nigerian underground was as tuned into James Brown as Jimi Hendrix, but also on its own specific trip"

'1970's African music has had a vast impact on global sounds over the decades. Well known for its boogie, funk and disco sounds, it was also as we are increasingly learning a bastion of rock and psychedelia magic. Here that is all collected together masterfully on Afro Psych (Journeys Into Psychedelic Africa 1972 - 1977) with nine essential tunes that will have dancefloors and brain cells erupting in unison. Much of it is made by young musicians influenced and inspired by the likes of Hendrix, the Doors and Santana and Lagos was an epicentre for much of it.' -Juno

Christie Azumah

'A concise but thoughtfully chosen assortment of mostly Nigerian highlife offshoots from the 1970s, Afro Psych purports to focus more on the mind-bending psychedelic properties of this West African form than on its body-moving funk. However, the two elements jostle for prominence in these cuts, often resting on dense percussive underpinning that are wholly African. The mix of styles suggests that the Nigerian underground was as tuned into James Brown as Jimi Hendrix, but also on its own specific trip.

If you had to pick one sound that signifies psychedelia across these tracks, it might be fuzz guitar, which erupts with equal fury from the swaying, communal chants of the Lijadu Sisters’ “Bayi L’Ense” as from the curiously laid-back choruses of War-Head Constriction’s “Graceful Bird.” This latter track sounds a lot like the Ngozi Family’s Hendrix-inspired fuzz roar, whose music might have been a good addition to the mix if the curators had gotten as far afield as Zambia.  

Elsewhere, though, the sound leans into Afro Funk as on Lucas Talas’ bass-powered, multi-percussioned rampage “Moghie Nu Te Eka Tse Mu,” or Ariya’s “Aura,” which skitters staccato, offbeat-twitching guitars over a primal call and response. The long, hypnotic “Mind Your Business,” from Saxon Lee (who also had a track on the second Nigeria 70 compilation), even has traces of dub in its slouching, back-slashing rhythms. 

But if funk is a musical genre and psych is a state of mind, it is completely possible for a song to be both. Christie Azumah’s “Aja Wondo” brings together the bright horns, the terse syncopations, the wheedling organs of funk and highlife with the transporting power of psychedelia. You can dance to it. You almost can’t not dance to it. But it also takes you up and away in a manner that is unmistakably psychedelic. 

Some of these artists—like the Lijadu Sisters—are well-known and widely included on compilations, but others are somewhat harder to track down. Do you have enough Bunzo Sounds in your life? What about the Oriental Brothers International? Africa Seven has once again done a masterful job of digging through the obscurities to move both the head and the hips.' -Jennifer Kelly

'Whilst the continents contribution to the global funk, boogie and disco canon has been well documented for decades, the strong presence of rock and psychedelia in 1970's African music has been a more slowly evolving story over the years. Pockets of young Africans, turned on by Hendrix, the Doors, Santana and more, started to add heavy guitar riffs to rumbling, ever present funk, and built an afro psych scene that is still turning up gems to this day. With Lagos an epicenter for the emergent scene, in 1972, local headquartered label Afrodisia was born near to the eye of the storm, and provides many of the tracks on this latest attempt to capture a bit of afro-psych magick.

Iconic Lagos twins The Lijadu Sisters' 'Bayi L'ense' (1977) opens proceedings in LP defining style : the Yoruba vocals, pattering percussion and cooly strutting funk bassline are eventually joined by soaring, scything fuzz guitar, and we're off on a six and half minute head journey. From there, tempo's and moods shift throughout. The Oriental Brothers International free-wheeling 'Tax Drive' is underpinned by tight playing and insistent grooves; Saxon Lee and the Shadows International combine James Brown style brass with what sounds like long, improv'd hammond sections across the near 10 minutes of 'Mind Your Business'. Gears are quickly shifted as Warhead Constriction get straight up heavy on Graceful Bird, and Aura easily integrate early synth work outs on Ariya (at about the same time Kraftwerk were starting to hit wider audiences, 1976). Celestin Nyam's 'Mbembe' takes no prisoners, as free jazz sax workouts, horns, hammonds and squalling Hendrix style guitar riffs all make welcome appearances, before Christie Azumah And The Uppers International, again combine deep funk with hammonds, choppy guitars and insistent vocals on 'Aja Wondo'.' -Africa Seven

Various – Afro Psych (Journeys Into Psychedelic Africa 1972 - 1977)

Label: Africa Seven – ASVN069
Format: Digital, Vinyl, LP, Compilation
Country: UK
Released: Aug 2022
Style: 70s, World, Africa, Psych
1. The Lijadu Sisters - Bayi L'ense (1977) 6:35
2. Oriental Brothers International - Tax Drive (1975) 3:51
3. Bunzu Soundz - Bokonor (1976) 2:42
4. Saxon Lee & The Shadows International - Mind Your Business (1973) 9:54
5. War-Head Constriction - Graceful Bird (1973) 3:48
6. Lucas Tala - Moghie Nu Te Eka Tse Mu (1976) 4:50
7. Aura (Aspiritual Emanation) - Ariya (1976) 4:09
8. Celestin Nyam feat Voices of Darkness - Mbembe (1972) 4:01
9. Christie Azumah and The Uppers International - Aja Wondo (1976) 3:52