Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Long-Lost Highlife Classic




Ikoro's '70 Special (Philips West Africa 6386008) by Dan Satch and the Professional Atomic 8 Band is an album I've been intrigued by for many years. A friend loaned it to me twenty years ago, minus the sleeve, and I dubbed it to a 10" tape reel. The reel lay unlistened to for many years in a box in my office, until I finally was able to digitize it, and many others, last fall.

What has always been a mystery to me has been the identity of "Dan Satch." There is, of course, a well-known Nigerian musician by that name, guitarist Ferdinand Dan Satch Emeka Opara, a co-founder of the legendary Oriental Brothers Band
of Owerri. I had always assumed that the Atomic 8 Band was something he was involved in before hooking up with the Orientals (since Ikoro's '70 was recorded in 1969 and the Orientals were founded around 1971 this seemed plausible).

There are some problems with this assumption. The Atomics followed the style of danceband highlife greats like Rex Lawson and Bobby Benson, with some interesting pop and Afrobeat touches. The Orientals, of course, were the pre-eminent representatives of the guitar-based highlife sound that displaced the old dance band sound in the '70s. The two bands' respective styles couldn't be more different. Moreover, the Atomics were based in Aba while Dan Satch Opara hails from the Owerri area.

Which is where things stood until a few months ago, when I received an email from our friend Rainer in Switzerland. It seems he had obtained a copy of the original Atomic 8 10" LP, including the sleeve, and he kindly sent me a scan. One look and it was clear that the leader of the Professional Atomic 8 Dance Band and Dan Satch Opara were not the same person. The liner notes state:

The Atomic "8" Dance Band is led by Dan Satch Joseph who is a seasoned pure tone trumpeter and an arranger. Thirty years old Dan Satch started playing the trumpet in 1959 and was the trumpeter leader of Bobby Benson & his Jam Session Band until 1961. In 1962 he moved to Aba and formed the Atomic "8" Dance Band.
Moreover, look at the photographs of the two musicians. Dan Satch Joseph is on the left, Dan Satch Opara on the right:



So even though it is fairly clear now that there is no connection between the Professional Atomic 8 Band and the Oriental Brothers, Ikoro's 70 Special is an excellent album in its own right: a glimpse into the long-lost era of sophisticated Nigerian dance music. Moreover, the use of various languages indicates that the Nigerian music scene was maybe not always as splintered as it is today.

Tracks by the Atomic 8 have been popping up lately on various compilations of classic Nigerian music, on Rusted Highlife Vol. 1 (Mossiac MMCD 1812, 1996), Lagos All Routes (Honest Jon's Records HJRCD 17, 2005), and this year's much-acclaimed Nigeria Special (Soundway SNDWCD 009). The track order on the
Ikoro's 70 Special record sleeve is different from that on the record itself and includes two songs that are not on the record, "Eluwa" and "Hasiam." The track order here follows that of the record. For more information on the songs, click the image below:

Dan Satch & the Professional Atomic "8" Dance Band - Ikoro's 70 Special

Dan Satch & the Professional Atomic "8" Dance Band - Take Your Time

Dan Satch & the Professional Atomic "8" Dance Band - Tamuno Emi Dan Satch


Dan Satch & the Professional Atomic "8" Dance Band - Akadi Nwata Ma

Dan Satch & the Professional Atomic "8" Dance Band - Kente

Dan Satch & the Professional Atomic "8" Dance Band - My Girl in Love!

Dan Satch & the Professional Atomic "8" Dance Band - Adiaha Obong

Dan Satch & the Professional Atomic "8" Dance Band - Ocho Okuko Nwe Ada

Dan Satch & the Professional Atomic "8" Dance Band - Calabar O

Dan Satch & the Professional Atomic "8" Dance Band - Onye Huru Odum


11 comments:

Anonymous said...

it is a fantastic music! Thanks. But track3 and track5 where are?

Ciao and look http://www.tpafrica.it/

Anonymous said...

many many thanks for a wonderful record

zim said...

That makes more sense - the 45s I had heard (alabeke, Je Nr'Okan / Woman Pin Down) never sounded much like the orientals

Its really a nice LP. thanks John.

Comb & Razor said...

NICE!!

i've heard a few tracks from this and have been looking for it for a while!

thanks a lot!

Africolombia said...

My thanks for your music

Fabian-

Ray said...

Many thanks for this - excellent music and fascinating info about the two Dans.

Edie said...

Fantastic blog! i will have to follow :)

i'm listening Dan Satch as I type, 'Alabeke' is my favourite.

greetings from London

Edie

Anonymous said...

Interesting piece thanks for that as i am currently researching a former member of the group who left to play with the funkees by name Mr Sonny Akpan who confirmed that Dan Satch Joseph come from Akwa ibom state as him and he played congas with group.
Jeff- London

Michael said...

Amazing post. Thank you very much.

9javatar said...

Hi,

I was gonnas ask if you had listened to Iyang Nta Henshaw until I saw the label Efik. It makes me proud as a Calabar/Ibibio girl to know that other people (ethnicities) can enjoy this music. My mother always used to play Iyang Nta when I was growing up!

David said...

Loved 'Take your time' in particular. Great big band highlife, thank you!!