Sunday, November 9, 2008

R.I.P. Baba Orlando Owoh, King of Toye




By way of Comb & Razor I've learned that Orlando Owoh, the Nigerian master of Toye music, passed away Tuesday, November 4 after a long illness following a stroke.

Owoh was 74 when he died. He was born in Owo in Oyo State in the former Western Region of Nigeria and played in the early '60s with Fatai Rolling Dollar, who had earlier employed Ebenezer Obey. While he's long been hugely popular in Nigeria, he came to the notice of most World Music™ fans in the West when the now-defunct label Original Music released Dr. Ganja's Polytonality Blues (Original Music OMCD 035, 1995), a compilation of two of his Nigerian LPs. While his musical style, variously called Toye (which is also Yoruba slang for marijuana) or Kennery, is often classified as "highlife," it is more properly a fusion of that style and jùjú music, with Owoh's own idiosyncratic affectations. As John Storm Roberts puts it in his liner notes to Polytonality Blues:

. . . Like so much downhome African music, Owoh's style can baffle westerners used to the polite worldbeat of bands aiming for international stardom. Not only can some of the more polytonal playing sound as though the toye was stronger than usual, but the band (like many other street-level juju bands) uses tunings different from the standard European tempered scale. Like the sweet-sour offbeat chord in many Tex-Mex polkas, or the acidic pitch of virtuoso klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras, Owoh's band uses dissonance to give its music an extra edge.
I present here in its totality Owoh's 1976 LP Ifon Omimah Ni Moti Wa (Afrodisia WAPS 317). My knowledge of Yoruba is less than minimal, so I can't tell you anything about the lyrics, but maybe someone out there can oblige us. This is a great example of "Dr. Ganja's" mature style:

Dr. Orlando Owoh & his Young Kenneries Band - Ifon Omimah Ni Moti Wa / Baba Ma Fi Ku Ma Wi

Dr. Orlando Owoh & his Young Kenneries Band - Late Gabriel Jejeniwa / Olobele Mo Bele / Ajuwa Sawasawa

4 comments:

dapxin said...

can we have more of orlando's works ?

Its such a pain the best of the rest are exiting Nigeria....

steelytom said...

Osadebe, de Coque, now Owoh.... Yet another giant departs. I loved his low voice and rather loose, spacious ensemble sound. Please, someone reissue that '95 anthology CD.

Bellemskey said...

Orlando Owoh, is definitely one of the greatest musicians that came out of Africa..... Thanks for this...

John Popoola said...

I love Orlando music