Sunday, January 31, 2010

Carrying on the Family Business


Eugene de Coque, brother of the late Nigerian highlife master Oliver de Coque, has been based in Los Angeles since the early '90s, and along with his group the Igede Band, played backup for Oliver during his U.S. tours. They've recorded at least four albums on their own, the first of which, Egwu-Igede (Victory Productions VP 001, ca. 1992) is featured here today.

Egwu-Igede, which apparently was released only on cassette, ably continues Oliver's Ogene Sound legacy and takes it to new heights. The integration of traditional Igbo folk elements and modern studio techniques is particularly deft. Enjoy!

Eugene de Coque & Igede Band International - Ojinbe-Eyimegwu

Eugene de Coque & Igede Band International - Egwu-Igede

Eugene de Coque & Igede Band International - Asi Si Jebe

Download Egwu-Igede as a zipped file here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Ladies of Ihiagwa-Owerri




I've been meaning to post this recording for a while. Nwanyi Ma Obi Diya (Onyeoma C.Y. Records CYLP 016, 1984) by the Obi Wuru Otu Dance Group of Ihiagwa-Owerri is guaranteed to fill the dance-floor at any Igbo party it's played.

The vocal stylings of Rose Nzuruike
(above) were what made Nwanyi Ma Obi Diya stand out amid a torrent of similar releases during the '80s, and what sends Igbos, and especially Owerri indigenes, into a swoon. Which is not to short-change the talents of the group itself (below) and especially its leader, Madam Maria Anokwuru. Released on an obscure Onitsha record label, it became one of the biggest-selling Igbo records of all time.



The title tune, opening up the medley on Side One of the album, means "A Woman That Knows her Husband's Heart." The ladies sing that good behavior is better than beauty and that a woman who knows her husband's heart will work with him when times are tough. "Ego Kirikiri" literally means rattling money and refers to the olden days when commerce was conducted with cowrie shells. The group sings "Igbo je akpo ya ojo mma - Igbos called it good money" and "Owerri nnu ahuna onwu ozigbo mmadu bara uba - Owerri, you see that not everyone was rich." Furthermore, "Onye ogazirila nya nwe mmeri - If you are rich you win." Side One concludes with a paean to Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the leader of the separatist state of Biafra, who was pardoned by Nigeria's president at the time, Shehu Shagari, and allowed to return to Nigeria in 1980. The group welcomes Ojukwu back to the land of his birth and sing that they are overjoyed at his return:

Obi Wuru Otu Dance Group of Ihiagwa-Owerri - Nwanyi Ma Obi Diya/Ego Kirikiri (Cowries)/Onye Ije Nno-Ezennadi

On Side Two, the group sing that they are called Obi Wuru Otu - "One Heart for All." They entreat everyone to be careful, because God's way is where humans prove their value. "Ezuru Ezu Baa? Olu - Is everyone rich? No." "Omumu si na Chukwu - To have children is a gift from God." "Ochu Okuko Nwe Ada" is a typical Igbo parable. The lyrics explain that a person who chases a chicken will always fall but the chicken will never fall. If you plot against an innocent person you'll hurt yourself in the end. "Nwa nkpe ya na Eze gbaru mkpe, nwa mkpe atagbuela onye ya na afufu - If a widow gets into a conflict with a King, she will suffer much." The song calls on the Messiah, the one who made a blind person to see and a cripple to walk. Finally, the song "Elu Uwa Were Obi Oma" calls on the people of the world to be kind to get their just rewards:

Obi Wuru Otu Dance Group of Ihiagwa-Owerri - Olum Ado Ogu-Ezuruezuba/Ochu Okuko Nwe Ada/Elu Uwa Were Obi Oma-AFA Nna Na Nwa

Many thanks to my wife Priscilla for translating the lyrics of this record. Download Nwanyi Ma Obi Diya, complete with scans of the album sleeve, here. I have a couple more albums by the Obi Wuru Otu Dance Group, and will probably post them in the future.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Yoruba Muslim Women's Music




We were shopping on Nnamdi Azikiwe St. in central Lagos when we came across a fascinating sight: hundreds of men were prostrate and barefoot in the street, while overhead a speaker blared:


Allahu Akbar
A
sh-had anna lah ilaha illallah
Ash-hadu anna Muħammadar rasulullah

Hayya 'ala-salatt

Hayya 'ala 'l-falah

Allāhu akbar

La ilaha illallah
"The Muslim people are praying," my brother-in-law told me. "Look at them with their faces in the dirt. And these are the people who rule over us." Such was my introduction to Friday prayers at the Central Mosque in Lagos (right), and to the complex subject of ethnic and religious power relations in Nigeria.

Across from the mosque a stall was selling pirated pornographic videotapes with covers that left nothing to the imagination, while shoppers went about their business. The loudspeakers amplified every bit of static in the recorded call to prayer, which echoed among the surrounding buildings. The atmosphere was strange and other-worldly, to my eyes and ears at least. I've believed in no deity since I was twelve, but the spectacle stirred in me trembling feelings of awe and wonderment. For just a minute I was tempted to remove my shoes and join the believers in their devotions.

Needless to say, I don't share the casual bigotry reflected in my brother-in-law's remarks, but they speak to the fact that Nigeria is a nation increasingly divided along ethnic, political and religious lines. Northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim while the southeast of the country is almost exclusively Christian. Other areas, such as the Yoruba region around Lagos, are more complicated in their religious allegiances. About half of the Yoruba are thought to follow Islam while the remainder adhere to various Christian denominations and traditional religion.

Since Independence Nigerian rulers have tended to be Northerners, hence the resentment of "Northern Muslim domination," and at times this friction has given way to violence, notably during the Biafran War of 1967-70 and recent conflicts over the introduction of sharia law in some northern states. Islam came to Yorubaland by conversion rather than through war, and relations among the various religious groups there have been mostly peaceful.

Among Yoruba Muslims in the 19th Century were a group of repatriated slaves from Brazil who have played an important role in the economy and politics of Lagos. Among the distinctive buildings they erected in the city, all of them now in disrepair, is the Shitta Mosque on Martins St. I took this picture of it during my 1994 visit:



Among various styles of Yoruba music which have their roots in the Muslim community are waka, performed by female singers, and apala and fuji, performed by men. While these styles derive from music performed during Muslim holidays such as Ramadan, they have tended to become secularized over time.

I picked up the LP Asalamu Alaekumu (Leader Records 82, 1992) by Sister Riskat Lawal and the Aaqibat Lil-Mutaqeen Society Group during my 1995 visit to Nigeria, and I'm not sure where to situate it within the spectrum of Yoruba Islamic percussion styles. This is clearly a religious recording and not the usual exercise in praise-singing (rather, it praises God rather than rich and powerful individuals), nor is it unique. I take it there are hundreds of recordings in this genre, but I'm not aware that they have a specific label.

No matter what you call it, I'm sure you will find
Asalamu Alaekumu a first-rate example of Yoruba percussion music.

Sister Riskat Lawal & the Aaqibat Lil-Mutaqeen Society Group - Asalamu Alaekumu

Sister Riskat Lawal & the Aaqibat Lil-Mutaqeen Society Group - Allahu Allahu / Eyin Anobi / Ayonfe Oluwa

Sister Riskat Lawal & the Aaqibat Lil-Mutaqeen Society Group - E Gboro Oluwa / Omo Iya Ni Wa / Oro Shekh Adam-Oba To Ni Ike Lodo / Islam Esin Ola

Download Asalamu Alaekumu as a zipped file here.




Sunday, January 10, 2010

Black Warriors




Ronnie Graham's The World of African Music (Pluto Press/Research Associates, 1992) states that Tanzania's DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra recorded several albums and singles in the early '80s under the name "The Black Warriors." Doug Paterson told me a few years ago, though, that The Black Warriors were actually a subgroup of Mlimani who recorded in Nairobi without permission from bandleader Michael Enoch. For this transgression they were expelled from the group, only to return later.

Whatever the true story, in the early '90s Flatim Records in Nairobi compiled six Black Warriors 45s into a compilation cassette, Tunazikumbuka Vol. 20 (AHD [MC] 038), which I present here. This cassette is compiled from vinyl pressings rather than the original source tapes, and Flatim cassettes are well-known for their dodgy technical standards. The quality of the musical performances shines through nonetheless, and I'm sure you'll enjoy hearing alternate versions of some Mlimani classics.

The Black Warriors - Nawashukuru Wazazi Wangu Pts. 1 & 2


The Black Warriors - Zimbabwe Pts. 1 & 2

The Black Warriors - Bubu Ataka Kusama Pts. 1 & 2

The Black Warriors - Nalala Kwa Tabu Pts. 1 & 2

The Black Warriors - Najuta Pts. 1 & 2


The Black Warriors - Uzuri wa Mtu Sio Sura Pts. 1 & 2

Download Tunazikumbuka Vol. 20 as a zipped file here. The artwork at the top of this post is by Tanzanian artist Mwamedi Chiwaya, and is in a style called Tingatinga. It is taken from this website.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Jaliba Sounds


Another musician from the Gambia winds up our look at "updated" kora music. Unlike the two previous artists featured here, I was able to find out a fair bit about Mr. Jaliba Kuyateh, who is called "The Cultural Ambassador of the Gambia."

He has been playing the kora since the age of five and has been performing with his group, the Kumarehs, since the early '90s. They have toured the United States as well as throughout Europe.

Like the music of Ebrima Tata Jobateh, Kuyateh's sound combines vigorous kora playing with a full array of electric instruments and drum kit as well as local percussion. The cassette Hera Bangku (Kerewan Sounds, 1995) is an excellent introduction to his music. Enjoy!

Jaliba Kuyateh & the Kumarehs - Hera Bangku

Jaliba Kuyateh & the Kumarehs - Sherifolu

Jaliba Kuyateh & the Kumarehs - Julu-Jo


Jaliba Kuyateh & the Kumarehs - Fitna

Jaliba Kuyateh & the Kumarehs - Kebalang Camara

Jaliba Kuyateh & the Kumarehs - Nyananding

Download Hera Bangku as a zipped file here. More music by Jaliba Kuyateh is available here.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Malian Arrow




I'm not sure Ama Maïga's Une Fleche Malienne (Disques Sonics SONICS 79426, ca. 1984) succeeds completely as a fusion between traditional Malian kora sounds and modern African pop, but it was one of the first, and certainly bears a listen or two. Graeme Counsel's Burkinabé vinyl discography notes a 1976 pressing by Maïga, but that's the extent of what I've been able to find out about him. He recorded this one-off in Paris with a crew of session musicians and then dropped off the map, never to be heard from again. Enjoy!

Ama Maïga - Keleya

Ama Maïga - Lannaya-Tilebana

Ama Maïga - Souboury

Ama Maïga - Djougou Sago

Download Une Fleche Malienne as a zipped file here.