Thursday, October 13, 2011

Adventures in Angularity

I hate to say this, but it's been ages since Ebenezer Obey has waxed anything worth listening to. For the last twenty years he's been devoting himself to spreading the Gospel, only occasionally setting foot in a studio to record something of a religious nature. Not that I'm putting that sort of thing down, of course. It's just that I miss the days when the Chief Commander was on the cutting edge of jùjú music, notably with a series of LPs in the early '80s that combined deep Yoruba roots music and funky R&B influences.

I'm going to post the 1980 LP Current Affairs here (Decca DWAPS 488, released in the UK as Oti OTI 488), not because it's my favorite of these recordings (that honor goes to Eyi Yato, also released in 1980, which I'll probably make available in the future) but because more than any other record it displays the brilliant blend of Yoruba harmonies, off-beat blue notes and discordant, "angular" sounds that defines the '80s Obey style. As an illustration of what I mean, check out the passage in "Oba Sijuade" that begins at the 6:35 mark:

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & his Inter-Reformers Band - Oba Sijuade

"Oba Sijuade" comemmorates the coronation in 1980 of Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade as the Ooni of Ifè, one of the foremost traditional leaders of the Yoruba people. Legend has it that at the site of the present-day city of Ile-Ifè the supreme being Olódùmarè directed the creation of the world. The god Obàtálá created human beings out of clay, while the god Oduduwa became the first leader of the Yoruba nation. It is said that all of the succeeding Oonis are direct descendents of Oduduwa. In his 1969 release On the Town (Decca WAPS 28), Obey also paid tribute to then-prince Sijuade.

The great Ibadan Flood Disaster of 1980, in which the Ogunpa River overflowed, killing at least 100 people and laying a good part of the city waste, is commemorated on side 2 of Current Affairs. It is ironic that on August 26 of this year, five days short of the 31st anniversary of that calamity, and despite many years of attempts to channelize the Ogunpa, the river overwhelmed its banks again, exacting a similar toll in lives and property:

Download Current Affairs as a zipped file here. In the course of researching this post, I was saddened to read of the death on August 23 of Juliana Olaide Obey-Fabiyi, Ebenezer Obey's wife of 48 years. I'm sure everyone reading this will join me in offering Mr. Obey their deepest condolences.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Heads Up

Kudos to Siemon Allen at the always-worthwhile Electric Jive blog for Miriam Makeba - Tracks Less Travelled (1958-98), a fascinating overview of the work of the great South African diva. There are plenty of audio rarities here and lots of little-known facts. Altogether a must-read and must-listen, and highly recommended!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Smooth as Butter

Congo music doesn't get much smoother and more elegant than Bumba Massa's 1982 outing L'Argent et la Femme (Star Musique SMP6017), recorded in Togo with the participation of Bopol Mansiamina, Syran Mbenza and Lokassa ya Mbongo, among others. When I posted Bumba's 1983 LP Dovi earlier this year, I promised this one would be coming your way also. Enjoy!

Bumba Massa - L'Argent et la Femme

Download L'Argent et la Femme as a zipped file here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cameroon Fever Vol. 1

Ken Abrams does it again with Cameroon Fever Vol. 1, a tasty collection of tracks from that country, mostly from the golden '80s, when Makossa, Makassy, Tchamassi and Bikutsi ruled.

A few notes about some of the artists here: Besides being a prolific artist in his own right, Isidore Tamwo in the '80s was the producer of Sam Fan Thomas, who achieved world fame with his smash "African Typic Collection," among others. Andre-Marie Tala popularized the Tchamassi rhythm and won a court case against James Brown for plagiarizing his hit "Hot Koki." Betuel Enola is better known as a backup singer for the likes of Manu Dibango and Lapiro de Mbanga, but she did make at least one solo recording, Propriete Privée, from which the song "Oa" is taken. The Golden Sounds, led by Jean Paul Zé Bella, are arguably one of the most influential African groups of all time, thanks to their 1986 smash "Zangalewa," better known as "Waka Waka," whose serpentine history is discussed by Uchenna Ikonne here.

Johnny Tezano acheived fame in the '80s with a synthesis of Camerounian and Congolese music that he called Ma-kwassa, while Ebanda Manfred is best known as the author of the song "Ami," made famous by Bebe Manga (and which you can download here). Jean Bikoko Aladin, who passed away last year, was one of the founders of modern Camerounian music, who popularized the Assiko style in the early '60s.

1. Emancipée Mariama - Isidore Tamwo
2. Celle Qui T'A Aime - Andre-Marie Tala
3. Oa - Betuel Enola
4. Maladie Difficile - Golden Sounds
5. Bobe Na Bongo - Cella Stella
6. S.O.S Mon Coeur - Marcel Tjahe
7. Balong - Maurice Njoume
8. Carreau Magique - Johnny Tezano
9. Baby Na Mamy Na - Ebanda Manfred
10. Humanisme African - Tonye Jackson
11. A Yiga Tchome - Jean Bikoko Aladin Et L'Assiko Rigueur
12. Pane Pane - Georges Seba
13. Mengabo Wo Dze - Alao Javis
Download Cameroon Fever Vol. 1 here. And explore Ken Abrams's artwork here.