Showing posts with label Awijiri. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Awijiri. Show all posts

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Awijiri: Ijaw Music from the Niger River Delta




The Ijaw people, who number close to ten million people, are the fourth largest nationality in Nigeria. They are a majority in Bayelsa State and constitute large minorities in Rivers and Delta States.

Ijaws have a long history of resistance against various central governments. Under British colonial rule this took the form of agitation for a separate Ijaw-majority "Rivers State," and this advocacy continued following independence in 196o. In 1966 Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro led an armed rebellion against the governments of Nigeria and the Eastern Region, declaring a Niger Delta Republic on February 23 of that year. When it was suppressed after twelve days, Boro was jailed, only to be pardoned in May 1967 on the outbreak of the Biafran war of independence. Boro fought on the side of the Federal government in that conflict and died a year later in battle near Okrika.

The creation of Rivers State in 1967, separating it from the old Eastern Region, delivered a death-blow to the nascent Biafran Republic, rallying the Ijaws and other nationalities of the Delta to the side of the Federal government. Bayelsa was carved out of Rivers State in 1996. In recent years Ijaw youths have taken up arms against the government to demand a bigger share of the oil revenue which comes from facilities in the Niger Delta.

Looking at the map below, the Ijaw inhabit an area roughly south of a line leading from Warri in Delta State, through Patani and Port Harcourt, ending around Opobo:



The Ijaw have their own indigenous form of highlife music, called awigiri. It is almost completely unknown outside of Nigeria, but has produced many popular musicians and recordings over the years. In a recent post I featured a song by Ijaw musician Peanock Timibi, and a further exploration of this music seemed like a good idea.

Anthony Cockson, from Tarakiri, Bayelsa State, is a popular musician in the Delta, judging by the number of recordings he has released, but I know nothing else about him. Here's a tune from his LP Edogbo Special (Cockson Records CR 01, 1984). "Late Brother Iddo" is compelling not only for the oddly poetic lyrics, the saga of the business tycoon Mr. Iddo, murdered in his sleep, ". . .slaughtered with an axe like a cattle in an abattoir. . . like a tale told by an idiot. . .war war, blood blood, rent the air. . . " but for the hypnotic bassline, which creates an otherworldly atmosphere:

Anthony Cockson & his Oyadonghan Dance Band of Tarakiri - Late Brother Iddo



A.S. Eseduwo, of Angalabri, Bayelsa State, likewise has released a number of records, but is also difficult to find information about. The lovely highlife "Aki-Kiri Mele-Mele," from 1984's Late Ebizimor of Okumbri (Croseide CKLP 001), showcases nimble guitar work and keyboard and the vocal contributions of two young boys, apparently Mr. Eseduwo's younger brothers:

A.S. Eseduwo & his Top Stars Dance Band of Angalabri - Aki-Kiri Mele-Mele



King Robert Ebizimor, from Alabiri in Bayelsa State, is probably the best-known Ijaw musician living today. He started out in 1973 with the Professional Seagulls Dance Band in Port Harcourt, the former backup group of Rex Lawson led by David Bull, and has recorded over 20 albums. "Ebi-Ere Ke Bede Egbe" is taken from his 1990 LP Arekedoumene Ogbo of Endoro (Iwa-Lewa IWA 018):

King Robert Ebizimor - Ebi-Ere Ke Bede Egbe



Barrister S. Smooth of Enekorogha, Delta State has a number of videos on the internet, including this one. "Seikeme Tabbe Bofa Ekpe" is taken from the album Young Choppers Union of Warri (Felix FERLP 030, 1991), apparently a tribute to an all-women's charitable society. Don't you just love that title?

Barrister S. Smooth & his Young Heroes Dance Band of Enekorogha - Seikeme Tagbe Bofa Ekpe



Next up, a couple of extended tracks that are not really awigiri per se, but could be described at "Ijaw Native Blues." First, Birifou & his Ama-Ebimo Group of Gbekebor, Delta State. This is from their LP Mr. Dolokwei R. Kenekodo (Coconut COLP 240, 1979):

Birifou & his Ama-Ebimo Group of Gbekebor - Mr. Dolokowei R. Kenekodo/Alotabobor Oru



Chief Bukka & his Cultural Group of Okrika bring things to a close with this wild set of explosive percussion and haunting vocals. Okrika, in Rivers State, is a historically significant Niger Delta town. In the 17th Century it was the capital of the Kingdom of Okrika and was a center of the slave trade and later of the palm oil trade. Presently it is important in the petroleum industry. This is side 1 of the LP Owolo Wolo (Willisco WMSLP 1024, 1980):

Chief Bukka & his Cultural Group of Okrika - Owolo Wolo/Tubo Pumbo Ba/Akumaya/Owu Ama Pu/Bukka Bo Iwa Owuti/Toku Bie



By the way, the picture at the top of the post is apropos of nothing in particular. I just took it off the back of one of these albums and thought it was cool.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Something to Listen to While Eating a Puu-Puu Platter




Uchenna over at With Comb and Razor posts a song by Uyo-based band Sunny Risky and the Vitamin Explosions, which he says is the "Best. Band Name. Ever."

I agree, that's a pretty awesome appellation. In fact, the only band name that I can think of that comes close is Brother Charlly Computer and The Gloria Kings.

Which got me to thinking about peculiar and/or unintentionally humorous band names and album titles, including the one at the top of this post, Pee Pee Special, by P.T. Foo and His Jolly Band of Nigeria (Sir Dolu Records SDR 002, 1986). Mr. Foo (Peanock Timibi) is an Ijaw musician from Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta, which has been the scene of much unrest in recent years.

Ijaw highlife music, called Awigiri, is almost completely unknown outside of Nigeria, but shares the sweet-and-sour vocal quality of its Ghanaian counterpart. I plan to devote a future post to a number of musicians from this area of Nigeria. Here's a tune from the album:

P.T. Foo & his Jolly Band of Nigeria - Tunisa Ebi Na Meiye

I will confess that I have listened to the records featured in this post maybe once in the ten or twelve years since Priscilla and I feretted them out of a used-records store in Ajegunle, the "Eastern" ghetto of Lagos. The musicians here are not well-known, even in Nigeria, nor even the most professional. What they lack in polish, though, they more than make up for in sheer, sloppy exuberance. They may be "no-hit wonders" but they're going to make the most of it!

When Uchenna mentioned Sunny Risky in the aforementioned post, I thought the name sounded familiar, so I dug through my collection and came up with another album by him, although the Vitamin Explosions aren't mentioned on the sleeve. It's 1988's Eti Uwem (Itiabasco ITRLP 019). The title track is a lively number in the Osadebe vein with some inspired saxophone work:

Sunny Risky - Eti Uwem



The Efik, Ibibio and Annang ethnic groups, who speak closely related languages, comprise about 3½ million people in the southeastern corner of Nigeria. No doubt there is a lively music scene in this area, but I'm not very familiar with it outside of the 4-5 LPs in my collection. Like Sunny Risky & the Vitamin Explosions, U.T. Isenem & his Black Mirrors are an Ibibio group. Their name qualifies them for attention in this post - what good would a "Black Mirror" do you?

The off-key bass line that opens "Konga," from 1976's Obio Cross River (Anodisc ALPS 1007) leads into some inspired dance-band highlife in the Inyang Henshaw/Rex Lawson vein. I don't know if the Black Mirrors made any other records, but this one is a real gem:

U.T. Isenem & his Black Mirrors - Konga



We close out this post with some Igbo highlife by Federal Emmison Papa & his Stich [sic] in Time Band of Nigeria. I don't know who Federal Emmison Papa is but the group itself is led by Chuwuemeka Okonkwo. "Onye ka Madu" from 1986's 'Anyi N'ele Uwa (Fepson FLPS 001) showcases some enthusiastic guitar and nice horn work:

Federal Emmison Papa & his Stich in Time Band of Nigeria - Onye Ka Madu