Showing posts with label Juju. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Juju. Show all posts

Thursday, July 5, 2012

That Old-Time Jùjú Music




Like a lot of people, I got into Nigerian jùjú music in 1982 when King Sunny Adé hit the international scene. In short order Ebenezer Obey, Dele Abiodun and Segun Adewale were introduced to world audiences, with varying degrees of success. Before them, though, I.K. Dairo was the true king of jùjú .

Isaiah Kehinde Dairo (b. January 6, 1931), the son of a carpenter, performed with many of the greats of the Ibadan jùjú scene while working days in a variety of odd jobs. He launched his first professional group, the Morning Star Orchestra, in 1954, changing their name to the Blue Spots in the early '60s. Dairo introduced the accordion to jùjú music and was responsible for many of the innovations, including Latin American and Christian choral influences and the use of various dialects, that are hallmarks of the mature jùjú style.

Dairo and the Blue Spots went into eclipse during the '70s with the ascension of younger stars, but made a comeback in the '80s, achieving international recognition with several CD reissues and new recordings. Ma F'owuro Sere (Ibukun Orisun Iye MOLPS 112, 1987), presented here, is an excellent example of I.K. Dairo's late style (I apologize for a bit of unfortunate "wow" on Side 1, apparently caused by a spindle hole that is slightly off-center).

Dairo died February 7, 1996 of renal failure. His wake-keeping, beginning on April 15, went on for five days and was attended by tens of thousands. In addition all Nigerian musicians refrained from performing during that time and Radio Nigeria played nothing but his music. Truly a fitting tribute to a giant of Nigerian music!

I.K. Dairo & his Blue Spots Band - Ise Aje Ma Le/Eniyan Boni Lara/Ore Mura

I.K. Dairo & his Blue Spots Band - Ba Wa Segun Ota a Mbere/Olorun Oba Kan Na La Npe/Ka Wo Ehin Wo/E Ma F'etu Sere/Ija O Yewa

Download Ma F'owuro Sere as a zipped file here. Information for this post was derived from the liner notes of two excellent recordings, Definitive Dairo (Xenophile XENO 4045, 1997) and I Remember (Music of the World CDC-212, 1991), as well as Christopher Waterman's definitive Jùjú: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music (University of Chicago Press, 1990). These are all available for purchase or download (just click on the links)!


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.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Another Re-Up




Occupying a location somewhere near the intersection of Afrobeat, Juju and garage rock, the album Uhuru Aiye by Bob Ohiri and his Uhuru Sounds (Ashiko Records AR 001, ca. 1985) is often rumored but seldom heard. A track from it appears on the new collection Nigeria Afrobeat Special (Soundway SNWCD021), so it's worth taking a closer look.

Bob Ohiri was a guitarist with Sunny Adé's African Beats and is said to have briefly played with Fela's Africa '70, although I can't confirm that. The "Uhuru Sounds" were apparently a one-off - basically just some guys jamming in the recording studio. The only members credited on the sleeve are "Prince," "Bob" and "Shegun."

So what to make of the music? Uhuru Aiye is truly an odd and idiosyncratic amalgam - like no "World Music™" or "Afrobeat" or "Afrofunk" you've ever heard. It doesn't always succeed, but when it does it works very well.

Like my previous posts "Unknown Fela," Uhuru Aiye was originally contributed by me to Uchenna Ikonne's blog
With Comb and Razor. It went off-line a while back, so I thought I'd make it available again.

Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Ariwo Yaa

Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Obhiha

Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Aiye


Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Nigeria London na Lagos


Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Imo State Express


Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Africa is Free for Us

Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - I Like to Be Free

Download Uhuru Aiye as a zipped file here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Navigating the Boundary Between Highlife and Jùjú




There's been a lot of good jùjú on the Internets lately - from Comb & Razor here and here, Worldservice here and here, and at Snap, Crackle & Pop here - so I figured why shouldn't I get into the act? Besides, it's been a while since I posted some good old Yoruba Soul Music.

I can tell you very little about Ade Wesco and his Destiny Dandies. Wesco rates a brief entry in Ronnie Graham's The World of African Music (Pluto Press/Research Associates, 1992) where his sound is described as ". . . highlife enriched with traditional percussion and distinctly Yoruba vocals." The label of his LP Aye Wa Adun (Ibukun Orisun Iye MOLPS 35, 1976) describes the contents as "jùjú," and judging by that album at least (the only one by him I've heard, although he released a number of others) his music is a true synthesis of the two styles, much like that of Orlando Owoh.

Be that as it may, you can decide for yourself. Here's the album in full. It's fine, fine stuff:

Ade Wesco & his Destiny Dandies - Aye Wa Adun/Adun ni Gbehin Ewuro/Ibukun Orisun Iye/Tiwa ni Tiwa

Ade Wesco & his Destiny Dandies - Ogo ni Fun Baba Loke/Irawo Wa Ntan Loke/A Dupe Baba Wa/Bayi Loda/Amariran Wo/Oniyeye


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

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ebenezer Obey On The Town!




As I promised, here is the second installment of ground-breaking classic jùjú by the great Ebenezer Obey, his LP On The Town (Decca WAPS 30, reissued as Obey WAPS), recorded in London in 1970. Here we find the Chief Commander and his International Brothers stretching out with a non-stop medley on Side 1. Side 2 features two extended cuts. I especially enjoyed the highlife "Ajoyio/Ore Mi Maje Aja." For more information on the songs click on the picture below.

Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Lagos State/Ekiti/Ife/A Omo Enia Luware O/Davies/Adebayo

Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Adupe Baba/Akunle/Tonny Anny

Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ajoyio/Ore Mi Maje Aja



Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why I'm an "Ebenezer Man"




Those of a certain age, like me, will remember when the Beatles first hit the international scene in late 1963. Within a few months
Beatlemania swept around the world like a tsunami.

We Beatlemaniacs (the male ones, anyway) soon divided ourselves into two factions: "Paul Men" and "John Men." Of course, all the girls were crazy about Paul McCartney, the "Cute Beatle," and "Paul Men" loved his bitchen' bass guitar that looked like a violin. "The Smart Beatle," John Lennon, didn't get as much attention at first. But while McCartney always had a way with the catchy melody, it was Lennon who contributed the most meaningful and insightful lyrics to the Beatles canon. He had a nuanced and cynical view of human nature that struck a chord with the youthful and rebellious. That's why, even though Lennon and McCartney complimented each other perfectly, and none of the work they did on their own ever equaled what they did together, I've always been a "John Man."

I suspect that jùjú music fans similarly divide themselves into factions following King Sunny Adé and Ebenezer Obey (just for sake of argument, we will leave out of the equation I.K. Dairo, Prince Adekunle and the like, much less the silly Shina Peters!).

King Sunny Adé was the one who brought
jùjú music out of Nigeria in 1982, when his LP Juju Music was released on Island Records, but of course he didn't create the style. Nor did Ebenezer Obey, but he'd been playing jùjú since the mid-1950s, and founded his International Brothers Band (later re-named the Inter-Reformers) in 1964. Following Sunny's initial success, there was a desultory attempt to market Obey to an international audience, and a bizarre record, Je Ka Jo (Virgin 205761) was released in 1983. A big glob of over-produced mush, Je Ka Jo had nothing to do with jùjú music as it was generally understood, and disappeared without a trace.

If Virgin Records had licensed some of Obey's great Nigerian releases like Current Affairs (Decca WAPS 488), Sound of the Moment (Decca WAPS 498) or Eyi Yato (Decca WAPS 508), they might have gotten somewhere. Those records, all released in 1980, with their soul-stirring Yoruba harmonies, mind-bending guitar work and echoes of American rhythm and blues, display the great Obey at the peak of his powers. In comparison Sunny Adé, as good as he is, is just outclassed.

That's why I'm an "Ebenezer man."

Nigerian fans have their own favorite recordings. Board Members (Decca WAPS 38, 1972) is probably the most popular of Obey's early releases, while many swear by The Horse, The Man and His Son (Decca WAPS 98, 1973). I myself have always been partial to two albums he recorded in London in 1969 and 1970, In London (Decca WAPS 28, later reissued as Obey WAPS 28), and On the Town (Decca WAPS 30, reisued as Obey 30).
In the coming years Obey would adopt some of the innovations of the other jùjú musicians - pedal steel guitar and long, extended jams - but these albums are interesting for their blend of jùjú and highlife elements.

Here's In London. Click on the picture below to read about the songs. When I digitize it, I will post On the Town here as well.

Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Egba


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ijesha


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ibadan


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Iba Foluwa/Ajo Kodabi Ile


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ijebu


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ondo/Ogbomosho


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ori Mi Ko Ni Buru


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ore Se Rere


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Omoba Sijuade/Moti Wa E



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Merry Christmas!


As you would expect this time of year, things have been super hectic around here, and I just haven't had time to post. There's not a lot of African Christmas music out there, but I did manage to dig up a couple of tunes for your holiday enjoyment. Our first selection is by Kenya's Kilimambogo Brothers Band, "Shangilia Christmas Pts. 1 & 2," (Les Klimambogo LES 22). The second is side 1 of Ebenezer Obey's (left) 1972 LP Odun Keresimesi (Decca WAPS 62), also known as A Christmas Special From the King of Juju.

I'll try to get in another post in the next couple of days (I've got a couple in the hopper; I'm just working on the finishing touches), but if I don't: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, a festive Kwaanzaa, whatever!

Les Kilimambogo Brothers - Shangilia Christmas Pts. 1 & 2


Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & His International Brothers Band - Odun Keresimesi / Irinse Lo Jona Obey O Jona / Irin Ajo / Ile Oba To Jo


Update: I just found out that Eid Al-Adha begins Thursday, December 20 this year. My very best wishes to all of our Muslim friends, and I apologize for overlooking this earlier.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nigeria's Unsung Prince of Juju


Most people who have a passing acquaintance with African music are familiar with juju music from Nigeria, and its most famous practitioner, King Sunny Ade. If they've done a little more exploring they've probably come across the music of Ebenezer Obey, I.K. Dairo or Dele Abiodun.

Chances are, though, that they've never heard of "General" Prince Adekunle, which is a shame, because he's easily among the first rank of juju artistes. I have been unable to find out anything about Mr. Adekunle personally, or where he may have served his musical apprenticeship. He seems to have made his first recordings in the late 1960s (I suspect he adopted the moniker "General" as a tribute to to the controversial "Black Scorpion," General Benjamin Adekunle, who played a critical role on the Federal side during the Biafra War.)

During his 1970s glory days Adekunle's Western Brothers band (later renamed the Supersonic Sounds) was the proving ground for numerous juju musicians, notably Segun Adewale and Sir Shina Peters, who have acheived far more fame internationally than their mentor. He issued numerous popular recordings during that decade, his output slowing during the 1980s. After 1990's People!!! (Ibukun Orisun Iye MOLPS 118) little has been heard from him. His decline in popularity seems to parallel the declining fortunes of juju itself.

In the hopes of giving more attention to this unjustly neglected artist, I present here a sample of recordings by Mr. Adekunle, all from the late '60s or 1970s. With the exception of the 1975 selection, these are taken from cassette reissues rather than the original vinyl. The sound quality, though, isn't too bad, and I think you'll agree that the musicianship more than compensates for any deficiencies.

Our first three tunes are from a cassette entitled Good Old Music of Prince Adekunle (Ibukun Orisun Iye MOLPS 72), which compiled a number of 45s made by Adekunle at the beginning of his career, probably in the late '60s. "Bisimilai" is notable for its use of the trumpet, almost unheard of in juju, while "Ko Sore Bi Jesu/Ofofo O Da" pays tribute to Victor Uwaifo's "Joromi" in its opening bars:

Prince Adekunle & his Western Brothers - Bisimilai


Prince Adekunle & his Western Brothers - Se Rere Fun Mi

Prince Adekunle & his Western Brothers -
Ko Sore Bi Jesu/Ofofo O Da

1972's General Prince Adekunle in the United Kingdom (Ibukun Orisun Iye MOLPS 6), finds Adekunle & the band in an expansive mood, in one of those 18-minute jams that had by then become de riguer for any juju band:

General Prince Akekunle & his Western Brothers - London Special

By 1975 the Western Brothers had become the Supersonic Sounds, and had developed an even spacier, more "psychedelic" sound. Although Side A of You Tell Me That You Love Me Baby (Ibukun Orisun Iye MOLPS 30) is one of the more exciting, danceable sequences in the juju canon, check out the groove Adekunle & the band get going on this, the B side:

General Prince Adekunle & his Supersonic Sounds - Aiye Nreti Eleya/Aropin Ni T'enia/Eni To Lohun o Fe Tiwa/Awon Ma Wo Won Bo/Ota Ile Dehin Lehin Mi

One thing I find especially charming about juju recordings of the '70s is the musicians' penchant for dropping into the mix anything that catches their fancy: church hyms, Broadway show tunes, what have you. Catch Adekunle's quotation from Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's "Gentleman" late in this medley from 1976's Awodi Nfo Ferere (Ibukun Orisun Iye MOLPS 32):

General Prince Adekunle & his Supersonic Sounds - Omo Niyi Omo Nide/A Ki Nromo Ra Loja/Ma Se'ka Iwo Ore/Esan Nbo Wa

Discography of Prince Adekunle