Friday, May 2, 2008

The Real Deal

A few posts back I decried the current state of Igbo music, with its lack of true musicianship and over-reliance on synthesizers and drum machines, singling out for special scorn recent recordings by Morocco Maduka. Reader/listener Tom Aernaert in Belgium promised us some vintage recordings by the great Maduka, and he's followed through.

Maduka, who I understand hails from Awka in Anambra state, is one of the great traditional Igbo praise-singers, taking his place beside such eminences as Area Scatter, Show Promoter, and Chief Akunwafor Ezigbo Obiligbo.
Obioma Special (Sammy Sparkle All Stars SSAS 011, 1981) is the sort of album that made me fall in love with Igbo traditional music. It's all here: the traditional percussion (nary a synthesizer in earshot!), the brilliant interplay of the call-and-response vocals and the lyrics touching on contemporary concerns. Of course, there's the usual obsequious praise-singing, but that's par for the course. One thing I find quite unusual about Obioma Special is the use of talking-drum, something I've never heard in any other Igbo recording. Did there just happen to be a Yoruba musician hanging around the studio the day the recording was made, who was invited to join in?

"Obioma Special" is a song in honor of the Obioma Social Club, one of the many fraternal societies that arose in Igboland following the Biafra war. These social clubs, comprised of the upper crust of Igbo society, undertake various charitable and civic works such as financing schools and building hospitals. Maduka recites the motto of the Club, "Honesty, Love and Unity," and lists the various officers. The chorus, "Uwa Amaka Nma," means "The World is Beautiful."

Emeka Morocco Maduka & his Minstrels - Obioma Special

"Abortion Special" concerns a debate in Parliament regarding the subject of abortion. It is stated that there is a problem with young girls getting pregnant out of wedlock and resorting to the practice. How is this problem to be addressed? Maduka does not take a stand for or against abortion, although it is frowned on in traditional society and is generally illegal under Nigerian law, except to save the life of the mother. The chorus, "Agboyi Atulu Ime," means "a young girl gets pregnant."

Emeka Morocco Maduka & his Minstrels - Abortion Special

"Awka Leaders of Thought"
sings the praises of various notables ("Ndi Eze") in Maduka's home town.

Emeka Morocco Maduka & his Minstrels - Awka Leaders of Thought

Thanks once again to my wife Priscilla for interpreting the lyrics of these songs.


Frank Partisan said...

Really good blog.

Good music is a pleasure of life.

Anonymous said...

You fail to mention one of the forerunners of this brand of music Okonkwo Asa aka Seven Seven. Well done all the same.

Anonymous said...

Anon: Thank you. I'm not as familiar with the history of this music as I'd like to be. I do have numerous recordings, including one by Seven Seven. If you'd like to give me more information, which I'd be happy to pass on to Likembe readers, get in touch with me at beadlejp at yahoo dot com.

Anonymous said...

Sorry John, don't really know much about him. Can only say he belongs to the tradition of storytelling in song of which mike ejeaya is perhaps the best known. His brand was however laced with humor and wordplay. Learnt his drink was poisoned in a local bar and he died. Do you have anything by Imo Brothers?

Anonymous said...

Seven-Seven was a great minstrel from Enugu Ukwu (Umu Nri LGA of Anambra state). To the best of my recollection, he was the first to introduce a guitar (or any other string instrument for that matter) into egwu ekpili. One of his greatest hits was a song dedicated to Power Mike's wrestling match with Alibaba of Lebanon in Enugu. He had become a seasoned and renown musician before ever Emeka Maduka came on board. Emeka is from Ukwulu, although Awka remained his base most of his adult life. I watched Emeka grow from a raw young talent to what he's become today. He used to frequent Umuokpu village in Awka when I was completing my high school at the Anglican Technical Secondary school, Nawfia. We used to sneak out of the hostel to watch him.

Thanks John for providing these oldies for our enjoyment.

parkheaven said...

JB I'm happy you are back, can you make more post on Morocco maduka, I mean his old school tracks

John B. said...

Thanks Parkheaven. I think these may be the only recordings by Morocco Maduka I have, but I'll look for more.