Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Jùjú Music in the '90s

I've been collecting Nigerian music since the 1970s, but never actually made it to the country until 1994 and 1995. By then it was apparent that the music industry was going through a crisis, or at least big, big changes. The Nigerian affiliates of the two international record companies, Polydor and EMI, had been sold off and changed their names to Premier Music and Ivory Music respectively, while Afrodisia, formerly Decca West Africa, had gone inactive. A few LPs were still being pressed, but most "official" music distribution was via low-quality cassettes. The industry was suffering a death by a thousand cuts as pirated cassettes swamped the market.

By the mid-'90s in southwestern Nigeria jùjú music had been eclipsed by fújì and other styles, as I've discussed earlier. King Sunny Adé and Ebenezer Obey were still on the scene, though with lower profiles. Their more laid-back, philosophical brand of jùjú had given way to a frenetic, materialistic version, epitomized above all by Sir Shina Peters, who sang of the good life and conspicuous consumption.

"Wonder" Dayo Kujore, born in 1958, is another exponent of the new jùjú sound. Like Shina Peters, he served his apprenticeship in the band of Prince Adekunle, playing lead guitar on some of the maestro's biggest hits. Kujore soon left to form his own group, but it wasn't until the early '90s that he really made a mark with albums like Super Jet, Easy Life and today's offering, 1993's Sọkọ Xtra (Ivory Music IVR 039), one of his biggest hits ever.

The basic elements of the 1990s jùjú sound are all here: the punchy, forward-driving rhythms complete with electronic drum pad, synthesizers and no pedal steel guitar to be found. And check out the Paul Simon reference in the opening bars of "Eko Ayo!"

I've always preferred "Old School" jùjú myself, but newer productions like Sọkọ Xtra have their attractions. Enjoy!

Download Sọkọ Xtra as a zipped file here.


JMcL said...

I began visiting Nigeria in 1990 and had never seen an LP for sale until I recently encountered the cratediggers corner at JazzHole. What I did see was plenty of 'record stores' with LP covers on display in the window and behind the counter. But when you asked for a record they pulled out a copy on cassette. My suspicion was that the records and their sleeves were just tools to promote the various 'recording studios' pumping out low quality cassette copies. I suspect no shop bought more than one copy of an LP, and they wouldn't sell it because they needed it to make multiple copies to order. The same type of thing still happens today when you buy an official looking CD, Ebenezer Obey Volume 42 or whatever, and find a disc copied from crackly old records.

John B. said...

As late as 1989 my wife could find new pressings in the market, but by the time I got there in '94 the situation was just as you describe. Of course the cassette copy shops didn't want to part with their scratchy old LPs. I did find new pressings by going directly to the record companies, Ivory Music in this case. I was lucky with Rogers All Stars also.