About 20 years ago my wife Priscilla brought back from Nigeria about 40 albums of Ijaw (Izon)-language highlife music, or Awigiri, from the Niger Delta that she'd gotten at a used record store in Lagos.
Of course, I knew Igbo-language highlife from eastern Nigeria, but this was totally unfamiliar to me. I'll admit that I didn't warm to it immediately. I devoted a Likembe post to this music ten years ago, but apart from a few cursory listens these records have mostly sat on my shelf since I got them.
Recently, though, I decided that I would sit down and sytematically digitize every single Ijaw record that I have. For the past few weeks I've been immersing myself in Awigiri, and it's a revelation! I've realized that I wasn't giving this stuff a fair hearing. I had been listening to it in reference to other styles I was more familiar with, but Awigiri must be accepted on its own terms!
Musically Awigiri has more in common with the minor-key sounds of Ghana highlife than other Nigerian styles. It certainly lacks the immediate punch of the music of Nigerian highlife legends Warrior or the Ikenga Super Stars, or the sophisticated arrangements of Chief Stephen Osadebe. It's a guitar and percussion-based music that comes at you in a more subtle, roundabout way, but delivers big time.
Take today's musical selection, Edogbo Special Vol. 2, by Anthony Cockson and his Oyadongha Dance Band (Cockson Records CRLP 005, 1986). That previous Likembe post featured an outstanding tune by them, "Late Brother Iddo," from Edogbo Special Vol. 1 (Cockson Records CRLP 001, 1984). The title tracks of both albums are tributes to Mr. Cockson's late mother Madam Edogbo Perefa. Here the band is firing on all cylinders; the guitar work in particular is spectacular. The musicians on Vol. 2 aren't credited, but I would assume they are the same as on Vol. 1. These are Mr. Cockson on vocals, Sayerigha on lead guitar, Paa Pee on bass and Free on rhythm guitar, Dare Saturday on drums, Ogbo-Akedei Zitare on clips, A. Lucky on maraccas and P. Timi-Ebe on congas.
Ubulujaja over at the Highlife Turntable blog is also into Ijaw highlife and posts it often. He's been in touch with the son of Bestman Doupere, another well-known musician from the Delta, who relates that Mr. Cockson, Mr. Doupere and another musician named King Ebizimor were all from Sagbama in present-day Bayelsa State and played together before they all embarked on solo careers. I plan to post music by these musicians and others from the area in the future.
Download Edogbo Special Vol. 2 as a zipped file here.