Showing posts with label Nigeria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nigeria. Show all posts

Friday, October 12, 2018

"Some Beautiful Woman Are Dangerous"



The Okukuseku International Band, led by Sammy Koffi, was a Ghanaian group that made its way to Nigeria in the '70s and built an enduring career there. In this Okukuseku was not alone: the '70s oil boom was like a giant magnet that drew musical talent from across Africa. When the Nigerian economy crashed in the '80s these musicians were all sent packing. Sammy and Okukuseku apparently also retreated to Ghana, but by 1989 they were back in Nigeria, where today's offering, Beautiful Woman (His Master's Voice/EMI Nigeria HMV (N) 061), was recorded.

Sammy Koffi himself  started out with K. Gyasi's band in Ghana in the '60s, before leaving to form Okukuseku's No. 2 Guitar Band in 1969. I've been wanting to post something from Okukuseku for a while. Thing is, quite a bit of their material has been posted on various blogs already, notably Moos's Global Groove, which has an extensive selection. Beautiful Woman, to the best of my knowledge, has not been made available before. In fact, it's not even included in Discogs' extensive listing. So, double bonus!

The title song, "Beautiful Woman," seems to draw on the same sentiment as, if it's not directly inspired by, Jimmy Soul's 1963 smash "If You Want to Be Happy," but I really enjoy the extended jam that takes up Side Two of this LP. I hope you'll enjoy it also!




Download Beautiful Woman as a zipped file here. Side A of this pressing was off-center, resulting in a slight "wow." My apologies, couldn't do anything about it!


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Between Man and Money



I've been posting some of the many Hausa cassettes from northern Nigeria in my collection with a bit of anxiety. It's not a genre I'm terribly familiar with - most of the documentation online is in Hausa. In terms of rhythm and orchestration, let's just say this music is not terribly ostentatious. Hausa music's attractions seem to lie in the quality of the lyrics, which I'm told can be poetic, legendary and amusing. But since I don't know Hausa or anyone who does, I can't tell you anything about them, other than what I can glean from the internet.

Still, Google Analytics and download statistics from Mediafire tell me that my Hausa postings have garnereed a fair amount of interest, so I'll keep putting them up here. Maybe someone reading this who knows Hausa can help fill in the blanks for us.

Today's featured artist, Alhaji Audu Wazirin Danduna (above), was one of the more popular Hausa bards. He passed away on July 6, 2013 after a long career marked by many beloved songs, including "Alhaji Abubakar Sarkin Karaye" ("Great King Abubakar") and "Dan Adam da Kudi" ("Between Man and Money"), both of which are included on our featured cassette, Harka Sai Da Kudi (EMI Nigeria HMV 032). The second song is the subject of a scholarly paper by Aminu Ali at Bayero University in Kano, "Money and Social Interaction in Simmel’s Philosophy of Money and Audu Wazirin Ɗanduna’s Ballad Tsakanin Ɗan'adam da Kuɗi," which you can download here. Ali writes:

...Wazirin Ɗanduna, in this ballad, Tsakanin Ɗan’ adam da Kuɗi, portrays his perception of the character of money in modern society. His skilful vignette of the character of money and analysis of how it transforms social relationships was similar to Simmel’s philosophy of money. He, like Simmel, sees money as a component of life that aids an understanding of the totality of life. He is of the view that reification, cynicism, a blasé attitude, and impersonal relationships and individualism characterized social life in a money economy. Wazirin Ɗanduna repeatedly narrates, in different stanzas, that money creates and expands social networks among individuals and its possession is inevitable for an individual’s continuous social existence. For instance, he sings:

Hausa:
Wazirin Ɗanduna: Yanzu ba ka mutane sai kana da kuɗi
’Y/Amshi: Tsakanin Ɗan’ adam da Kuɗi

English:
Wazirin Ɗanduna: People relate with you only if you have money
Chorus: Money and a man

Hausa:
Wazirin Ɗanduna: Yanzu duk wata harka sai kana da kuɗi
’Y/Amshi: Tsakanin Ɗan’ adam da Kuɗi

English:
Wazirin Ɗanduna: Every deal nowadays is traced to money
Chorus: Money and a man

In the two stanzas above, Wazirin Ɗanduna also expresses the tragedy of culture; people indispensably need money (the objective culture) in order to relate with others and be functioning members of society, which paves the way for self-reflection and development of self-consciousness (the subjective culture). This means that money has assumed a life of its own, exerting independent influence on the humans who created it.

The impersonal nature of money has also been stressed by Wazirin Ɗanduna. He, like Simmel, affirms that people are connected only by an interest that can be expressed in monetary terms. He also indicates in the stanzas following that money, rather than individuals’ personal qualities and social ties, shapes our everyday dealings with others. In other words, it depersonalizes relationships between individuals; it makes an individual’s personal attributes, other ties, etc. immaterial. For instance, when he says ‘no deals without money’ and ‘every deal nowadays is traced to money,' he underestimates the influence of blood and social ties or, more precisely, envisions them as withering away in modern time. Wazirin Ɗanduna says:

Yanzu ba wata harka sai kana da kuɗi
‘No deals without money’

Yanzu duk wata harka sai kana da kuɗi
‘Every deal nowadays is traced to money’

Akan so mummuna saboda kuɗi
‘Someone ugly is desired because of money’

Ka ga ana ƙin kyakkyawa saboda kuɗi
‘And someone beautiful is rejected because of money

Wazirin Ɗanduna was also interested in analyzing the reification that characterized a money economy. He identifies certain attributes that were hitherto non-monetary, but are nowadays treated as if they are concrete or material things. He specifically emphasizes respect, truth and love as abstract things that are tied to money in the stanzas quoted beneath:

Ko girma ma sai kana da kuɗi
‘Prestige is only tied to money’

Kuma akan yi rashin girma saboda kuɗi
‘And one falls from grace because of money’

Ana ɗaukar magana saboda kuɗi
‘Command is obeyed because of money’

Ana ƙin magana saboda kuɗi
‘And command is disobeyed because of money’

Ana raba ka da girma saboda da kuɗi
‘You can be snubbed without money’

Ҡaramin yaro saboda kuɗi
‘A boy with money’

Ana masa ban girma saboda kuɗi
‘Is respected because of money’

Ana take ƙarya saboda kuɗi
‘a lie is often covered-up because of money’

In the stanzas above, Wazirin Ɗanduna explicitly shows that respect and disrespect are associated with money. He also shows that lies can be covered up and treated as truths because of money. This means that respect and truth are treated as if they are commodities that have prices. To further illustrate this point, he narrates that:

Ko Alhaji ya zo sai ka na da kuɗi
‘Alhaji’s presence is recognized only if he is affluent’

Alhaji ko baya nan don saboda kuɗi
‘Alhaji’s absence is noticed because of money’

In the preceding stanzas, he shows that Alhaji’s (used in this context to refer to a head of a family) presence or absence is recognized even by the members of his family only because of money. This means one’s position in the family does not determine the respect accorded to him or his influence on other members of the family – what determines these things is his or her material position.

Wazirin Ɗanduna also shows that reification has resulted in a blasé attitude; people are unperturbed by certain virtues, they are rather concerned with excessive materialism. To stress this, he, like Simmel, uses marriage for material gain as an example. Wazirin Ɗanduna demonstrates that material consideration assumes more prominence in choosing a marriage partner than genuine personal affection, state of health, temperament, physical appearance, and other non-material virtues possessed by the chosen partner. Wazirin Ɗanduna explicitly shows this in the stanzas below:

Ana auren gurgu saboda kuɗi,
‘A paraplegic is often married because of money’

Ana ƙin mai kafa saboda kuɗi
‘And yet a healthy person is disliked because of money’

Ana son mummuna saboda kuɗi,
‘Someone ugly is desired because of money’

Ka ga ana ƙin kyakkyawa saboda kuɗi
‘And someone beautiful is also rejected because of money’.

The aforesaid stanzas indicate that physical deformities, ugliness and beauty are ignored or, to put it differently, are less important in selecting a partner. What is most important is the material status of the partner. This means money has made people develop a blasé attitude with respect to these virtues (beauty, truth, temperament, fitness, etc.)...
I hope Dr. Ali won't object to me posting this extensive extract from his paper. I think we're all interested in putting the music we listen to into context.

Alhaji Audu Wazirin Danduna -  Alhaji Abubakar Sarkin Karaye / Duniya / Ibrahim Tahir

Alhaji Audu Wazirin Danduna - Dan Adam da Kudi / Garba A.D.

I will continue to upload music like this if people are interested. Download Harka Sai da Kudi as a zipped file here.


Monday, August 13, 2018

"Expensive" Jùjú



Olubi Taiwo, under his stage name "Expensive Olubi," was a midlevel jùjú star in '70s Nigeria. Other than that, I can't tell you anything about him. My wife Priscilla obtained a cassette of this record, Vol. 2 (MOLPS 5), while visiting the offices of his record company, Ibukun Orisun Iye, in Lagos in 1998. It's apparently a factory-issued cassette and not a dub of the vinyl presssing, but doesn't have a factory-printed label (see below). There was no inlay card for the cassette either. I got a scan of the LP cover from Discogs.

Recorded in the early '70s, this is fast-paced jùjú in the style that was popular then, and quite similar to the recordings of King Sunny Adé from the same era. Enjoy!



Download Vol. 2 as a zipped file here.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Little Orphan of Jos



Together with Barmani Mai Coge and Alhaji Maman Shata, Dan Maraya Jos was a leading exemplar of the traditional music of the Hausa people of northern Nigeria.

Alhaji Adamu Wayya (his nickname "Dan Maraya Jos" means "the little orphan of Jos") was born in Bukuru, a suburb of Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria in 1946. As both of his parents died when he was young, he was adopted by the Sarkin Hausawa, or Emir, of Bukuru, for whom his father was a court musician. It was under the tutelege of the Emir that Adamu Wayya made the acquaintence of local musicians, traveling and becoming a master of the kuntigi, the Hausa one-string lute. His Wikipedia entry states:

The kuntigi is a small, single-stringed lute. The body is usually a large, oval-shaped sardine can covered with goatskin. Dan Maraya and other kuntigi players are solo performers who accompany themselves with a rapid ostinato on the kuntigi. During instrumental interludes they repeat a fixed pattern for the song they are playing, but while singing, they will often change the notes of the pattern to parallel the melody they are singing. 
Like most professional musicians, the mainstay of Dan Maraya's repertoire is praise singing, but Dan Maraya singles out his personal heroes rather than the rich and famous. His first, and perhaps still his most famous song is "Wak'ar Karen Mota" ("Song of the Driver's Mate") in praise of the young men who get passengers in and out of minivan buses and do the dirty work of changing tires, pushing broken down vans, and the like. During the Nigerian Civil War, he composed numerous songs in praise of soldiers of the federal army and incorporated vivid accounts of scenes from the war in his songs. 
Dan Maraya's music promoted family and social values as well as national unity. He campaigned for polio vaccination and was politically active as well, performing on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan's People's Democratic Party in the 2015 elections. He passed away June 20, 2015 in Jos. On the occasion, his good friend Ladan Salihu, Director General of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, declared:

Inaa Lillaahi Wa Innaa ilaihir raaji’un. One of Nigeria’s foremost Hausa musicians, poet, philosopher and philanthropist, Dr Adamu Danmaraya Jos has answered Allah’s call about an hour ago. He died in Jos after a protracted illness. When I visited him two weeks ago, he spoke passionately about the Unity of the North and of one Nigeria. We shared many moments. He was to me a brother and a friend. I am devastated. But I am proud he lived a very useful life, transforming society through music and silently through Islamic endeavours. May Allah grant him Aljannatul Firdaus. Jos was a poet and griot, and his music was often laced with philosophy and drama.
Here's a musical offering from this immortal poet, the 1986 LP Kudi Masu Gida Rana (Polydor POLP 151). I'm unable to tell you anything about the songs or their lyrics. I hope you'll enjoy it.







Download Kudi Masu Gida Rana as a zipped file here.


Update: Many thanks to Richard Graham for bringing this to my attention:



Saturday, May 12, 2018

Happy Mothers' Day!



Nigerians are known for songs extolling their mothers, notably Prince Nico Mbarga's famous "Sweet Mother." In honor of Mothers' Day 2018, here is Mamma (Ivory Music IVR 057), a cassette by jùjú maestro Dayo Kujore, who was featured a few months ago on this blog. Enjoy!

Dayo Kujore - Toju Yeye / Iya Lolugbowo Mi / Omo Unmoti / Iya Mi Ose / Mother

Dayo Kujore - Fi Wa Jomi / Oruko Jesu / Awa De / Darling My Lover / Fans' Rhythm Special

Download Mamma as a zipped file here.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Good-Time Gospel from Nigeria



Ọdun Nlọ Sopin, by the Good Women Choir, has been one of Likembe's most popular recent downloads, at least according to Mediafire. Now brace yourself for some more feel-good Yoruba gospel music from Nigeria, this time courtesy of Sister Dunni Olanrewaju, or as she is often known, "Opelope Anointing," after her biggest hit. 

Sister Dunni was born December 2, 1960, in Alabata, Oyo State. She was called to the gospel at an early age, as her father was a cathechist and her mother a Deaconess in Christ Apostolic Church. She began singing in the choir at age 9, and dropped out of secondary school to pursue her passion for music, much to the consternation of her mother. 

Adun-Igbeyawo was Dunni's first release, in 1988, but Opelope Anointing (see the video below) was the record that really made her a household name in 2000. In between there were five other recordings, including today's offering, the cassette Ayo Re Mbo (Premier Music LMC 010), which came out around 1996. The title track in particular combines gospel, highlife and a battery of talking drums in a way that that really gets the feat moving! Listening to it, you can understand why gospel is one of the most popular genres of music in southern Nigeria. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

Dunni Olanrewaju & Golden Voices - Ayo Re Mbo






Download Ayo Re Mbo as a zipped file here. Unfortunately the sound quality of this cassette is not the best. I hope you will agree with me that the quality of the music outweighs this technical limitation.



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

$850 for a Cassette? Oh, Come On!!!



Thanks to Andreas Wetter for apprising me of this offer on EBay:


Yes, that's right: Someone is asking $850 dollars for the cassette version of the 1972 LP Master Guitarist Vol. 5 (African Songs LPAS 8014) by Nigeria's Sunny Adé & his Green Spot Band!

I have long been astounded at the sort of prices some African music fans are willing to pay for scratchy old vinyl from the Continent - and in this case, not even vinyl, but a no-doubt-inferior cassette version of same! It puts one to mind of the 17th Century tulip mania.

But you don't need $850 to listen to this recording. The blog Snap, Crackle & Pop posted it a few years back and you may have grabbed it then (the link to the file is now broken). And now I'm posting it again. You can have it for free!

Strictly speaking, what I'm making available is not Master Guitarist Vol. 5 but another pressing that came out around 1984. What happened was, when King Sunny Adé caused a sensation internationally around 1982 with his African Beats band, some smaller record companies hoped to cash in on the craze by reissuing material that had been recorded years earlier in Nigeria. This fly-by-night company Imported Nigeria licensed Master Guitarist Vol. 5 from African Songs, which had been Adé's record company in the early '70s, and issued it under the title Vintage King Sunny Adé (Imported Nigeria K001).

What's doubly confusing is that the tracklist on Vintage doesn't even agree with that of Master Guitarist Vol. 5. In fact, the listings on the sleeve and record labels on Vintage don't agree either. But they are indisputably the same recording. In fact, I think Vintage is not even a "pirate" pressing - it was apparently officially licensed and legitimately issued.

If all you have heard of King Sunny Adé is his recordings from the '80s and later, Master Guitarist Vol. 5 may come as something of a revelation. The Green Spots were Adé's first band, founded in 1967 after he left Moses Olaiya's Federal Rhythm Dandies, and their sound is not as dense and "sophisticated" as that of the later African Beats. Sunny Adé's brilliant guitar work, of course, shines through loud and clear.

Here's Master Guitarist Vol. 5. I'm following the tracklisting from that pressing, and not that from the later Vintage King Sunny Adé. Enjoy!

Sunny Adé & his Green Spots Band - Late Dr. Nkrumah / Ka Ma Buni Lole / I. S. Adewale / Ololade Wilkey

Sunny Adé & his Green Spots Band - Sunny Special / Owo Ko Nife / Awon Ti Won Yo / Alhaja Bintu

Download Master Guitarist Vol. 5 as a zipped file here. I've included scans from Vintage King Sunny Adé also. The record sleeve scans of Master Guitarist Vol. 5 are from Snap, Crackle & Pop. Thanks!


Friday, March 9, 2018

Funky Jùjú Highlife From Ondo State



Who is Tayo Jimba? I have no idea. I do know that I enjoy this 1988 LP, Ise Aje (Leader LRCLS 65), a great deal. The label lists the musical style as "Jùjú/Highlife," and that sounds about right. It is actually quite similar to recordings I've posted here before by Adé Wesco and Orlando Owoh - a funky, rootsy, less-cluttered sound that takes us back a few decades to the point where jùjú and  highlife music were less differentiated.

The label also lists the language as "Yoruba/Ikale." Ikale is generally considered a dialect of Yoruba rather than a separate language, and since Ikale speakers are concentrated in Ondo State, western Nigeria, it's reasonable to surmise that Tayo Jimba is from there also. Reader/listeners are invited to tell us more.

Enjoy Ise Aje!

Tayo Jimba & his Black Shadows - Ori Mi / Oro Owo / Oro Nigeria



Download Ise Aje as a zipped file here.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Return to Ihiagwa-Owerri



It's about time we returned to Ihiagwa, just outside of Owerri, capital of Imo State, Nigeria and home of the Obi Wuru Otu Dance Group, led by Madam Maria Anokwuru and featuring the stellar vocals of Rose Nzuruike!

On January 24, 2010 I posted their hit LP Nwanyi Ma Obi Diya (Onyeoma C.Y. Records CYLP 016, 1984), one of the biggest-selling Igbo records of all time. I've since found out more about the group and its star, Madam Nzuruike (thanks, internet!). A collective endeavor by all eight of the villages that comprise Ihiagwa township, the group was founded in 1979 as the Ndom Ihiagwa Dance Group. Mrs. Rose Nzuruike was selected from her village, Umuemeze. She initially demurred as her husband had recently passed away and she had young children to care for. However, she reconsidered when her late husband Remy came to her in a dream and urged her to perservere. She was then judged the best, and hence lead, singer of the group, a role she has fulfilled ever since.

I now present Ezi Nne (Onyeoma C.Y. Records CYLP 047), a further exploration of Igbo roots music, Owerri style!


The insistent beat of the udu (bass drum) leads off Side One and the song "Ezi Nne" ("Good Mother"). Mrs Nzuruike sings that there is no substitute for one's mother, whether she is good or bad, and the chorus joins in agreement. In the second song, "Onye Egbula Onwe Ya" ("Don't Kill Yourself") we are implored not to stress over money problems and so forth, we'll only get sick and it won't solve the problem:

Obi Wuru Otu Dance Group - Ezi Nne / Onye Egbula Onwe Ya

"Anala Nwa Ogbenye Ihe Ya" ("Do Not Take Advantage of the Poor and Weak") opens Side Two. "Jehovah, come help us. To sin is human. Please help us." The second song is "Enyere Ibe Nyem" ("When You Give to My Peers You Give to Me Also"):

Obi Wuru Otu Dance Group - Anala Nwa Ogbenye Ihe Ya / Enyere Ibe Nyem

By the way, Onyeoma C.Y. Records, which issued these two Obi Wuro Otu albums and at least one other, Aku Ebi Onwu (CYLP 028), was one of the more interesting smaller Nigerian labels, specializing in roots music like this as well as Ghanaian highlife bands resident in Nigeria. In 1995 I paid a visit to their office in Onitsha with the intention of perhaps licencing music for release in the US. No one was there, so I left a note under the door. Several months later I received a letter from the proprieter of the label, who was definitely interested! However, lacking the proper entreprenurial spirit, I suppose, I never pursued the idea. Oh, well!

Download Ezi Nne as a zipped file here. Many thanks as usual to my wife, Priscilla, for interpreting the lyrics. The website of Ihiagwa Township is a fascinating resource which was quite useful in researching this post.



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.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Ethereal Sounds



Nwamara (Tradition TRAD 001, 1984), by the Nkelebe Brothers, is like no other recording of Igbo music I have ever heard. I don't know if these ethereal, polyphonic vocal stylings are unique to the group's area - Isiala Ngwa North LGA (county) in Abia State, Nigeria - or if this mode of singing is found throughout Ala Igbo. After all, there are many Igbo records I haven't listened to!


The Ngwa people, from whom the Nkelebe Brothers hail, are an Igbo sub-group about whom there are many tall tales. The word nkelebe itself describes a type of Igbo praise-singing, although I haven't been able to find out much beyond that. I can say, though, that this six-member group, utilizing only their voices and basic percussion - Udu (pottery drum), Samba (square drum), and Mpaka (sticks) - produce deeply moving music that reminds me of the contrapuntal vocals of central Africa, although there is probably no direct connection.

The title of the first song, taking up all of Side One, means "A Well-Behaved Woman is a Gift":

Nkelebe Brothers - Agwa Nwanyi Bu Oji

"Ole Ndi Bu Eze" - "Where Are the Kings?":

Nkelebe Brothers - Ole Ndi Bu Eze

"Akwukwa Bu Ogu" roughly translates as "Your bad intentions won't hurt me because my heart is pure":

Nkelebe Brothers - Akwukwa Bu Ogu

You can download Nwamara as a zipped file here. Many thanks to my wife Priscilla for translating the titles of the songs.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

E Ku Ọdun, Eku Iyedun!



The Good Women Choir was founded in Ibadan, southwestern Nigeria in 1975 as the musical expression of the Christ Apostolic Church, an offshoot of the Aladura Christian religious movement that arose among the Yoruba people in the early 20th Century. The Choir numbered 200 at its founding and presently has twelve members.

Mrs. Deborah Fasoyin, who has led the group since 1976, attributes its endurance to its strong spiritual base and a refusal to follow musical fads. The group performs only in churches and claim they decline to accept payment, subsisting only on their own contributions.

Today's offering, Ọdun Nlọ Sopin (Ibukun Orisun Iye MOLPS 66, 1979), was the group's biggest hit, and is ubiquitous in southwestern Nigeria this time of year, heralding as it does best wishes and good tidings for the New Year:

Ọdun nlọ sopin
Baba rere
Baba Ma ṣọmi o
Tọmọtọmọ
Ohun ti o pa mi
Lẹkun olọdun titun
Majẹ ko ṣẹlẹ simi
Baba rere

This year is coming to an end
Good God
Oh Lord guide us
And our children
Sorrow and sadness
In the new year
Will not be our portion
Good God
This music makes me happy! I hope you feel the same.

Good Women Choir - Odun Nlo Sopin / Alleluya Lomo Mi Goke / Ara Mi Yo Ya Gaga / Tire Lagbara

Good Women Choir - Jesu Gbo Temi / Ma Je Koro Mi Su O / Jesu Lona Otito

Download Ọdun Nlọ Sopin as a zipped file here.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

From Benin City to the World



Some years ago I discussed the former Benin Empire (not to be confused with the present-day "Republic of Benin"), its premier nationality, the Edo or Bini people, and highlighted some musicians from that area. It is justly renowned for its artwork, much of which has resided in the British Museum since the conquest and looting of Ubinu, present-day Benin City, in 1897.

Nigerian highlife superstar and  Benin City favorite son Sir Victor Uwaifo is an avatar of Edo culture not only in the musical sphere but in other fields as well - he's a professor of Fine Arts and bronze casting at the University of Benin City. He got his start as a musician in the legendary Victor Olaiya's band in the early sixties and went on to play with E.C. Arinze before starting his first band, the Pickups, in 1963. His smash hits "Joromi" and "Guitar Boy," with the Melody Maestros (later renamed the Titibitis) in the late '60s, and his invention of the ekassa and akwete styles among others, cemented his reputation as a giant of the Nigerian music scene. This was due in no small part to his skillful adaptation of traditional Edo folkloric themes. His outrageous performance style contributed to his reputation as well, including playing the guitar with his teeth and dancing with a small person on stage.

Apart from a few records in English, Uwaifo has always performed in the Edo language. An exception is today's musical selection, the outstanding 1986 release Egwu-Ọzo (Polydor POLP 139).  In addition to one song, "Eyasodaro," in Edo, it features pieces in the three most widespread languages of Nigeria: Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa.

"Egwu Ọzo," an adaptation of Igbo court music, kicks things off:

Sir Victor Uwaifo & his Titibitis - Egwu Ọzo

Edo:

Sir Victor Uwaifo & His Titibitis - Eyasodaro

Yoruba:

Sir Victor Uwaifo & his Titibitis - Ifa Jigijigi

Hausa:

Sir Victor Uwaifo & his Titibitis - Yarinya

I have heard other versions of the Hausa song "Yarinya" ("Girl"), so I assumed it must be a standard. The liner notes of Egwu-Ọzo credit it to the Ishie Brothers, who interestingly were an Igbo group. I suspect they were resident in northern Nigeria in the early '60s, where they gained a bit of a following among the Hausa people. A little search revealed several songs by them in my music library, including "Mafara, Kusa da Sokoto" from the LP Catchy Rhythms From Nigeria Vol. 2 (Philips P 13401 R), which turns out to be "Yarinya" under its original title.


Here's the original version of the song:

Ishie Brothers - Mafara, Kusa da Sokoto

If you're interested in exploring further the music of Victor Uwaifo, something I heartily recommend, a great place to start would be the compilation Guitar-Boy Superstar: 1970-76 (Soundway SNDWCD 012, 2008), the liner notes of which were quite helpful in writing this post.

Download Egwu-Ọzo as a zipped file here.



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Voice of Arewa



A while back I posted about northern Nigeria's greatest female singer, Barmani Mai Choge. I devote today's post to Alhaji Mamman Shata, acclaimed as the greatest male singer of "Arewa," a giant who ruled the Hausa music scene for over 60 years.

Finding out more information about Dr. Mamman Shata has not been easy. He is the subject of at least one biography, "Shata Ikon Allah!" by Ibrahim Sheme (Kaduna, Infomart Publishers, 2006), and at least one doctoral dissertation, “The Role of an Oral Singer in Hausa/Fulani Society: A Case Study of Mamman Shata," by Dr. Abdulkadir Dandatti (Folklore Institute, Indiana University, 1975), neither of which I've been able to get hold of. There does seem to be a fair amount of information about him online in Hausa.

Shata was born in Rugar Kusa, Musawa Village, Northern Nigeria in 1922. Although his father disapproved of his interest in music, he began singing at the age of 13 and was soon composing his own Wakokin, traditional Hausa praise songs. He was accompanied by musicians playing kalungu, small talking drums, and travelled throughout the north of Nigeria gaining fame if not yet fortune. He once told an interviewer, “I ventured into music out of childish exuberance. I didn’t inherit it from either of my parents. I sang for a long time without collecting a penny. Even when I was given money, other praise singers collected it. I only started collecting money when I made it (music) a career." He settled down in Funtua, also the home of Barmani Mai Choge, a wild and wooly municipality that hosted many brothels. Chafing at the strictures of conservative Hausa Muslim society, he had a taste for drink and sang its praises.

It is said that Mamman Shata never rehearsed and composed his songs on the spot. I've been unable to track down much of his discography and I suspect most of his music was never pressed but recorded for broadcast. Probably much of it was not recorded at all. In addition to praise songs, his repertoire covered all manner of subjects, from agriculture to politics to the military, even food! One notable song is said to have been broadcast throughout northern Nigeria during the troubles of 1966-67 preaching peace, tolerance and national unity. He performed throughout West Africa and even made it to Britain and the United States.

Alhaji Doctor Mamman Shata passed away on June 18, 1999, leaving behind three wives, 22 children, numerous grandchildren and an immortal musical legacy. The true voice of Arewa!


Here are two cassettes by the immortal Mamman Shata.

The cassette Bakandamiyar (EMI Nigeria EMI 003), which I obtained during a visit to Kano in 1995, is a dub of a scratchy LP recorded, I suspect, some time in the '70s or earlier. I would guess the song "Garba Bichi" is in honor of Abubakar Ali Bichi, who was a prominent Northern Nigerian businessman born in 1924. There is a Garba Bichi Ahmed (possibly his son?) who is a member of the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives from Bichi, Kano State, but since he was born in 1964, it's probably not about him:

Alhaji Mamman Shata - Garba Bichi

"Bakandamiyar"is considered one of Maman Shata's greatest songs. In it he sings his own praises:

I started Bakandamiya and embraced the thing that interests me most
Alo, Alo, the singer expresses his gratitude and so do the chorus.
As for me nothing interests me except my singing,
Beat your drum carefully,
Play slowly and carefully,
For drumming is your inheritance but not mine.
I started singing as a hobby,
Certainly I started it as a hobby and outshined the professionals;
Now it is my match that they search for and have woefully failed,
Alo, Alo, the singer expresses his gratitude and so do the chorus.
It is not parting with a hero that is painful,
But filling the gap which he created....

...One day here in the city of Dabo,
 I have ever lived in the city of Dabo,
During the reign of Sanusi Mamman,
Burhan father of Habu son of Abdu,
Then I packed my belongings and left,
And returned to the city of Dikko,
Our Katsina, the city of Shehu. 
My departure pleased the Kano singers;
They ganged up against me saying:
That bastard Shata has gone,
Good riddance Shata has left,
Ha! Since he left the city of Dabo,
No doubt has lost many good things.
Go your way; I am aware I missed Kano City,
And Kano too had missed a famous singer,
And you also had missed my singing. 
After six good months I staged a comeback,
I went away for six months,
And returned to the city of Dabo,
On Friday during the princess’s wedding,
I sneaked in with my mini car,
I took a corner and parked my mini car,
I put on a veil and joined the crowd..... 
.....I pondered and groaned,
There and then I uncovered myself,
And said, You have now felt the absence of Shata, the singer.
Even among kola nuts there are marsa,
Well much more so among the singers,
Princes, I hope and think that you will lend me your ears,
And listen to my song.
It is not parting with the hero that is painful,
But filling the gap which he created.... 
......That day I rose and praised myself,
And praised God and his Messenger,
That day I outshined Hamisu, outwitted Caji and put Dabolo out of action,
They cast a spell on me but to no avail,
And had I prior knowledge,
I would have brought my billy-he goat, and my speckled fetish cock,
What! Would that I were able to know in advance,
I would have prepared for it.
I ignored banjo and guitar players,
Because they are insignificant musicians who,
Play for money clothes to wear and a few pounds to get married.
Alhaji Mamman Shata - Bakandamiyar

Download Bakandamiyar as a zipped file here.

Emir of Hadeija (Polydor POLP 121), which came out in 1985 I think, was one of Shata's last recordings, and is considered one of his best. I presume from the song titles that they are in honor of various notables. For instance, Side One honors rulers of various traditional states in Northern Nigeria, while I would guess Side Two praises business or political leaders:

Alhaji Mamman Shata -  Emir of Hadeija / Emir of Bauchi / Bella Galadima of Katagun / Emir of Daura Alhaji Maman Bashar

Alhaji Mamman Shata - Habibu Fari Elema / Wili Dan Tijani / Shehu Kasimu Sarkin Mararaba / Malam Shuaibu Gadan Gayan / B.B. Faruku Na Allah

Download Emir of Hadeja as a zipped file here.

The picture at the top of this post is from the Mamman Shata Facebook page. The translation of the lyrics of "Bakandamiyar" is from the article, "10 Years After his Death, Shata Still Lives on," from the Daily Trust (Nigeria), June 21, 2009, which provided much useful information for this post. I'm also greatly indebted to the blog Taskar Mamman Shata and the Wikipedia article "Mamman Shata."



Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Diva of Northern Nigeria



As readers may be aware, I've had a long-time interest in Nigerian music and feature it often here at Likembe. However, all of the music I've posted here has been from the southern part of the country and of this the majority has been from two ethnic groups, the Yoruba and the Igbo. Nigeria, though, is a huge country of 186 million residents, who speak over 500 languages. Of these, along with the Igbo and Yoruba, the largeest nationality is the Hausa, who predominate in the northern part of the country. Nigeria's cultural diversity, a product of British colonial rule, has been a blessing and at times a curse.

Prior to 1995, the only Hausa music I had heard was a couple of LPs of traditional music - one from the esteemed Bärenreiter Musicaphon series and another issued by the African Record Centre in Brooklyn. In December of that year, during a visit to Nigeria, I was curious to discover more, so together with my brother-in-law boarded a plane to Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria. Our cab driver directed us to a music store which had an extensive selection of cassettes, mainly featuring the ever-popular Congolese sound, but also many from Mali and other countries of the Sahel. Notably there were many cassettes from Sudan. I understand this popularity of Sudanese music is a result of pilgrims from northern Nigeria stopping off in that country on their way to and from Mecca. I regret now that I didn't purchase any of these at the time.

My main interest was Hausa music, and I was amply rewarded with about 30 cassettes by artists like Alhaji Mamman Shata, Dan Maraya Jos, Audu Waziri Danduna, Sanni Dandawo, and northern Nigeria's greatest diva, Barmani Mai Choge.


According to the article "Barmani Choge: The Last of the Strong Ones" by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Daily Trust, March 10, 2013), Choge, née Hajiya Sa’adatu Aliyu, was born in the town of Funtua in 1943 or '45 and "...soaked up the cosmopolitan nature of that place that produced the legendary Mamman Shata, and she picked up what had hitherto been a pastime for women in the confines of their houses (the beating of calabashes) and made a successful music career out of it. And all these, while having a dozen children or so along the way. A feat she celebrated in her song 'Gwanne Ikon Allah.' She reportedly married at 15...."

A publicity flyer for a 2008 performance states that "...Barmani Choge popularized the mature Hausa women genre of music called Amada (although she had precedent in the late Hajiya Uwaliya Mai Amada (1934-83)), which started as religious performance by women in their inner apartments, before later becoming secularized in public performances. Barmani Choge’s performances appeal typically to mature women in high society due to her daring – and often experimental – exploration of issues that other conventional women musicians avoid. Literally the last of her generation, she popularized the Amada genre of Hausa music which is centered around five upturned calabashes floating on water and played with the hands by rather elderly women...."

Barmani Mai Choge passed away in early 2013, leaving Nigeria a poorer place, but setting an example for the women of the North. I present here two cassettes by Choge - 1987's Mai Soso Ke Wanka (Polydor POLP 162) and A Kama Sana'a Mata (Polydor POLP 166) from 1988. I've been unable to find out much about the lyrics (Google Translate wasn't much help), but I'm passing on what I know.

From Mai Soso Ke Wanka:

"Gwarne Ikon Allah" - "The Blessings of Multiple Births"

Hajiya Barmani Mai Coge & her Group - Mai Soso Ke Wanka / Gwarne Ikon Allah / Wakar Da'a

Hajiya Barmani Mai Coge & her Group - Maras Sana'a / Sama Ruwa Kosa Huwa

Dowload Mai Soso Ke Wanka as a zipped file here. Here is A Kama Sana'a Mata:

"...The Funtua in which Barmani and Shata grew was teeming with brothels and a joie de vivre approach to life and was perhaps ripe for the lewd lyrics of her hit song “Wakar Duwai Wai”, which in contemporary Nigerian music would have taken a fitting title like “The bum bum song”. In it, Barmani praises the female physiognomy and its inherent powers, how a woman can wiggle her backside and have a man do her bidding. Women loved it, and men smiled a silent acknowledgement. And Barmani place as a social deviant was firmly established...." (Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, op. cit.)

Hajiya Barmani Mai Coge & her Group - Wakar Dwaiwai / Mai Abin Dadi / Azwage Zogala

"Woman, Take Up a Trade":

Hajiya Barmani Mai Coge & her Group - A Kama Sana'a Mata

Hajiya Barmani Mai Coge & her Group - Wakar Kishiya / Wakar Mutau Misau

Download A Kama Sana'a Mata as a zipped file here.

A future post will feature the music of northern Nigeria's foremost male singer, Alhaji Mamman Shata.


One question I had at the time of my 1995 visit was whether there was any analog in northern Nigeria to the popular musical styles of the South - highlife, jùjú, fújì and so forth. There were one or two Hausa highlife ensembles back in the '60s and '70s, and southern Nigerian artists will occasionally record songs in the language, but the answer, at least in 1995, seemed to be "no." The subject matter may involve modern concerns, but the music of Choge, along with the other artists I've mentioned, is definitely within the classic framework, utilizing percussion, one-string lutes and other traditional instruments.

Unknown to me at the time, though, Hausa music was undergoing a revolution, and this was spurred by the Bollywood film industry of India, whose products have been popular throughout Nigeria for many years. The liner notes of Harafin So: Bollywood Inspired Film Music From Hausa Nigeria (Sahel Sounds SS-014, 2013) tell the story:
"...Hausa tradtional musicians began to play cover versions of popular Bollywood soundtrack music...It was not until 1990, and the introduction of VHS, that the first Hausa language films were made in Kano, and Kannywood was born. Naturally, producers turned to the influences of films they had been watching for generations. Featuring plots of forced marriages and love triangles - indeed, sometimes copying the plot directly from the original Hindi films - these new homemade creations also retained the most popular feature of Bollywood: song and dance. 
"...as in Bollywood, soon the film songs came to eclipse the films themselves. It was not long before songs began to precede the film. In these polyphonic duets, men and women often would exchange words with one another, throwing barbs or providing romantic innuendos. Stylistic elements began to emerge in Hausa popular music, with the frenetic rhythm of a drum machine and synthesizer riffs. Autotune, the pitch correcting technology, joined the toolkit, offering a chance to compete with the high octave voices of Hindi film, becoming a signature sound of the film music..."
Harafin So is highly recommended. Here is an example of Hausa film music, thoughtfully featuring English subtitles:

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Jùjú-Àpàlà Roots!



Jùjú music, so popular in the 1970s and '80s, seems to have gone into eclipse in southwestern Nigeria, the land of its birth. Even fújì, which took its place for a time, has mutated into something rather removed from its origins. In their places, in the popular music arena at least, are variations on international hip-hop, heavy on auto-tuned vocals and synth.

Styles may come and go, but King Sunny Adé, the best-known jùjú musician outside of Nigeria, still keeps up a busy worldwide touring schedule. It's hard to believe he just turned 70!

Juju-Apala Live (Fortune Records, 2000) captures the King at the top of his form in front of a live audience in Lagos. Maybe it's just me, but before his fellow Nigerians, Sunny and the African Beats seem a lot more relaxed and uninhibited than they've been in front of US audiences, at least at the concerts I've been to. I suspect this CD is a bootleg recording, as it wasn't released through KSA's usual outlets. Moreover, my copy was an unauthorized rip of the original release - a pirate of a bootleg!

What's really ear-opening in this CD is the extended workout on Track 4, "Juju-Apala," with Musiliu Haruna-Ishola, son of the legendary Haruna Ishola, who perfected modern àpàlà music in the '60s and '70s. Àpàlà, a very traditional form, is one of the foundations of jùjú, fújì and other Yoruba musical styles, and Musiliu is ably carrying on his father's work.

The past and the future meet in Juju-Apala Live!

King Sunny Adé - Talking Drum

King Sunny Adé - Oro Ope Ko Ni Kase

King Sunny Adé - O Ya, O Ya Mi Bo

King Sunny Adé - Juju-Apala

Download Juju-Apala Live as a zipped file, complete with album artwork, here.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Speaking of Fújì....



A few days ago I posted an album by King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal 1, one of the reigning triumvirate of fújì music in the 1980s. The other two were Sikiru Ayinde Barrister and Kollington Ayinla, whom I present today. Kollington is said to have been born as Kolawole Ayinla Ilori in Ibadan in 1953 and started recording when he was in the Nigerian Army in the '70s. By the early '80s he was giving Barrister, fújì's acknowledged king at the time, a run for his money. Until Barrister's death in 2010, the rivalry between the two was fierce and acrimonious, although it's an open question how much of this was real and how much was a marketing ploy. Today Kollington swears his undying love of the late, great maestro.

Kollington Live in America 1997 (Oracle Records AFRO 013. 1997) is truly an odd artifact: Fújì music stripped down to its bare, funky essence - organ, basic percussion and wailing Islamic vocals, uninterrupted for 73 minutes! It's very compelling. Here it is:

General Kollington Ayinla & his Fuji Eaglets - Kollington Live in America

Download Kollington Ayinla Live in America 1997 as a zipped file here, complete
with album artwork.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

I'm Glad to Be Back!




Unbelievably, my last post here on Likembe was on April 23, 2013 - more than four years ago! There's no one explanation for the hiatus - I've had other interests, other things going on. Thankfully, there have been no personal crises, no major medical issues (and thanks to the many who've inquired over the years for your thoughtful concerns). But I'm back now, and I'm going to try to post on a more consistent basis - at least once a week from now on.

The African music blogosphere has changed a lot in the last four years, mostly not for the better. Old friends - With Comb & RazorOroWorld Service and Electric Jive among others, have gone dormant or post infrequently. Others have disappeared altogether. I see Moos over at Global Groove is still hanging in there, and newer outlets like Mangue MusicMy Passion for Ethiopian Music and Ndiakass have stepped into the breach. Needless to say, none of us is making any money doing this - it's all for the love. Maybe together we can bring about a revival of the African music scene online!
For Likembe's relaunching I'm posting King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal 1's Consolidation (The Ultimate Music TUMLP 001, 1994)  which was pretty ubiquitous in Lagos, Nigeria during my first visit there in '94 - blaring, it seemed, from every other market stall and taxi. To me, the opening bars of  "Show Colour" will always epitomize that wild, frustrating and fascinating city. I picked up the cassette back then, but the sound quality left a lot to be desired. What should I find, though, during a visit to Dusty Groove in Chicago a couple of months ago, but an almost-new copy of the LP version. Of course I had to share!

The style of music here is fújì, which had its heyday in the Yoruba areas of Nigeria in the 1980s, when it overtook the better-known (in the West) jùjú music popularized by King Sunny Adé and Ebenezer Obey. Fújì derives from earlier Yoruba Muslim styles like àpàlà and like them eschews most non-percussion instruments (although more recent recordings utilize synthesizers and the like). Think of it this way: jùjú musicians are mainly Christian and the music is often influenced by church hyms, while f'újì is performed mainly by Muslims and hearkens back to the sort of music performed at Yoruba Islamic religious festivals. The vocal styles as much as anything else set the two genres apart. But I don't want to create an unnecessary dichotomy here - fújì and jùjú are popular in both communities!

For those interested in further exploring Yoruba Muslim music, I've written two previous posts, "The Alasa of Ibadanland" and "Yoruba Muslim Women's Music."

King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal 1 (b. Wasiu Ayinde Adewale Omogbolahan Anifowsha, 1957) got his start in the Supreme Fuji Commanders of Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, one of the founders of the modern f'újì style in the '70s, and broke out on his own in the early '80s with the confusing moniker Wasiu Ayinde Barrister and a number of smash hit LPs. By the nineties he'd changed his stage name to King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal 1 (later to KWAM I and later still to K1 De Ultimate) and was at the top of his game. He's continued to innovate within the fújì genre, adding new instruments and drawing upon influences like rock and hip-hop. Check out this medley of recent tunes that mostly can barely be described as fújì at all - the percussion section is almost overpowered by saxophone, guitar and synth!



For those interested in exploring further online, the Nigerian media is rife with tales of KWAM 1's acheivements, his controversies with other musicians, and descriptions of his opulent palace in Ijebu Ode, complete with snakes and crocodiles. But for now, let the music speak for itself!

King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal 1 - Show Colour

King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal 1 - Ayinde No Go Die/Consolidation/Cruise Control/Hip-Hop

King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal 1 - Orin Eyo

King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal 1 - Power to the People/Ayinde Lagbade Fun/Late Prince Tunde Ojurongbe/Tulampa/Bosun Olaku of London/Kunle Fayemi/Ade Bendel/Alhaji Rasaq Okoya/Eleganza

Download Consolidation as a zipped file, complete with cover and label art, here.



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Dutiful Wife, An Inconsiderate Husband




Despite his great popularity back in the day, information about the late, great Igbo bard Show Promoter (Nelson Ejinduaka) is as scarce as hens' teeth. All I've been able to unearth is that he was from the city of Orlu in Imo State, spent most of his career in Ikwerreland (near Port Harcourt) and apparently passed on some time in the late '80s. His album Azu Alala (Onyeoma CY Records CYLP 043, 1987) is such an outstanding example of traditional Igbo music that I had to share it!

The title track, "Azu Alala" ("Fish is Scarce & Highly Costly"), concerns an obedient wife and the husband who is oblivious to his family's hardship. A husband gave his wife ten naira to go to the market to buy food for the family. She asked him, "Will ten naira be enough?" but he told her, "Make do with what you have."

She went to the market and spent N5 on gari (cassava meal) and N5 on yam. The money was gone. There  was no money for fish, no money to buy oha leaf (greens) or meat.

The wife came home and didn't know what to do. Her children were crying in hunger, "Please give us food." She went to the kitchen to prepare the food. The children ate, and so did she.

In the meantime her husband was down at the restaurant, drinking and living the life of an onye oriri (man about town). He told his friends, "Come home with me. I gave my wife money to prepare food for us." When they arrived home he called out to her to bring out the food she had cooked. The wife began to cry and presented the pitiful repast she had prepared.The man opened the pot to see that there was no fish, no vegetables and no meat. He jumped up and slapped his wife. She cried, "Ego i nyerem ezughi. The money you gave me was not enough to make soup. I managed with what I had to feed our children. Please don't hit me."

The chorus, "Ogiri k'am, jiri shi ofe, azu alala," means "I made the soup with stock.There is no fish."

Show Promoter & his Group - Azu Alala

In "Onye Ma Ihe Echi Gabu (Tomorrow is Pregnant. Who Knows What it will Be?)" Show Promoter sings, "My brother, who knows what tomorrow will bring? My sister, who knows what tomorrow will bring? Everybody pray to God so it will be good for us." He then proceeds to call out various local notables:

Show Promoter & his Group - Onye Ma Ihe Echi Gabu

"Onwu Ashio (The Death of Ashio)" recounts the tragic fate of a man who died in a traffic accident: "Ka mpkuru obi ya nodi nma (May his heart rest in peace). Anyi sikwa ama nnachi, mu na gi bu kwu nwa nne - a go. (We came from one place, you and I, brothers or relatives).Onwu gburu Ashio (The death that killed Ashio). Ashio a hupu la m laa (Ashio left me behind)."

Show Promoter & his Group - Onwu Ashio

Many thanks to my wife Priscilla for translating the lyrics of Azu Alala. You may download it as a zipped file here.