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

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Village Interlude



This is a quick and brief post, in response to a request.

A while back I put up a post devoted to traditional Igbo village music from Nigeria, a genre sometimes called "Igbo Blues." I included a track from the 1991 cassette Chukwunna Njieme Onu (EMI Nigeria NEMI 0692) by the Ifediora Mma Egedege Cultural Dance Group of Uga, Anambra State, led by Queen Ann Ezeh. A reader asked that I post the whole cassette, and I'm happy to oblige!


This is the genuine article, real traditional Igbo women's music as it is performed in villages throughout Ala Igbo. As I wrote back then:

....Here the full panoply of Igbo traditional instruments is displayed to great effect. The amiri (reed flute) leads off, to be joined in succession by the ekwe (wooden slit drum), ogene (two-headed bell) and oyo (rattle). The title, "Chukwunna Njieme Onu," means "My God that I Brag About." Lead singer Ann Ezeh addresses God in a very personal way: "God, please bless us, God that we rejoice in, God give us your grace, God that is all-good, God in heaven ('Olisa din'igwe') make our way easier."...
Moreover this is the sort of music one would hear this time of year. Around Christmastime Igbos from throughout Nigeria return to their home villages to spend time with family and celebrate the holy days. Musical troupes travel from household to household to perform for money.

I don't have time to discuss the lyrics and music in more detail, but I hope you will enjoy this brief village interlude!


Ifediora Mma Egedege Cultural Dance Group Uga - Ka Odilianyi Mma



Download Chukwunna Njieme Onu as a zipped file here.


Saturday, December 8, 2018

Spectacular Sounds From the Delta



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.


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Epic Efik Highlife



Some time ago I devoted a post to music from the Efik and Ibibio peoples of southeastern Nigeria. For some reasoin I overlooked today's featured group, the Isadico Dance Band Nigeria, led by Isaiah Dickson. Why I would have neglected them, I don't know. Their album, Eti Eyeneka (EMI Nigeria NEMI 0413), which came out in the seventies I believe, is about as fine an example of classic Nigerian danceband highlife as you'll find.

For some reason not a lot of music from this corner of Nigeria has made it to the outside world, although I suspect it has a thriving music scene. Calabar, the capital of Cross River State and center of the Efik people, is a historically important and cosmopolitan city, a center of the slave trade in the olden days and later a transfer point for palm oil. It's notable for its cuisine and colonial-era architecture and has been called "the tourism capital of Nigeria."

Our friend Uchenna Ikonne grew up in Calabar and wrote often in his blog Comb and Razor about its music. In 2016 he compiled an excellent collection of Calabar music, Calabar-Itu Road: Groovy Sounds from South Eastern Nigeria (1972-1982(Comb & Razor CRZR 1004), which I highly recommend. Music by Calabar's favorite son, Inyang Henshaw, is also available for download and streaming from Amazon. But that's about all the Efik music available that I'm aware of.

I can't tell you anything about Isaiah Dickson and Isadico, but Uchenna says they got quite a bit of airplay back in the day. Enjoy this epic Efik highlife!

Isadico Dance Band Nigeria - Eti Eyeneka / Echi Di

Isadico Dance Band Nigeria - Eka Ette


Isadico Dance Band Nigeria - Nam Uruak Fo Obong

Download Eti Eyeneka as a zipped file here. It's apparent listening to this record that it was well-loved in its day and is a bit worse for wear. I apologize for the clicks and scratches and occasional skip.


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Awesome Awigiri



A while back I did a post devoted to awigiri, the highlife music of the Ijaw (Izon) people of the Niger Delta. I have quite a few LPs of this particular genre, and I've been digitizing them in preparation for a future post, or series of posts. In the process this particular album, Late Chief Ohbobo Special (Success SSLP 027) really caught my attention and I thought it was worth posting in full.

I know absolutely nothing about the Boroism International Dance Band of Nigeria or its leader, Jay Eboge - "Monkey No Fine." I assume the group takes its name from Isaac Adaka Boro, who led a twelve-day armed uprising against the Nigerian and Eastern Nigerian governements in 1966. He was subsequently jailed, then amnestied on the eve of the Biafran war of independence in 1967. He died fighting for the Nigerian Federal Government in 1968 under what are described as "mysterious" circumstances and is a hero to Niger Delta indegenes.

I particularly enjoy the saxophone work on this album by a musician credited only as "Boma." I hope you'll enjoy it also.

Boroism International Dance Band of Nigeria - Late Chief Ohbobo Special

Boroism International Dance Band of Nigeria - Late Commodor Kentebe

Boroism International Dance Band of Nigeria - Izon Otu Meinye Ana

Boroism International Dance Band of Nigeria - Late Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson

Boroism International Dance Band of Nigeria - Asima Popo

Download Late Chief Ohbobo Special as a zipped file here.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Deep Awurebe!



Wow, check out the tribal marks on these guys! The cover of Iya Alakara (Awurebe Records DELP 8303, 1983) is arresting, the music on the inside even more so.

Alhaji Dauda Epo Akara called his music awurebe. I'm not exactly sure where it stands in relation to other percussion-fueled Yoruba musical styles like fújì, àpàlà and the like. Maybe it's just a marketing gimmick. Whatever the provenance, it's very impressive music!

According to his sparse Wikipedia entry, Dauda Epo Akara was born on June 23, 1943. The Nigerian newspaper This Day reported that he passed February 18, 2005. Wikipedia says that he started out as a practitioner of wéré (or ajisáàri), an Islamic style of music meant to be played during Ramadan, and updated it after returning from his hajj to Mecca and Medina. At least judging by this recording awurebe lacks the religious focus of wéré , but shares the characteristic vocal flourishes of "secular" Islamic styles like fújì and the like.

The respected Nigerian music journalist Benson Idonije wrote in 2008:

Three years have passed slowly by since Awurebe King Dauda Kolawole Akanmu, known in show business as Dauda Epo Akara passed on, in 2005. His exit marked the end of a musi-cultural era, the era of a generation of musicians whose roots are deep in the urban social fabric and heritage of the Yoruba speaking people of South Western Nigeria.

An indigenous music type whose hallmark is the syncopation of rhythms generated in patterns that are intricate, Awurebe is the fusion of àpàlà, sákárà, woro and even dadakuada from Kogi and Kwara States of Nigeria. It is the perfect blend of these various musical cultures that have given it a uniquely definitive sound identity.

While Haruna Isola and Ajao Oru pioneered àpàlà and took it to a level where it became universally accepted, Yusuf Olatunji popularised sákárà and established it as an acceptable social music type. And of course the likes of Batile Alake took on the female version of these music forms and handed it down to the likes of Salawa Abeni who is still carrying on the tradition.

Even though Epo Akara's awurebe came much after the first generation of our traditional musicians, his fusion was blended to fall into the same era. As a matter of fact, like fújì music, awurebe is a product of the street music performed during Ramadan called wérè. He was influenced in the same way that Alhaji Ayinde Barrister was, but this influence affected them differently.

While Barrister merely accompanied his social commentaries with the legion of drums and other percussion instruments in a direct fusion, Dauda, who, perhaps was operating from a point where he had been influenced by almost all the social music genres, decided to fuse elements of everything into one whole unit.

The music did not assume the commercial viability that fújì had because of its direct identification with the roots of our traditional forms. For instance, Epo Akara's awurebe did not have widespread acceptance in Lagos until the 1980s, even though it was popular in places like Mushin and Somolu, with danfo drivers and meat sellers as the bulk of its devotees. The music came into the forefront with the emergence of the Top 10, instituted in the early 1980s by Radio Nigeria 2....
Enjoy this deep, deep Yoruba roots music!

Alhaji Dauda Epo Akara & his Awurebe Experts - Won Ti Fepo Lade / Ota Awori Nile Won / Yusuf Oladejo / Epo Ni Roju Obe

Alhaji Dauda Epo Akara & his Awurebe Experts - Tiri-Misi- Riyu / Egbe Ifelodun (Abajan) / E Fowo Mi Wo Mi / Iya Alakara

Download Iya Alakara as a zipped file here. In preparation for this post, I did a little research on the question of  "tribal marks" in Nigeria and discovered that they are, or used to be, most common among the Yoruba people, although other groups have them also. I take it they are considered somewhat old-fashioned these days, as indicated by the delightful video below. I think they're kind of awesome myself!




Monday, October 22, 2018

I Just Saved You $1350.71



As more evidence that the collectors' market for used African recordings has entered Dutch Tulip Mania territory, I present the following from Amazon:


Not too long ago I wrote of the ridiculous asking price for a used cassette of a classic recording by King Sunny Adé. That was absurd, but at least Sunny has been an international superstar for almost 50 years. While Obiajulu Emmanuel Osadebe came from musical royalty (his father was Nigeria's late, great highlife master Stephen Osita Osadebe), and was talented, his recording career, prior to his untimely death in 2009, had not reached a level anywhere near that of his father. I have two vinyl LPs by him from the early '90s, and the CD Ifugo America (O & I Productions OANDI 001, 1998) was recorded during a sojourn in Atlanta during the late '90s. That's the extent of his recorded outlet as far as I know. He also opened for Sunny Adé during a US tour shortly before his death.

Obialju died only a year after his father passed away. The Nation newspaper of Nigeria wrote this on the occasion of his death:

The first son of the late highlife music maestro, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, Obiajulu, is dead. According to a family source, Obiajulu, 43, died on Tuesday at Niger City Hospital, Onitsha, Anambra State, after a brief illness. 
The body has been deposited at the Ozubulu Central Mortuary in Ekwusigo Council area of Anambra State. Although the cause of his death could not be ascertained as at press time, there were speculations that he died of heart failure. He had been bed-ridden for over five months at his Atani country home, Ogbaru Local Government Area, Anambra State. 
Obiajulu, who came back to the country after the burial of his father on February 8, last year, stepped into his father’s shoes, remixing some of his hit songs. He also performed at some popular joints within and outside Onitsha. 
Until his death, Obiajulu was married to Olayinka. They have a daughter. Besides, he is survived by an aged mother, brothers and sisters. 
Ifugo America is a pretty good recording, albeit a little too dependent on synthesizer (Obiajulu's Nigerian albums used his father's backup band), but that's no doubt a matter of economics. I just don't think it's worth $1350.71. But decide for yourself!







Download Ifugo America as a zipped file here.


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."