Saturday, September 18, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
Occupying a location somewhere near the intersection of Afrobeat, Juju and garage rock, the album Uhuru Aiye by Bob Ohiri and his Uhuru Sounds (Ashiko Records AR 001, ca. 1985) is often rumored but seldom heard. A track from it appears on the new collection Nigeria Afrobeat Special (Soundway SNWCD021), so it's worth taking a closer look.
Bob Ohiri was a guitarist with Sunny Adé's African Beats and is said to have briefly played with Fela's Africa '70, although I can't confirm that. The "Uhuru Sounds" were apparently a one-off - basically just some guys jamming in the recording studio. The only members credited on the sleeve are "Prince," "Bob" and "Shegun."
So what to make of the music? Uhuru Aiye is truly an odd and idiosyncratic amalgam - like no "World Music™" or "Afrobeat" or "Afrofunk" you've ever heard. It doesn't always succeed, but when it does it works very well.
Like my previous posts "Unknown Fela," Uhuru Aiye was originally contributed by me to Uchenna Ikonne's blog With Comb and Razor. It went off-line a while back, so I thought I'd make it available again.
Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Ariwo Yaa
Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Obhiha
Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Aiye
Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Nigeria London na Lagos
Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Imo State Express
Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - Africa is Free for Us
Bob Ohiri & his Uhuru Sounds - I Like to Be Free
Download Uhuru Aiye as a zipped file here.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
In 1971, after several years of musical experimentation following the breakup of the super-group Cream, British drummer Ginger Baker made his way to Lagos, Nigeria, where he helped set up EMI's new 16-track recording studio. It was here that Baker re-united with his friend Fela Anikulapo Kuti (then known as Fela Ransome-Kuti) and recorded Stratavarious (Atco SD 7013), one of the first collaborations between an African musician and a Western rock star.
To the best of my knowledge, Stratavarious has been out of print ever since it was released in 1972 and consigned to oblivion shortly thereafter, although one or two cuts from it may have been included in compilations. It is very much Ginger Baker's "thing," although Fela plays an important role on several tracks. Also present is Fela's American girlfriend Sandra Izidore (credited as "Sandra Danielle").
Strativarious is a fascinating look at a magic time when rock, jazz and Afrobeat were taking their first tentative steps toward each other, and a harbinger of fusions to come. It certainly deserves more attention than it's gotten. Like the recordings featured in the last two posts, Stratavarious was originally posted on Uchenna Ikonne's With Comb & Razor blog.
Fela and Sandra Izidore take center stage on Side 1 of Stratavarious. Izidore provides vocals on "Ariwo," an adaptation of a Yoruba folk tune, and Fela sings lead on "Tiwa," with Sandra included in the backup chorus. Fela plays keyboard on both tunes:
Ginger Baker - Ariwo
Ginger Baker - Tiwa
Fela's keyboard work also features on the next two tracks. Both are notable also for the lead guitar work of Bobby Tench (here credited as "Bobby Gass"), who had previously played with the Jeff Beck Group:
Ginger Baker - Something Nice
Ginger Baker - Ju Ju
Fela Ransome-Kuti plays no role in "Blood Brothers 69" or "Coda." "Blood Brothers" was apparently recorded in London in 1969, a collaboration between Baker and renowned Ghanaian percussionist Guy Warren, later known as Kofi Ghanaba:
Ginger Baker & Guy Warren - Blood Brothers 69
Ginger Baker - Coda
Stratavarious can be downloaded as a zipped file here.
Stratavarious was by no means Ginger Baker's first experiment with African music. Not only had he previously recorded Fela Ransome-Kuti & the Africa '70 with Ginger Baker Live! (Signpost SP 8401, 1971), but his two LPs with Ginger Baker's Air Force had a definite African "feel," notably this tune from their first album (Atco SD 2-703, 1970, right). Compare it with "Ariwo," above:
Ginger Baker's Air Force - Aiko Biaye
This series of posts was occasioned by the recent announcement that Knitting Factory Records plans to reissue the "complete" Fela discography, although as I pointed out here, there are a few titles missing. In addition to Stratavarious, Perambulator and I Go Shout Plenty!!! the 1985 Bill Laswell "remix" version of Army Arrangement (Celluloid CELL 6109) is long out of print with no plans for reissue (it was released while Fela was in prison and he is said to have hated it). Toshiya Endo's Fela discography lists a number of other tunes that have never been released in any form. Notably, Knitting Factory plans to release the "entire" catalog of recordings Fela made with the Koola Lobitos in the 1960s. This is good news indeed.