Showing posts with label Yoruba. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yoruba. Show all posts

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, 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.


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.


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.

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.



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.



Thursday, July 5, 2012

That Old-Time Jùjú Music




Like a lot of people, I got into Nigerian jùjú music in 1982 when King Sunny Adé hit the international scene. In short order Ebenezer Obey, Dele Abiodun and Segun Adewale were introduced to world audiences, with varying degrees of success. Before them, though, I.K. Dairo was the true king of jùjú .

Isaiah Kehinde Dairo (b. January 6, 1931), the son of a carpenter, performed with many of the greats of the Ibadan jùjú scene while working days in a variety of odd jobs. He launched his first professional group, the Morning Star Orchestra, in 1954, changing their name to the Blue Spots in the early '60s. Dairo introduced the accordion to jùjú music and was responsible for many of the innovations, including Latin American and Christian choral influences and the use of various dialects, that are hallmarks of the mature jùjú style.

Dairo and the Blue Spots went into eclipse during the '70s with the ascension of younger stars, but made a comeback in the '80s, achieving international recognition with several CD reissues and new recordings. Ma F'owuro Sere (Ibukun Orisun Iye MOLPS 112, 1987), presented here, is an excellent example of I.K. Dairo's late style (I apologize for a bit of unfortunate "wow" on Side 1, apparently caused by a spindle hole that is slightly off-center).

Dairo died February 7, 1996 of renal failure. His wake-keeping, beginning on April 15, went on for five days and was attended by tens of thousands. In addition all Nigerian musicians refrained from performing during that time and Radio Nigeria played nothing but his music. Truly a fitting tribute to a giant of Nigerian music!

I.K. Dairo & his Blue Spots Band - Ise Aje Ma Le/Eniyan Boni Lara/Ore Mura

I.K. Dairo & his Blue Spots Band - Ba Wa Segun Ota a Mbere/Olorun Oba Kan Na La Npe/Ka Wo Ehin Wo/E Ma F'etu Sere/Ija O Yewa

Download Ma F'owuro Sere as a zipped file here. Information for this post was derived from the liner notes of two excellent recordings, Definitive Dairo (Xenophile XENO 4045, 1997) and I Remember (Music of the World CDC-212, 1991), as well as Christopher Waterman's definitive Jùjú: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music (University of Chicago Press, 1990). These are all available for purchase or download (just click on the links)!


Friday, April 6, 2012

The Alasa of Ibadanland




To an outsider, Lanrewaju Adepoju's Èwì would seem to be just another one of the many Yoruba percussion styles that are so popular in the southwestern corner of Nigeria: Fújì, Wákà, Àpàlà and the like. I've come to find out that èwì, properly understood, is not "music" at all but a chanted form of epic poetry, and that Adepoju is considered one of its greatest practitioners.

This by way of a fascinating essay, "Lanrewaju Adepoju and the Making of Modern Yoruba Poetry," by Oyeniyi Okunoye, which you can read in its entirety here. Okunoye marks the development of modern  èwì  around the time of Independence in 1960 and the broadcast of poetry in Western Nigeria. In 1964 Adepoju, who is proud of his status as a "self-made man" despite his lack of a formal education, began reading his poetry on Tiwa n Tiwa, a program on the Western Nigeria Broadcast Service in Ibadan, and went on to produce such programs as Kaaaro o o Jiire? ("Good Morning"), Barika ("Blessing/Greetings") and Ijinji Akewi ("The Poet at Dawn").

Born into a Muslim family, Adepoju dabbled for a time in mystical doctrines, associating with a group called the Servers of Cosmic Light for some years, returning to mainstream Sunni Islam in 1985. Okunoye writes:

Although Adepoju has emphasized the impact of his return to a conservative form of Islam on his poetic imagination, it is projected only superficially within the broader theistic vision that emerges in his work as a whole. With the obvious exception of poems in which he sets out to propagate particular Islamic doctrines, the vision that pervades his work constantly shifts between the Islamic and the ecumenical, blending Christian, Islamic and traditional Yoruba outlooks. This suggests either a split consciousness underlying Adepoju's work or a deliberate strategy aimed at popularity and relevance in a multi-religious society. His "Oriki Olodumare," a work that conceptually integrates Islamic, Christian and traditional Yoruba theistic visions, testifies to this.
The 1993 cassette Ìrònúpìwàdà ("Repentance," Lanrad LALPS 150), which I present here, is apparently one of Adepoju's works in a more "orthodox" Islamic vein. If anyone out there would care to provide a translation of the lyrics, I'm sure we'd all be interested:


Chief Lanrewaju Adepoju - Àsà Burúkú  

Download Ìrònúpìwàdà as a zipped file here.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Adventures in Angularity




I hate to say this, but it's been ages since Ebenezer Obey has waxed anything worth listening to. For the last twenty years he's been devoting himself to spreading the Gospel, only occasionally setting foot in a studio to record something of a religious nature. Not that I'm putting that sort of thing down, of course. It's just that I miss the days when the Chief Commander was on the cutting edge of jùjú music, notably with a series of LPs in the early '80s that combined deep Yoruba roots music and funky R&B influences.

I'm going to post the 1980 LP Current Affairs here (Decca DWAPS 488, released in the UK as Oti OTI 488), not because it's my favorite of these recordings (that honor goes to Eyi Yato, also released in 1980, which I'll probably make available in the future) but because more than any other record it displays the brilliant blend of Yoruba harmonies, off-beat blue notes and discordant, "angular" sounds that defines the '80s Obey style. As an illustration of what I mean, check out the passage in "Oba Sijuade" that begins at the 6:35 mark:

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & his Inter-Reformers Band - Oba Sijuade

"Oba Sijuade" comemmorates the coronation in 1980 of Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade as the Ooni of Ifè, one of the foremost traditional leaders of the Yoruba people. Legend has it that at the site of the present-day city of Ile-Ifè the supreme being Olódùmarè directed the creation of the world. The god Obàtálá created human beings out of clay, while the god Oduduwa became the first leader of the Yoruba nation. It is said that all of the succeeding Oonis are direct descendents of Oduduwa. In his 1969 release On the Town (Decca WAPS 28), Obey also paid tribute to then-prince Sijuade.

The great Ibadan Flood Disaster of 1980, in which the Ogunpa River overflowed, killing at least 100 people and laying a good part of the city waste, is commemorated on side 2 of Current Affairs. It is ironic that on August 26 of this year, five days short of the 31st anniversary of that calamity, and despite many years of attempts to channelize the Ogunpa, the river overwhelmed its banks again, exacting a similar toll in lives and property:


Download Current Affairs as a zipped file here. In the course of researching this post, I was saddened to read of the death on August 23 of Juliana Olaide Obey-Fabiyi, Ebenezer Obey's wife of 48 years. I'm sure everyone reading this will join me in offering Mr. Obey their deepest condolences.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nigeria's Lady of Songs




I'll admit to being a little mystified by the current fascination with the cheesier byways of African music - '70s and '80s Afro-Rock, Afro-Disco and the like. The tracks on Frank Gossner's collection Lagos Disco Inferno, for example, strike me as cheap-sounding and derivative. But what do I know? The first pressing of LDI, released in May, has already sold out. And if you think it's just ironic hipsters in Brooklyn who are boppin' out to this stuff, check out With Comb and Razor or the many Naija message boards out there. They prove that Nigerians of a certain age are still pining for the sounds of Ofege, Harry Mosco and Doris Ebong. It all goes to show that African music, as listened to by Africans themselves, has never been as exalted or "pure" as we outsiders may have once thought.

Back in the day, Christy Essien (later Christy Essien-Igbokwe) was the queen of disco music in Nigeria. She cut her first album, Freedom (Anodisc ALPS 1015, 1976), when she was sixteen, and copies of her '70s pressings today command astronomical prices on Ebay. Essien was just one of a cohort of female singers who made a splash in Nigeria in the '70s & '80s, like Onyeka Onwenu, Patty Boulaye and Martha Ulaeto, and if you want to know more, Uchenna Ikonne discusses them extensively here. According to Uchenna, Essien's 1981 outing Ever Liked my Person? (Lagos International LIR 1), was meant to take her to the next level of international stardom, and it certainly made an impression in Nigeria, where henceforth she would be known as "Nigeria's Lady of Songs."

I present for your perusal two late '80s recordings by Essien-Igbokwe which display her mature sound. Taking my Time (Soul Train Records STR 1) showcases slick production values and plenty of influences from country-western ("Show a Little Bit of Kindness") to makossa (the Yoruba-language "Iya Mi Ranti" and Igbo "Ibu Ndum"). All in all, a pretty decent example of middle-of-the-road Nigerian pop music:











Download Taking My Time as a zipped file here. 1988's It's Time. . . (His Master's Voice HMV 066) is a little less successful in my opinion, being a little too dependent on the synthesizers for my taste. Still, it has its moments:









Download It's Time as a zipped file here. In later years Essien-Igbokwe devoted herself to acting in Nigeria's burgeoning video industry and in November celebrated her fiftieth birthday, an occasion duly noted in the Nigerian media. Here she is today:



Saturday, January 16, 2010

Yoruba Muslim Women's Music




We were shopping on Nnamdi Azikiwe St. in central Lagos when we came across a fascinating sight: hundreds of men were prostrate and barefoot in the street, while overhead a speaker blared:


Allahu Akbar
A
sh-had anna lah ilaha illallah
Ash-hadu anna Muħammadar rasulullah

Hayya 'ala-salatt

Hayya 'ala 'l-falah

Allāhu akbar

La ilaha illallah
"The Muslim people are praying," my brother-in-law told me. "Look at them with their faces in the dirt. And these are the people who rule over us." Such was my introduction to Friday prayers at the Central Mosque in Lagos (right), and to the complex subject of ethnic and religious power relations in Nigeria.

Across from the mosque a stall was selling pirated pornographic videotapes with covers that left nothing to the imagination, while shoppers went about their business. The loudspeakers amplified every bit of static in the recorded call to prayer, which echoed among the surrounding buildings. The atmosphere was strange and other-worldly, to my eyes and ears at least. I've believed in no deity since I was twelve, but the spectacle stirred in me trembling feelings of awe and wonderment. For just a minute I was tempted to remove my shoes and join the believers in their devotions.

Needless to say, I don't share the casual bigotry reflected in my brother-in-law's remarks, but they speak to the fact that Nigeria is a nation increasingly divided along ethnic, political and religious lines. Northern Nigeria is predominantly Muslim while the southeast of the country is almost exclusively Christian. Other areas, such as the Yoruba region around Lagos, are more complicated in their religious allegiances. About half of the Yoruba are thought to follow Islam while the remainder adhere to various Christian denominations and traditional religion.

Since Independence Nigerian rulers have tended to be Northerners, hence the resentment of "Northern Muslim domination," and at times this friction has given way to violence, notably during the Biafran War of 1967-70 and recent conflicts over the introduction of sharia law in some northern states. Islam came to Yorubaland by conversion rather than through war, and relations among the various religious groups there have been mostly peaceful.

Among Yoruba Muslims in the 19th Century were a group of repatriated slaves from Brazil who have played an important role in the economy and politics of Lagos. Among the distinctive buildings they erected in the city, all of them now in disrepair, is the Shitta Mosque on Martins St. I took this picture of it during my 1994 visit:



Among various styles of Yoruba music which have their roots in the Muslim community are waka, performed by female singers, and apala and fuji, performed by men. While these styles derive from music performed during Muslim holidays such as Ramadan, they have tended to become secularized over time.

I picked up the LP Asalamu Alaekumu (Leader Records 82, 1992) by Sister Riskat Lawal and the Aaqibat Lil-Mutaqeen Society Group during my 1995 visit to Nigeria, and I'm not sure where to situate it within the spectrum of Yoruba Islamic percussion styles. This is clearly a religious recording and not the usual exercise in praise-singing (rather, it praises God rather than rich and powerful individuals), nor is it unique. I take it there are hundreds of recordings in this genre, but I'm not aware that they have a specific label.

No matter what you call it, I'm sure you will find
Asalamu Alaekumu a first-rate example of Yoruba percussion music.

Sister Riskat Lawal & the Aaqibat Lil-Mutaqeen Society Group - Asalamu Alaekumu

Sister Riskat Lawal & the Aaqibat Lil-Mutaqeen Society Group - Allahu Allahu / Eyin Anobi / Ayonfe Oluwa

Sister Riskat Lawal & the Aaqibat Lil-Mutaqeen Society Group - E Gboro Oluwa / Omo Iya Ni Wa / Oro Shekh Adam-Oba To Ni Ike Lodo / Islam Esin Ola

Download Asalamu Alaekumu as a zipped file here.




Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Navigating the Boundary Between Highlife and Jùjú




There's been a lot of good jùjú on the Internets lately - from Comb & Razor here and here, Worldservice here and here, and at Snap, Crackle & Pop here - so I figured why shouldn't I get into the act? Besides, it's been a while since I posted some good old Yoruba Soul Music.

I can tell you very little about Ade Wesco and his Destiny Dandies. Wesco rates a brief entry in Ronnie Graham's The World of African Music (Pluto Press/Research Associates, 1992) where his sound is described as ". . . highlife enriched with traditional percussion and distinctly Yoruba vocals." The label of his LP Aye Wa Adun (Ibukun Orisun Iye MOLPS 35, 1976) describes the contents as "jùjú," and judging by that album at least (the only one by him I've heard, although he released a number of others) his music is a true synthesis of the two styles, much like that of Orlando Owoh.

Be that as it may, you can decide for yourself. Here's the album in full. It's fine, fine stuff:

Ade Wesco & his Destiny Dandies - Aye Wa Adun/Adun ni Gbehin Ewuro/Ibukun Orisun Iye/Tiwa ni Tiwa

Ade Wesco & his Destiny Dandies - Ogo ni Fun Baba Loke/Irawo Wa Ntan Loke/A Dupe Baba Wa/Bayi Loda/Amariran Wo/Oniyeye


Sunday, November 9, 2008

R.I.P. Baba Orlando Owoh, King of Toye




By way of Comb & Razor I've learned that Orlando Owoh, the Nigerian master of Toye music, passed away Tuesday, November 4 after a long illness following a stroke.

Owoh was 74 when he died. He was born in Owo in Oyo State in the former Western Region of Nigeria and played in the early '60s with Fatai Rolling Dollar, who had earlier employed Ebenezer Obey. While he's long been hugely popular in Nigeria, he came to the notice of most World Music™ fans in the West when the now-defunct label Original Music released Dr. Ganja's Polytonality Blues (Original Music OMCD 035, 1995), a compilation of two of his Nigerian LPs. While his musical style, variously called Toye (which is also Yoruba slang for marijuana) or Kennery, is often classified as "highlife," it is more properly a fusion of that style and jùjú music, with Owoh's own idiosyncratic affectations. As John Storm Roberts puts it in his liner notes to Polytonality Blues:

. . . Like so much downhome African music, Owoh's style can baffle westerners used to the polite worldbeat of bands aiming for international stardom. Not only can some of the more polytonal playing sound as though the toye was stronger than usual, but the band (like many other street-level juju bands) uses tunings different from the standard European tempered scale. Like the sweet-sour offbeat chord in many Tex-Mex polkas, or the acidic pitch of virtuoso klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras, Owoh's band uses dissonance to give its music an extra edge.
I present here in its totality Owoh's 1976 LP Ifon Omimah Ni Moti Wa (Afrodisia WAPS 317). My knowledge of Yoruba is less than minimal, so I can't tell you anything about the lyrics, but maybe someone out there can oblige us. This is a great example of "Dr. Ganja's" mature style:

Dr. Orlando Owoh & his Young Kenneries Band - Ifon Omimah Ni Moti Wa / Baba Ma Fi Ku Ma Wi

Dr. Orlando Owoh & his Young Kenneries Band - Late Gabriel Jejeniwa / Olobele Mo Bele / Ajuwa Sawasawa

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ebenezer Obey On The Town!




As I promised, here is the second installment of ground-breaking classic jùjú by the great Ebenezer Obey, his LP On The Town (Decca WAPS 30, reissued as Obey WAPS), recorded in London in 1970. Here we find the Chief Commander and his International Brothers stretching out with a non-stop medley on Side 1. Side 2 features two extended cuts. I especially enjoyed the highlife "Ajoyio/Ore Mi Maje Aja." For more information on the songs click on the picture below.

Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Lagos State/Ekiti/Ife/A Omo Enia Luware O/Davies/Adebayo

Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Adupe Baba/Akunle/Tonny Anny

Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ajoyio/Ore Mi Maje Aja