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

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Morning Star Group



Here's a mysterious Nigerian album, Idanre Makin (Idanre Makin EILP 002) I got not too long ago - by a Yoruba vocal/percussion group led by Francis Akinde called Ẹgbẹ Irawọ Owurọ, whose name translates, as best I can tell, as "Morning Star Group." A lovely moniker, if Google Translate can be trusted!

The label and liner notes say nothing about this congregation, and give little indication as to what "style" the music is. It's within the broad spectrum of Yoruba percussion styles that we've been exploring recently. Enjoy!

Ẹgbẹ Irawọ Owurọ - Okungba So Gba / Ọrẹ Ma Ba Mi Je / Ibi Aiye Tire Aomo / Fiwa Jaiye Mo Boni Mi Rode

Ẹgbẹ Irawọ Owurọ - Ọla Mẹ Lọ Si Igbo Bini / Ede Sun Mi Daiko / E Are Babangida / Awa Feni Sọrọ

Download Idanre Makin as a zipped file here.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

An Èwi Deep Dive with Lanrewaju Adepọju



Even if I weren't already a huge fan of Lanrewaju Adepọju, I would have bought this album for the cover art alone! Aláfọwósowópó (Lanre Adepoju Records LALPS 72, 1980) is a tribute to the cooperative movement in Nigeria: "The greatest weapon the masses have to fight the formidable forces of oppressive capitalism, mindless and the unconcerned attitude of few privileged rich overlords, is to form themselves into cooperative societies."

In a previous post, I wrote of Alhaji Adepoju and his mastery of the Yoruba poetic form known as èwi, of which this LP is a fine example. Many of his compositions deal with Islamic religious themes but apparently not the ones here. Although I know only a few words of Yoruba, I find his lyrical declamations thoroughly entrancing. And check out the instrumental breaks from 12:32 to 13:37 and from 16:01 to 16:46 in the first track. Somebody should sample those!



Download Aláfọwósowópóó as a zipped file here.


Friday, October 11, 2019

Raji Owonikoko's "Kwara System"



I just came into possession of a raft of great Yoruba recordings from Nigeria - lots of jùjú, àpàlà fújì, wákà, èwi, what have you - and I'll be sharing some of them with you over the next few months. For now we have on tap Raji Owonikoko, with his take on the venerable àpàlà genre, which he calls his "Kwara System." About àpàlà Christopher Alan Waterman writes in his excellent book Jùjú: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music (University of Chicago Press, 1990):

... Àpàlà, a praise song and social dance music, developed in the late 1930s in the Ijebu area, and was popularized by a musician named Haruna Ishola ... àpàlà groups generally included small hourglass-shaped pressure drums called àpàlà or àdàmòn, an àgídìgbo bass lamellaphone, several conga-type drums, and a metal idiophone such as an agogo or truck muffler (Thieme 1969). Like postwar jùjú, àgídìgbo and àpàlà drew upon Latin American recordings, preexistent popular genres, and deep Yoruba rhetorical devices. These social dance and praise song genres provided an urban-centered musical lingua franca, a set of stylistic coordinates for the construction of modem Yoruba identity. Each of them relied upon indigenous principles as a unifying framework for innovation... 
The rather sedate, philosophical sound of àpàlà, whose foremost practitioners were the late Haruna Ishola and Ayninla Omowura, gave way to the more frenzied sounds of jùú, fújì and the like, but it's never disappeared, and has been given new life in recent years by artists like Musiliu Haruna Ishola, son of Haruna Ishola, who was featured in a previous Likembe post.

Alhaji Mohammed Ahmed Raji Alabi Owonikoko, better known as Raji Owonikoko, is one of the musicians who have carried the àpàlà torch into the present day. At least judging from today's musical offering, Kwara System Originator (Olumo ORPS 58, 1977), his "Kwara System," named after his home state, adds a few uptempo fillips to the basic sound. In a 2012 interview with PM News (Lagos) he said:

...I hail from Kwara State. My father is a native of Buhari while my mother hails from Ijomu, Oro both in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State. I was born in Oro that is why many people believe I am from Oro ... I grew up with elderly friends and contemporaries. I became more popular among them because I always sang during Ramadan fasting period, waking Islamic faithful in the community at dawn to observe Shaur [Suhoor] ... As a result of my talent, I became the leader of our musical group. Thereafter, I moved to Lagos with some members of the group where I recruited others to join my group. Along the line, I met King Sunny Ade, and Jide Smith, who was into music instrument rentals. I eventually changed to àpàlà music genre because of the love I had for the late àpàlà music sage, Alhaji Haruna Ishola, in spite of other types of music around then...
I hope you will enjoy this offering of àpàlà, Kwara style!



Download Kwara System Originator as a zipped file here.


Friday, September 6, 2019

An Overlooked Obey Gem



I thought I had all of Ebenezer Obey's great LPs from the '80s, until I came across this gem in Dusty Groove in Chicago a few months ago.

It turns out that, while Gbeja Mi Eledumare (Afrodisia DWAPS 2252) was released in 1985, it was recorded in 1979. The reason I missed it before is that it was released on Afrodisia instead of the Chief Commander's own Obey label. Some time in the '70s, Obey's label, Decca West Africa, was "indigenized" and transformed into Afrodisia Records, most of its reference numbers retaining the old WAPS or DWAPS prefixes. Around the same time Obey, having obtained the rights to his archive recordings, began releasing them on the Obey imprint, again with the WAPS prefix. Newer recordings had reference numbers beginning with OPS.

So what I think happened was that Gbeja Mi Eledumare was recorded, never released and Afrodisia somehow retained the rights to it, only to release it a few years later. An excellent recording it is!

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & his Inter-Reformers Band - Gbeja Mi Eledumare / Olorun Oba Tiwa Dowo Re / Aiye Ju Daniel Si Iho Kinniun / Rere A Pe Ika a Pe


Download Gbeja Mi Eledumare as a zipped file here.


Friday, April 5, 2019

Music For Ramadan



I just realized that Ramadan this year begins the evening of May 5 and ends the evening of June 4. It's a little early, but I thought it would be nice if we could listen to some music from Nigeria that is intended for this auspicious occasion.

There are two terms for Yoruba Islamic music used to arouse the faithful during Ramadan: Ajísáàri and wéré. Ajísáàri refers either to the style of music or the person who performs it. Ajísáàri is usually performed solo and wéré by ensembles. Ajísáàri and wéré are performed by men. A related genre, wákà, is performed by women. These popular Islamic styles are percursors of secular fújì music, which is quite popular in Yorubaland. Christopher Alan Waterman discusses this music in his essential study Jùjú: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Musc (University of Chicago Press, 1990):

Extensive Islamic conversion led to the development of musical genres performed during Muslim holidays (e.g., Ramadan, Id El-Fitr) and ceremonies marking the return of pilgrims from Mecca (àláji, m.; àlájà, f.). One of the earliest of these genres was wákà, sung by women and accompanied by beaten sélí or péréṣéké, pounded tin discs with metal rings attached. Another popular genre, wéré or ajísáàri, was performed by groups of young men during the Ramadan fast to wake the faithful for their early meal. Both of these genres incorporated aspects of Islamic cantillation — nasalized, tense vocal quality, melismatic text settings, microtonal melodic embellishments, and Qur'anic texts — into performances guided by Yoruba musical values and techniques. Wákà and wéré were associated with the high status of Islam in traditional Lagos and the continued vitality of economic networks linking the Yoruba to Muslim societies in the northern hinterland. 
Today's musical offereing, Itan Anabi Muhammad (Leader Records LRCLS 61, 1987), is one of a number recorded by the youth group of the Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Lagos. The Society itself is a fraternal and educational association founded by Yoruba Muslim notables in 1923. It was a response to the ascendence of Christian elites and had a reformist conception of Islam which sought to reconcile it with modern ideas.

Ansar-Ud-Deen Youth (Lagos Branch) - Yatarikan Li Solathi / Itan Anabi Muhammad

Ansar-Ud-Deen Youth (Lagos Branch) - Alhamdu Lil'Lahi

Ansar-Ud-Deen Youth (Lagos Branch) - Latarkanana Ilal Ahwah / Eje Ka Ronu Eyin Araiye / Bi Al Ouyaoma Ba De

Download Itan Anabi Muhammad as a zipped file here.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Ebenezer Obey Sings For The People



Singing For The People (Obey WAPS 578, 1980) continues the explorations in jùjú-funk that Ebenezer Obey started with Eyi Yato (Decca WAPS 508, 1980), posted a few days ago in this space. There's nothing much more I can say except if you liked that one, you'll like this one. Enjoy!

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & his Inter-Reformers Band - Singing For the People / Je K'Ajo Mi Jashi Rere

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & his Inter-Reformers Band - Alfa Omega / O Se Baba

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & his Inter-Reformers Band - Eiye To Ma Ba Kowe Ke / Mori Sisi Kan / Eje A Mo / Nike Oluwole

Download Singing For The People as a zipped file here.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

"This is Something Different"



I was under the impression that Nigeria's jùjú legend Ebenezer Obey had retired from the music scene some years ago, but it turns out I was wrong! Benson Idonije in The Guardian of Lagos reports:

...Only recently on September 15, 2018, he almost pulled down the roof of the now popular 10 Degrees Events Center in Ikeja, Lagos. What with excitement almost reaching bursting point and applause rising to a deafening crescendo? He was performing at a high society wedding with the Executive Governor of Ogun state, His Excellency, Ibikunle Amosun as chair person. Obey went down memory lane to remind the audience about the past. He also came up with new songs most of which he created on the spur of the moment with the spontaneity of a prolific composer. At 76, his voice is still as strong as ever, moving with considerable ease in all the vocal registers –high, middle and low. 
Not many musicians are capable of playing music that has the enduring allure of Obey’s juju music: full of melodic inventiveness and driven by messages of peace, hope and goodwill, this trait has characterized Obey’s music from the very beginning of his career. I remember the impact he made in the 80s while I was still in broadcasting and was organizing a scientifically credible hit parade that had Popular Music and Nigerian Social Music as its extent of enquiry. Most of his releases topped the charts and remained there almost forever where some others hit the number one slot and crashed out in no time – an indication that these were just instant hits and disposable flukes that could not stand the test of time. Ebenezer Obey is the pioneer of modern juju music. His melodies and messages have a way of naturally growing on the people....
Speaking of Memory Lane, I think it's an auspicious time to post here one of the Chief Commander's recordings from the '80s, one that truly stands out for its wild inventiveness and funky chops. Which is saying something, the '80s jùjú scene being at the pinnacle of creativity and influence. The liner notes of Eyi Yato (Oti Brothers OTI 508, released in Nigeria as Decca WAPS 508, 1980) say it well:

...The tracks on this album are a complete departure from the mainstream of juju format, although Obey's style and grace of delivery is very distinct. Obey has attempted and achieved in this album a very high level of sophistication through his powerful guitar fireworks, beautiful lyrics and masterly instrumentation. As Obey himself said on one of the tracks on the album, "THIS IS SOMETHING DIFFERENT" or to put it properly in Yoruba language "EYI YATO." 
Enjoy! And if you like this one, be sure to check out Likembe's Ebenezer Obey archive. Next up I will be posting another classic Obey LP from the '80s, Singing for the People (Obey WAPS 578, 1983)

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & his Inter-Reformers Band - Ere Wa Di Oloyin Momo / Kosi Eni Ti O Mo Ojo Ola / Tepa Mose / Chief George Oyedele


Download Eyi Yato as a zipped file here.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

King Sunny Adé: The Message



King Sunny Adé's 1981 LP Juju Music (Island ILPS 9712) was a revelation for many outside of Nigeria, making him a global superstar, making way for other African musicians and opening the floodgates for the World Music™ craze (or hype, or gimmick) to come.

By the time Juju Music was released, Adé had been recording for fifteen years. His early outings, with the Green Spots Band, were short, punchy compositions meant for the 7" 45 format. As LP records became the medium of choice in Nigeria, and the Green Spots mutated into the African Beats, the music stretched out, becoming languid medleys taking up whole sides of albums.

French producer Martin Meissonnier, in packaging Juju Music for the world market, made the shrewd move of chopping the medleys into individual compositions and adding a few subtle production tricks, but avoiding the "crossover" trap and leaving the sound basically as it had been heard in Nigeria. It's an excellent introduction to King Sunny Adé's sound, and jùjú music in general, and is considered a classic.

Those who have heard Juju Music will find much of The Message (Sunny Alade Records SALPS 25) familiar. Parts of it were the basis for two songs on the former album, "Ma Jaiye Oni" and "365 Is My Number/The Message." It's one of my favorite Sunny Adé records. Enjoy!





Download The Message as a zipped file here.


Friday, February 22, 2019

King Sunny Adé: Juju Music of the '80s



Kudos to the blog Music Republic for posting the great 1981 King Sunny Adé LP Check "E" (Sunny Alade Records SALPS 26). I've been inspired in turn, and  I will be posting two more 1981 offerings from Sunny (he was very prolific - he released five albums in 1981 alone!)

Today's offering is Juju Music in the '80s (Sunny Alade SALPS 24), and in a few days I will post The Message (Sunny Alade SALPS 25).

These albums were released only in Nigeria, right before the monumental Juju Music (Island ILPS 9712). That was Sunny's first international release, which put jùjú music on the map and launched his career as a world superstar. Unlike that album, which was tailored somewhat for global tastes (but still great), this one sticks to the Nigerian convention of long jams that fill each side of an LP record. Enjoy!



Download Juju Music in the '80s 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, 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.