What is the deal with Moos, over at Global Groove? Can he read my mind? As I noted here, I had wanted to post the LP Somo Somo, but Moos posted it first. I've been wanting to post another great LP, Super Diamono de Dakar's classic People (Feel One DK015, 1987) for some time, and once again Global Groove beats me to the punch! Seriously, Moos' blog, having been online only a short while, is a "must go to" site featuring all kinds of rarieties from Africa and the diaspora. So, check it out.
I have a trump card, though: Euleuk Sibir! (Xippi), the mid-'90s collaboration between Senegal's top two stars of mbalax, Youssou N'Dour and Omar Pene, lead vocalist of Super Diamono de Dakar.
In an earlier post I wrote, ". . .I think most people in the know would agree that the three top male vocalists in Senegal are Youssou N'dour, Thione Seck and Omar Pene. To say one of these is 'the greatest' is to miss the point; that's like comparing apples, oranges and kiwis." On reflection Baaba Maal should probably be added to that pantheon also, not that there isn't a flock of other great Senegalese vocalists as well!
If you're reading this, I assume you have at least a cursory knowledge of Youssou N'dour and his Super Etoile de Dakar (and if you don't, go here). Omar Pène is a lot less well-known outside of Senegal, but he easily approaches N'dour in terms of popularity and sales in that country. He founded Super Diamono in 1975, and has had a number of smash hits with the group in the years since. Pène's lyrics are notable for their concentration on social issues as opposed to the praise singing that characterizes much African music.
Youssou and Omar are friendly competitors who each have rabid followings. The Super Diamono sound could be characterized as "darker" and "bluesier" that that of Super Etoile. To my knowledge, the cassette Eueleuk Sibir! is their only recording together, and it's a certifiable classic. But don't take my word for it - hear for yourself!
Omar Pène & Youssou N'dour - Euleuk Sibir!
Youssou N'dour & Omar Pène - Silmaxa
Omar Pène - Tongo
Youssou N'dour & Omar Pène - Warougar
Omar Pène & Youssou N'dour - Indépendance
Youssou N'dour - Ndanane
Discography of Youssou N'dour & le Super Etoile de Dakar
Discography of Omar Pène & Super Diamono de Dakar
You can download Euleuk Sibir! as a zipped file here.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
This has been out a few days, so you may have seen it, but the latest Village Voice takes note of Likembe and several other African music blogs. It's a fairly good overview, although I and several others have noted that the essential With Comb and Razor blog is totally ignored. Read the article here.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Guitarist Mose Se Sengo "Fan Fan" was a crucial member of Franco's Orchestre TPOK Jazz from 1967 to 1972. In that year he left, and after some time in Orchestre Lovy, founded the first of several orchestras called Somo-Somo in 1974. This band was short-lived, and Fan Fan soon made his way south and east, first to Zambia and then Tanzania, where he played with the legendary Orchestra Makassy, composing some of its greatest hits, notably "Ciska," "Mosese" and "Molema." Moving on to Nairobi in the early '80s , he founded another iteration of Somo-Somo, recording two LPs and several singles with the group.
In the mid-'80s Fan Fan ended up in London where he formed a new Somo-Somo band, which recorded a wonderful LP entitled, of course, Somo-Somo (Sterns 1007, 1985, left). What set this London version of the band apart from the earlier incarnations was that, apart from Fan Fan, fellow Congolese N'Simba Foquis and South African vocalist Doreen Thobekile Webster, it was composed entirely of British session musicians.
I suppose the line-up of the UK Somo-Somo was more a product of necessity than design (Unlike, say, Paris, there is a dearth of Congolese musicians in London), but the tracks on Somo-Somo, mainly reworks of songs Fan Fan recorded earlier in Africa, have a punchiness and vitality lacking in many of the more formulaic Paris productions. The extensive use of saxophones really sets it apart - talk about making lemonade from lemons!
Somo-Somo has long been out of print. For some time I've wanted to digitize it and make it available here, but wouldn't you know? Moos, over at the blog Global Groove, has beat me to it! You can download it here.
However, I have two more hard-to-find Fan Fan tracks for you, apparently recorded around 1983 during his sojourn in Kenya. I have no idea what the lyrics of "Kimoze-Moze" (Editions FrancAfrique EFA 015) are about but the chorus does seem to share a theme with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's classic recording "Lady." Musically, of course, the songs have nothing in common:
Mose Fan Fan et son Orchestre T.P. Somo-Somo - Kimoze-Moze Pts. 1 & 2
And here's Fan Fan's cover of Pamelo Mounk'a's classic tune "l'Argent Appelle l'Argent" (Editions FrancAfrique EFA 013):
Mose Fan Fan et son Orchestre T.P. Somo-Somo - l'Argent Appelle l'Argent Pts. 1 & 2
You can get Pamelo's original here.
An excellent overview of Fan Fan's career is available on the CD Belle Epoque (RetroAfric RETRO 7CD), issued in 1994 and
available here. Several recent recordings by this consummate professional are available from Sterns.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Note: This post was updated on September 20, 2008, to incorporate comments by reader/listener Iman.
In response a to a request from reader/listener Mike K., I'm happy to post more taarab music from the Indian Ocean coast. The selections here are taken from two cassettes, Pendo Kazi Yetu by the Jasmin Musical Club (FLATIM/Ahadi AHD (MC) 023) and Pendo La Dharau by the Shani Musical Club (FLATIM/Ahadi AHD (MC) 035). While a friend brought these back for me from Nairobi some years ago, I've never really listened to them until now. They're quite nice, though, despite the dodgy audio quality. As FLATIM/Ahadi productions, the packaging is similarly lacking in style:
Doug Paterson writes, at Musikifan:
". . . Badly mastered? Surely you jest? The cassettes have gone through a rigorous controlled process starting with duplication of the original one track tape from Radio Tanzania, the creation of a cassette master at the Nairobi's Valley Road Pentecostal Church (an actual studio), and then home duplication on Livingstone Amaumo's comsumer grade cassette recorder on blanks from no-name Asian manufacturers. At least that was the process back in 1988.I've always thought the crew at FLATIM deserved major kudos for keeping this music in circulation throughout the eighties and nineties, despite the technical limitations of their work. They put out some amazing stuff, a complete listing of which you can read here.
"Since then Livingstone actually uses professional tape duplicators who aren't too bad. The quarter inch tape masters (duplicates) were always a bit dicey but the rest of the process really took its toll.
In another message, Doug explains the acronym: "FLATIM stands for (the late) Franklin Livingstone Amaumo and Tido Dunstan Mhando. Tido, former head of the BBC Swahili Service and now head of TUT (Tanzania's state-owned radio and television services), was once Livingstone's Tanzanian partner in FLATIM."
I've been unable to find out anything about the Shani Musical Club or Jasmin Musical Club. I suspect they are from the Tanga area in mainland Tanzania, as are the Black Star Musical Club. At least their style is quite similar. But that's pure conjecture on my part. Iman writes:
I really can't tell where these bands are from, you are probably correct in your conjecture. They are using words that are beyond my vocabulary and this is not surprising seeing as that us Nairobians are often ridiculed for our poor grammar - it could also be just me. In any case, I have translated the titles as you have posted them and gone a little further with some of them.Here's a heaping helping of nimble guitar work, funky Farfisa organs, and passionate Islamic vocals from the land of the Swahili! In regards to our first song, "Mjamili," Iman writes, "I have no idea what this word means. When I listen to it, it sounds more like 'Mjamali' which I also don't understand! I asked a friend though and he is trying to figure it out. But from the few lyrics I could pick up, he seems to be sad about something. One of the lines I picked up: My heart is burning and you are the firewood."
Jasmin Musical Club - Mjamili
"'Mama wa Kambo' = 'Stepmother'"
Jasmin Musical Club - Mama wa Kambo
"'Pendo Limetakasika' = 'This Love Has Gone Bad'"
Jasmin Musical Club - Pendo Limetakasika
"'Nakonda Kwa Huba': Literally 'I am losing weight over love.' This one is actually kinda funny and sad at the same time! My favorite of the bunch. He is basically saying: 'All the wrongs you have done me make me laugh and really shock me. Remember how good our love used to be? I believed you when you said you loved me and now it seems like you have grown tired of me. Have you no God? How can you harass me this way? I am a fool for your love. I am hungry for your love.'"
Shani Musical Club - Nakonda Kwa Huba
"'Ewe Wangu Nateseka': 'My Love, I am Suffering.' Her lover has left and she is asking him to return soon.
Shani Musical Club - Ewe Wangu Natiseka
"'Moyo Hukipenda Hula': 'The Heart Wants What it Wants' (even if it is bad). Something close to 'I can't help what I love.'"
Shani Musical Club - Moyo Hukipenda Hula
The artwork at the top of this post is from the website Zanzibar Henna Art. The site is a bit rudimentary now, but hopefully it will be updated soon. Browse the site, read about the artists, and consider buying the set of postcards that is available.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Today marks one year since Likembe first went online on August 9, 2007. One thing I've discovered in a year of blogging is that it's a lot harder than it looks! It's been a lot of fun, nonetheless. I've made a lot of new friends and rekindled some old friendships and gotten out a lot of great music. My biggest regret is that I just haven't had time to digitize more stuff and put it online.
Here's a snapshot of daily visitors from August 14, 2007, when I started receiving Google Analytics, and July 30 of this year:
As you can see, the site started out with less that 50 unique visitors daily. Today it averages around 150, with a few spikes for posts that seem to have gotten a lot of attention. Here is a list of the top 20 posts, as measured by unique visits, as of August 1:
1. Somali Mystery Funk (1000 unique visits)While it's no surprise that Somali Mystery Funk made Number One (if barely), the inclusion of Mali Cassette Grab Bag: Djeneba Seck, Tata Bambo Kouyate, Naïny Diabate, Yayi Kanoute, Djamy Kouyate on the list is a revelation, as it generated zero comments when I first posted it! There must be a lot more fans of Sahelian female vocalists than I'd realized! Keep in mind that by its nature this list favors older posts, otherwise I'm sure Memories of Oliver de Coque would have made the cut (it's number one in the rankings for July 2008).
2. Tanzania Hit Parade '88 (999)
3. The Elusive "Igbo Blues" (895)
4. By Request: Mbaraka Mwinshehe (811)
5. Ethiopian Honey (805)
6. More Somali Funk: Sahra Dawo & Durdur (777)
7. Dakar Divas Pt. 1: Kiné Lam (720)
8. Ikenga Super Stars: Kickin' Ikwokilikwo! (709)
9. Mali Cassette Grab Bag: Djeneba Seck, Tata Bambo Kouyate, Naïny Diabate, Yayi Kanoute, Djamy Kouyate (679)
10. Nigeria's Golden Voice (678)
11. East African Memories (625)
12. Dakar Divas Pt. 5: Viviane N'dour (618)
13. Oliver de Coque is Dead (618)
14. A Long-Lost Highlife Classic (613)
15. More Ethiopian Honey (607)
16. Sikinde Ngoma Ya Ukae! (594)
17. Dakar Divas Pt. 3: Aby Ngana Diop (592)
18. Some Recent Tunes From Ghana (577)
19. More Mbaraka (567)
20. Kabaka: Mangala Special (561)
As to where you are, here's a map:
The list of the top twenty countries in terms of visitors is as follows:
1. United States (17,985 visits)No big bombshells here. A lot of people would be surprised that Colombia made number 7, but I'm not (a lot of major African music fanatics down that way!) Every country in Africa is represented, save Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic and Western Sahara. A surprise for me has been the number of visits from Somalia (71), given the state of unease in that country. From the very beginning there has been a small but steady stream of visitors from the Middle East, notably the Persian Gulf countries. Starting in October, when "Likembe" was linked on a Russian-language blog, there has been regular traffic from the former Soviet Union. Mainland China has just started to log in as of July (26 visits so far).
2. United Kingdom (6703)
3. France (4296)
4. Germany (3363)
5. Netherlands (2434)
6. Canada (2255)
7. Colombia (1942)
8. Sweden (1478)
9. Belgium (877)
10. Spain (866)
11. Italy (800)
12. Australia (722)
13. Japan (694)
14. Kenya (568)
15. Switzerland (557)
16. Greece (509)
17. South Africa (460)
18. Brazil (436)
19. Argentina (391)
20. Russia (370)
Mad props to those blogs who inspired me to get this thing going: Benn Loxo du Taccu, Matsuli Music, With Comb and Razor, Aduna, Steve Ntwiga Mugiri and Voodoo Funk, and a big shout-out to the sites that have debuted in the last year: Africolombia, Afrocaribe, African Music Treasures and Orogod (hope I didn't leave anyone out!).
Now, if I may ask for a few moments of your time, I'd appreciate some feedback about the site: what do you like about it, what don't you like, technical suggestions, what sort of music you'd like me to post in the future, etc. And if you're so inclined, tell us about yourself: where you're from, how you heard about the site and your interests. Be as brief or as wordy as you'd like.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Our friend Aduna is back from Madagascar with un petit cadeau, "Tulear Market Mix," eleven nuggets of wailing vocals and frenzied guitar-picking from that city in the southwest corner of the island. You are wholeheartedly encouraged to download it here.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I mentioned to someone recently that with two teenagers headed off to college soon I just can't afford to plop down $17-20 for a CD anymore. Therefore, by necessity, this weblog is devoted mainly to older sounds. That means that I haven't heard African Scream Contest, Nigeria Special, or any of the great new reissues that everybody else in the African music blogosphere has been raving about.
In my younger, more carefree days it was a different story. Back in the mid-1980s, when I first discovered Sterns in London, I made several big orders, totaling well over two thousand dollars. A favorable exchange rate didn't hurt either. At one point the Pound Sterling went for $1.03! Even taking postage and import duties into account the cost of a European-pressed LP was roughly equal to what I would pay for an American one. Not, of course, that anything I could get in a U.S. record store could equal anything Sterns had on offer!
I generally didn't order specific recordings from the Sterns people (availability of particular titles was iffy anyway). Rather I would request x number of records, with the instructions that they were to select whatever was the latest and best from each particular country. It sure was a kick to go down to the post office, pay the import duty and then rush home to hear what they'd picked out for me!
In this way I was exposed to an awful lot of excellent sounds that I might not have considered otherwise. I certainly wouldn't have heard any of the music that was coming out of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) those days. As I noted in a previous post, that country has been host to numerous musical styles over the years. The latest is Coupé Decalé, which hit the scene around 2002.
For many years the music of Côte d'Ivoire was overshadowed by the sounds coming out of its neighbors Ghana, Nigeria and especially Congo. Imported R&B from the US was also hugely popular, as it was everywhere in Africa. Local musicians like Amadee Pierre and Anoman Brough Felix made excellent music, but their popularity was confined mainly to their home country.
François Lougah (above) was one of the first Ivoirien musicians to have an international impact. He was born in 1942 in Lakota in the southern central region of Côte d'Ivoire, and had varied careers as a mason, football player and actor before hitting the music scene. His first hit was "Pekoussa" in 1973. Countless chart successes, a brief marriage to Tshala Muana and numerous tours throughout Africa and the world followed until his untimely death in 1997. Here's a hard-hitting track from Lougah's 1976 LP Au Zaïre (Sonafric SAF 50036):
François Lougah - Saka Popia
By the mid '80s, when I got hip to their music, Ivoiriens were in the throes of Ziglibithy fever following the death of the founder and foremost practitioner of the style, Ernesto Djédjé (left). Djédjé was born in 1947 in Tahiraguhé-Ziglo of a Senegalese father and a mother of the Beté ethnic group. He conceived of Ziglibithy as the first truly "Ivoirien" popular music style, a response to the imported sounds washing over Côte d'Ivoire in the 1970s. The unique "jerky" rhythms of Ziglibithy are derived from Beté folklore and the LP Zibote (Badmos BLP 5020), the first recording to showcase the style, caused a sensation when it was released in 1977. Four more successful LPs followed, but on June 9th, 1983, while preparing for his next album, Djédjé died suddenly of an untreated ulcer.
Here is the title track from Ernesto Djédjé's second album Ziglibithiens (Badmos BLP 5021, 1977). It is included on the CD Le Roi du Ziglibithy (Popular African Music PAM ADC 305, 2001), which is available from Sterns:
Ernesto Djédjé - Ziglibithiens
And here is a video of Djédjé doing "Konan Bedié":
Ernesto Djédjé's death was deeply felt all across the Ivoirien music scene, as witness this tribute from the liner notes of the album Ziglibithy-La Continuité (Shakara Music SHA 041, 1983) by Blissi Tebil (right):
Whew! Let's hear Mr. Tebil himself, in a track from that LP:
Is it necessary to repeat pain and fear? Is it necessary to relive the condemned cyclones and dirty dreams of June? He is dead, the king of Ziglibithy, and we cried all the tears of the heart and the body. That which is important was disarming for his pious and passionate disciples, and is less about crying for help or continuing to languish and always standing up tall, face turned toward the fire of the sun is the loud banner for the master whose shining image operates in them. It is about immortalizing the art of a king.
This record attests to the hope that we bring Blissi Tebil, one of the sons of Ernesto Djedje, the only one and certainly among the most filled with promise: let's hold him in our hand in order to illuminate his way that will be long, long, long. . . in order to revive in us, eternally the voice of a dead god.
Blissi Tebil - Hommage à E. Djedje
Nor was Blissi Tebil the only aspirant to the Ziglibithy throne. Lago Luckson Padaud (left), who was also born in Tahiraguhé-Ziglo, has broadened and developed the style through the years. Here he is in a tune from his '83 album Agnon-Nouke (Shakara Music SHA 0036):
Luckson Padaud - N'Gnoa Libie
Jean-Baptiste Zibodi's take on Ziglibithy is not only inventive, as illustrated by this selection from his 1983 LP Wazie Meo (Zib Production ZIB 001), but he is a prolific music executive whose JBZ Studio in Abidjan is a leading production facility in West Africa:
J.B. Zibodi - Gnia Maka
The 1980s saw the emergence onto the world stage of numerous other Ivoirien musicians who were not necessarily part of the Ziglibithy trend but forged their own styles utilizing local inspirations. Okoi Seka Athanase (left), a member of the Atché ethnic group from Affery in the southwestern part of Côte d'Ivoire, was one of them. Here is a tune from his LP Special Album '85 (OSA 2085):
Okoi Seka Athanase - Tcho Bakou
Jane Agnimel (right) hails from Dabou, west of Abidjan, and was a child star known for her songs "Joli Papillon," "La Femme," and "Le Richman et le Racoleuse" when she joined the Orchestra of Radiodiffusin Télévision Ivoirienne. Here she was discovered by Manu Dibango and joined him in performances across Africa. In 1980 she wrote the song "Oyomiya" for the Camerounian singer Bebe Manga. This song is taken from her 1984 LP Zoum/La Fête au Village (Safari Sound SAS 055):
Jane Agnimel - Zoum
Tina Dakoury was a notable musician about whom I've been unable to find any information, although I understand she died several years ago. Her 1984 album Inokeka-Nokeka (Eska Production SK 84001), from which "Fe, Fe, Fe" is taken, is outstanding for several things, including the sparkling guitar work of Souzzy Kasseya:
Tina Dakoury - Fe, Fe, Fe
Let's conclude this overview with another tune by Francois Lougah. In 1994 he released The Best 20 Titres (Gnangui Diffusion 010LSG94), a retrospective cassette featuring rerecorded medleys of his hits, including "Saka Popia," which we heard earlier. The best track, though is this one:
François Lougah - Dehyminiké
Many thanks to my daughter Aku for translations that I used in this post. Further information was derived from the liner notes of Le Roi du Ziglibithy, Ronnie Graham's Sterns Guide to African Music and West Africa magazine. I've been inspired by my research for this post and will probably post more music from Côte d'Ivoire in the future.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Listening to Oliver de Coque for the first time in 1984, I was made aware that there was a whole lot more to Nigerian music than King Sunny Adé and Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
De Coque, born Oliver Sunday Akanite, passed away of a heart attack on Friday, June 20, joining in death his colleagues Sonny Okosuns (who died only in May), Stephen Osita Osadebe, Nelly Uchendu and Warrior. With his passing, Nigerian highlife music, on life support for the last twenty years, has sustained a mortal blow. It's doubtful that anybody, or anything, can take his place.
De Coque hails from Ezinifite, Nnewi South LGA, Anambra State, and got his musical start in 1965 at the age of 17 playing ekpili, a form of Igbo traditional music. In 1970, following the defeat of the Biafran war of independence, he got a job playing with a Lagos group, Sunny Agaga & his Lucky Star Band. Shortly after he engaged with Jacob Oluwole & his Friendly Unity Band, and was featured on their hit "Agbasisi." De Coque's stint with this group was also short-lived, and in 1973 he took up with Sule Agboola & his Moonlight Star Band.
De Coque emerged as a solo artist in 1976, when his LP Messiah Messiah (Olumo ORPS 48) was released. A series of classic recordings followed, notably Identity (Olumo ORPS 108) in 1980, and a series of records in honor of the People's Club of Nigeria. His great inspiration was to combine highlife, Congolese-style guitar work and the propulsive energy of traditional Igbo music. His called his style, or "system" Ogene, after the Igbo double bell.
On my first day in Nigeria with my family in December 1994, who should I see but my hero Oliver de Coque striding through the mayhem of the domestic air terminal in Lagos. He gestured to his entourage to join him and they marched out onto the tarmac to board their plane. No standing on line for the Ogene King!
Then, in Priscilla's home town of Awo-Omamma, De Coque showed up again. The occasion was a house-warming party for one of the local notables, Chief Amukamara, who wished to proclaim his accomplishments to the world and hired De Coque to do it! Oliver took the stage and sang of the good Chief's achievements in life, even though he was still a young man. I made a video of the event, which I will post on YouTube some day (when I find it), but Priscilla did take this photograph of Oliver and me:
As the years wore on De Coque's music lost much of its edge. The once-lively rhythms became flaccid and formulaic. It did not go unnoticed that De Coque seemed amenable to singing the praises of anybody with money or power, exemplified above all by his obsequious 1996 cassette Democracy (Ogene ORMC 15), a tribute to Sani Abacha, the stupidest and most venal of Nigeria's military rulers!
Still, still. . . the last time I saw De Coque was proof positive, in my mind at least, that the guy still possessed the old magic. The occasion was a Nigerian Independence Day concert in Chicago. It was 2000, and it was one of the last shows at the old, fabled Equator Club, in fact it may have been the last show. There was an air of impending doom. The toilet in the men's room was stopped up and the floor was covered with raw sewage. The first thing De Coque did on taking the stage was denounce management for the cheap sound system they had provided. I had a feeling the owner was a couple of steps ahead of the creditors - he was nowhere to be found.
For all that, it was one of the most electric concerts I've ever been to. From the moment De Coque touched his guitar he had the crowd in the palm of his hand with stirring renditions of his hits: "Nwa Bu Ife Ukwu," "Identity," "People's Club of Nigeria" and many more. Igbos dressed to the nines jumped up on stage to spray the musicians with money. A young lady in a short, short dress and no underwear was dancing her head off, every now and then bending over to give everybody a show. It was a wild and crazy scene.
Afterwards Priscilla and I chewed the fat for a while with Oliver and his brother Eugene. He remembered us from that appearance in Awo-Omamma and I had him autograph the picture we had taken there. I gave him a printout of the Oliver De Coque discography I had posted on the Internet and he was very excited that someone in America had actually taken notice of his work. I remember thinking that here was one of Africa's greatest guitarists, and who knew it? Where was the justice?
In the end De Coque's legacy was tarnished by his embrace of some of the more negative aspects of contemporary Nigerian society: showboating, toadying to those in power, and worshiping money above all. Tarnished, but not erased. Nothing can eliminate the power of his guitar and his words.
Oliver De Coque Kwenu!Trying to come up with a "representative" selection of music by a musician like De Coque is difficult. I favor his early work, and although his praise songs like "People's Club of Nigeria" are popular, they just don't do it for me. So here are my own personal favorites. Let's start off with a cut from his 1979 LP I Salute Africa (Olumo ORPS 100). "All Fingers Are Not Equal" is a common Nigerian proverb. It expresses the sentiment that all human beings are not created equal. In the song De Coque states that some have more and some have less. If you don't have anything in this world, don't begrudge those who are rich, and if you are rich don't look down on those who are poor. It isn't God's intention for anyone to suffer:
Oliver de Coque & his Expo '76 - All Fingers Are Not Equal
"Identity," from the album of the same name (Olumo ORPS 108, 1980) is De Coque's best-known song, and shares some musical affinities with Prince Nico Mbarga's massive hit "Sweet Mother," so much so that many people think that the two songs are by the same artist! Oliver sings that he prays to God every morning and evening, that he always does his best and trusts in God. His father told him to sing his music with honesty and his mother advised him to respect his elders, furthermore he says that he always "cuts his coat according to his size" (this West African expression means that he lives within his means). He sings that sometimes he wears a suit & tie like a "boyoyo" (a man about town), sometimes he wears traditional clothing like "Chief Obi" (a village elder). He sings that he has a beard, that's his nature, and that music is his talent - that's his identity:
Oliver de Coque & his Expo '76 - Identity
Here's another tune from the same album. "Nwa Bu Ife Ukwu" means "A Child is the Greatest Gift." When a child is good, everybody says "That is my child!," but when a child misbehaves, everyone asks, "Whose child is that?" Do your best to raise your child; it will be a blessing in the end. In others words, "You reap what you sow":
Oliver de Coque & his Expo '76 - Nwa Bu Ife Ukwu
"Atutu Gepu Mpi Ekwe Gesiya Ike/Chukwu Ekwena Kifififele Meayi" from 1984's Atutu Gepu Mpi Ekwe Gesiya Ike (Ogene OGRLPS 04) has always been one of my favorite Oliver de Coque tracks for its deft use of traditional Igbo percussion. The title of the first part of the song means "A Ram Must Have a Strong Neck to Support his Horns." This typically Igbo aphorism means in essence "With great power comes great responsibility." De Coque sings, "Are we going to run away from a fight?" The title of the second part of the song means "God, Please do Not Let Us be Ashamed." De Coque calls on all who have come into this world to pray to their god:
Oliver de Coque & his Expo '76 - Atutu Gepu Mpi Ekwe Gesiya Ike/Chukwu Ekwena Kifififele Meayi
I've always loved this final selection, from 1985's Nne Bu Oyoyo (Ogene OGRLPS 06). For one thing, De Coque shows off some nice Franco-style guitar work. He also, atypically, utilizes a horn section. In "Nne Bu Oyoyo" ("Unbeatable Mother") De Coque beseeches all to never ignore their mother, for the suffering that a mother undergoes for her child is indescribable. Every time a child is hurt he or she calls for mother. When a child climbs a tree a mother holds her heart. When burning coals fall on a child and its mother she will brush it off her child before herself. Even when a child does wrong, even goes to prison, a mother will defend him or her. In the second section, "Ezigbo Nna" ("Great Father") De Coque praises the fathers of the world. A father is a child's pride, who shines like a mirror. A father leaves early in the morning to work to support his family. When a child starts school the father will pay tuition, and if he doesn't have the money he will swallow his pride and borrow it:
Oliver de Coque & his Expo '76 - Nne Bu Oyoyo/Ezigbo Nna
Once again many thanks to Priscilla for her interpretations of these lyrics.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
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 30), 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
Saturday, June 21, 2008
From The Sunday Tribune (Lagos):
Highlife musician, Oliver De Coque is dead. Sunday Oliver Akanite, who hailed from Anambra State, died on Friday after an apparent heart attack.This is a great tragedy and loss for Nigerian music. I will shortly post my personal memories of De Coque and more news as it becomes available.
His daughter, Uju, said her late father was rushed to July Hospital in Gbagada, Lagos, after complaining of irregular heart beat on Friday.
He suddenly started complaining that his heart was beating faster than normal, and that he had problems breathing, she said, sobbing.
When the family eventually rushed him to the hospital, Oliver was said to have vomitted ten times in ten minutes before he finally died.
Tony Okoroji, who expressed shock at the death of another friend of his, said Oliver was all fun on board Soul Flight to Imo for the NMA last month and that he couldn’t believe the guitarist is dead.
Also, King Sunny Ade expressed sadness over the death of Oliver, saying he was one of the best Nigerian guitarists he’d ever known. Same for K1 and Saka Orobo, FUMAN president. Both described Oliver’s death as the final blow to highlife music.