Idrissa Diop's LP Femme Noire (Volume LK 0188, 1987) is complimentary, and a companion of sorts, to Seydina Insa Wade's Yoff (Disques Esperance ESP 8415, 1985), featured in my last post.
Superficially, of course, Diop's electronic explorations couldn't sound more different from Yoff's mellow groove. But Diop was the featured percussionist on Yoff, and both discs share a willingness to push the boundaries of the mainstream Senegal sound. According to the profile on Diop's MySpace page, Diop and Wade pursued parallel careers, both playing in the Rio Sextet and Calypso Jazz in Dakar besides collaborating in the folk group Tabala. Since parting way with Wade in the '80s Diop has pursued an adventurous career in Paris, founding the jazz group Sixun and performing with the likes of Harry Belafonte, Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter and other musical luminaries.
The musicians on Femme Noire are unfortunately uncredited, although Diop gives thanks on the album sleeve to Xalam and French musician Jean-Philippe Rykiel.
Idrissa Diop - Yaracodo
Idrissa Diop - M'bidane (La Bonne)
Idrissa Diop - Gueule Tapée
Idrissa Diop - Worunana
Idrissa Diop - Kawele Ciosane (Ouverture)
Idrissa Diop - Djiguene Diou Nioule (Femme Noire)
Idrissa Diop - Sahel
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
I ordered Seydina Insa Wade's LP Yoff (Disques Esperance ESP 8415, 1985) from Sterns many years ago not knowing anything about the album or the artist, and it was a revelation. The LP achieves a magical blend of acoustic and electric sounds that stands out even among the many great Senegalese recordings of the '80s.
I had always thought that Yoff was a one-off effort by an otherwise obscure musician, but in researching this post I discovered that Seydina Insa Wade is anything but a flash in the pan. He is a highly accomplished auteur and composer whose work is greatly respected by all the giants of Senegalese music.
Wade was born in Dakar in 1948 and began his musical career in the Rio Sextet, later moving on to Calypso Jazz, with whom he performed in the first Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres (FESTAC I) in 1966. A sympathizer of the political Left in Senegal, Wade's compositions took on many of the social issues of the day. In the late '60s he briefly joined the first incarnation of Xalam, moving on to the Negro Stars, La Plantation and the Sahel Band.
It was in the early 1980s that Wade achieved what many consider the apotheosis of modern Senegalese folk music with the formation of the acoustic group Tabala, featuring percussionist Idrissa Diop and multi-instrumentalist Oumar Sow. These were the musicians with whom Wade recorded Yoff, which brought him a measure of renown and a tour of several European countries. The musicians subsequently went their separate ways, Sow returning to Senegal to join Youssou N'dour's Super Etoile, Diop forming the jazz-fusion group Sixun, and Wade rejoining the reconstituted Xalam.
In 2003 Seydina Insa Wade returned to Senegal to reunite with Oumar Sow and record the CD Xalima, the subject of a documentary by filmmaker Ousmane William Mbaye, "Xalima-La Plume."
Click on the pictures to read the liner notes (in French).
Seydina Insa Wade - Ciat
Seydina Insa Wade - Fama Re
Seydina Insa Wade - Yoff
Seydina Insa Wade - So Bugge
Seydina Insa Wade - Beure Bouki Ak M'Bam
Seydina Insa Wade - Seni Dom
Seydina Insa Wade - Taaruna
Seydina Insa Wade - Len Dem
Download Yoff as a zipped file here.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
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
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I've been on a Ghana kick lately, digging out a lot of semi-forgotten vinyl in my collection that I haven't listened to in years. I know you won't mind if I share it with you!
Other than falling under the general rubric "Ghana Highlife," the tunes in this post don't follow any particular theme - I more or less pulled them out at random. There's the classic danceband sound and the more stripped-down guitar highlife style, and even an example of the controversial "Burgher" highlife genre. I've left for future posts some of the big names - the African Brothers, Alex Konadu, A.B. Crentsil and Jewel Ackah - as well as the multitude of Ghanaian artists who made careers in Nigeria during the '70s and '80s.
Yamoah's Guitar Band, based in Kumasi and led by Peter Kwabena Yamoah (right), emerged from the Ghana concert party scene in the 1950s and has been one of the most influential Ghanaian music outfits ever since, which makes its lack of recognition outside Ghana all the more unjust. Nana Ampadu of African Brothers fame got his start there, as did guitarist Smart Nkansah and the sublime vocalist Agyaaku, who later formed the Sunsum Band (more about which later). I'm not sure when Yamoah's Special (Motorway MTL 3001) was released, nor does it feature any credits, but I suspect it came out in the early '70s and does feature Nkansah and Agyaaku. "Saa Na Odo Te/Otan Gu Ahorow" is a killer track, and "Suro Nea Obesee Wo" is almost as good:
Yamoah's Band - Saa Na Odo Te/Otan Gu Ahorow
Yamoah's Band - Suro Nea Obesee Wo
Pat Thomas served as a vocalist with the Broadway Dance Band, the Stargazers and the Uhurus before False Lover (Gapophone GAPO LP 02, 1974) introduced him to the world fronting the Sweet Beans, official band of the government Cocoa Marketing Board. He went on to became one of Ghana's most popular vocalists, and while his star has dimmed somewhat since, his sweet voice and sparkling arrangements are hard to forget. Not content to dip his toes in the reggae sound then sweeping Africa, Thomas jumps in head-first in the first four songs on False Lover, notably this one:
Pat Thomas & the Sweet Beans - Revolution
The rest of the album, billed as an attempt to revive the danceband sound, succeeds admirably:
Pat Thomas & the Sweet Beans - Don't Beat the Time
Pat Thomas & the Sweet Beans - Merebre
Pat Thomas & the Sweet Beans - Wabe Aso
I mentioned in my last post The Guitar and Gun (Sterns Earthworks STEW 50CD, 2003), which collects tracks from The Guitar and the Gun Vol. 1 (Africagram A DRY 1, 1983) and The Guitar and the Gun Vol. 2 (Africagram A DRY 6, 1985) John Collins' groundbreaking collections of Ghana highlife. Inexplicable to me is the exclusion of the African Internatonals' "Noko Nya M'akire" from Vol. 1, probably the best track on either record. To correct this oversight, I make it available here:
African Internationals - Noko Nya M'akire
Smart Nkansah and Agyaaku became friends when they were part of Yamoah's Band in the late '60s. A few years later Nkansah went his own way, eventually forming the immortal Sweet Talks Band with A.B. Crentsil in 1975, which recorded such classics as Adam and Eve and Hollywood Highlife Party before falling apart.
Nkansah & Agyaaku later reunited to form the Black Hustlers before founding the Sunsum Band in 1981. Their album Odo (Love) (ASA Records ASA 1001, 1984) features an exciting blend of guitar highlife, the classic danceband sound and the vocal stylings of Becky B, Smart Nkansah's sister-in-law. The title track was included in my compilation African Divas Vol. 1. "Mensee Madwen" is a medley from Side 2 of the LP:
The Sunsum Band - Mensee Madwen
Over the years thriving Ghanaian communities have developed in the United Kingdom, Canada and the U.S. Interestingly, because of relatively liberal immigration laws at the time, a sizable Ghanaian population emerged in Germany during the 1970s, and this community gave birth to the so-called "Burgher" highlife phenomenon.
Excoriated and loathed by purists, Burgher highlife, along with Hiplife, has come to define the modern-day highlife sound in Ghana. George Darko's "Akoo Te Brofo," released in 1983 with its funkified beat and heavy reliance on electronic instrumentation, is generally considered the first Burgher highlife hit. Musicians like Kantata, Rex Gyamfi and McGod were quick to follow in Darko's footsteps.
Charles Amoah's Eyε Odo Asεm (Cage Records 01-18957, 1987) is pretty much your archetypal Burgher highlife record, recorded in Dusseldorf and featuring mainly German musicians, German producers, even a German art director! Amoah himself started out playing straight-ahead highlife music in the '70s with the likes of the Happy Boys led by Kwabena Akwaboah and Alex Konadu's Band. He ended up in Germany in the late '70s where he bounced around various bands before releasing Sweet Vibration in 1984, the first of his many hit records.
Amoah has since returned to Ghana, where he has a prosperous career touring and recording. Here's a tune from Eyε Odo Asεm:
Charles Amoah - Di Ahurusi
If you'd like to hear some more contemprary examples of Burgher highlife, go here. Many thanks to Akwaboa of Highlife Haven, who provided useful information.
Friday, February 20, 2009
I often tell Priscilla that if I leave this mortal coil before her and she's hard up for cash, she can raffle off my record collection on Ebay. Some of the prices people are getting for their old African vinyl are astronomical and mind-boggling. $300 for a scratchy old disco record by Christy Essien-Igbokwe? Come on, people!
Some of you may remember the old alt.music.african usegroup back when the internet was first catching on big-time (and is it still around?). I used to be a pretty active participant back around 1998. At one point a record dealer in North Carolina or some place posted a list of some records he wanted to unload. This guy didn't specialize in African music but he had come across about twenty or so primo West African pressings that he was auctioning off to the highest bidder. There were a few Fela records, a couple of Sonny Okosuns, and most intriguingly, a number of LPs labeled "tribal vinyl from Ghana." I hadn't heard of any of the artists mentioned, but the minimum bid was $5, so what did I have to lose?
As the auction proceeded over the next week, it became apparent that while there was a healthy interest in the Fela and Okosun records, I was the only person who wanted the Ghanaian LPs, so I obtained these mint-condition pressings for five dollars each!
On first listen it was obvious that I had come into possession of some rare gems. These records were in a style about which I had heretofore known very little, "Ga Cultural Highlife," a mainly acoustic, perscussion-based genre described by musicologist John Collins as originating in the early '70s among the Ga people around Ghana's capital city Accra.
A record reviewer I read once made a derisive reference to Ghanaian "Jug Band Music." I think she was referring to those Makossa Records pressings that came out in the late '70s (and if you've been collecting for a while, you know what I'm talking about), but the label could more accurately describe these wonderful recordings.
Take the Suku Troupe, whose home-made instrumentation and heartfelt enthusiasm blow some of the more professional highlife combos out of the water! The group was founded in 1976 by Nene Acquah and featured vocalist Maa Amanua (above left), quickly achieving fame throughout Ghana and other parts of West Africa. Here are two tracks from their second album, Ye Wanno Komm (Donno WADLP 002, 1978):
Suku Troupe - Awonye Lee
Suku Troupe - Hwe Wo Ho Yie
I've been unable to find out anything about the Ashiedu Keteke Cultural Group led by Nii France, but here's some wonderful music from their 1978 album Gbo Ofo Mino (Polydor 2940 015):
Ashiedu Keteke Cultural Group - Ake Me Aya
Ashiedu Keteke Cultural Group - Edo Mi
Likewise the background and history of the Adzo Troupe, led by Amartei B.C., are a mystery to me, but listen to these tunes from their 1979 LP Siolele (Essiebons 1277938). Interestingly, the group was managed by Stan Plange, who also led the popular Uhuru Dance Band back in the day:
Adzo Troupe - Siolele
Ado Troupe - Kerodze
Akwwetey Wallas had a peripatetic musical career before founding the Gaamashiebii Cultural Troupe in the mid '70s, starting out in the band led by his brother Oko Jack Bay. He went on to join the Obadzen Cultural Troupe led by Renaissance man Saka Acquaye. His musical itch then led him to found the Blemabii and Obuabedii Cultural Troupes in quick succession.
The liner notes of Gamashiebii's debut LP Ebaa Gbeee (Obuoba JNA 10) state,". . . For its twelve months of existence the Gamashibii Cultural Troupe has established itself as one of the best exponents of traditional music and has therefore earned it a participating place in most social activities in the Gamashi area. . . It cannot be gain said that this musical masterpiece will for some time come to liven up many homes." Hear for yourself!
Gamashiebii Cultural Troupe - Wuobi (Akroma)
Gamashiebii Cultural Troupe - Faale Ke Mi Ya (Pt. 2)
Of all of the groups featured in this posts, Wulomei, led by Nii Tei Ashitey, is the only one that has achieved a measure of fame outside of Ghana. Indeed, the name in practically synonymous with Ga Cultural Highlife. Under the name Sensational Wulomei, the group is still in existence and still perforforming in the Accra area after 36 years.
Here's some music from Wulomei's 1978 album Kunta Kinte (Philips 6354 022):
Wulomei - Aplanke
Wulomei - Kwani Kwani
By the way, if you like the music in this post, I can't recommend enough The Guitar and Gun (Sterns Earthworks STEW 50CD), which puts back into circulation John Collins' seminal highlife recordings from the early 80s. It's not all Ga Cultural Highlife, but it's all wonderful.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Remember back in the early '80s when King Sunny Adé hit the scene in America? Not only was he said to be the next Bob Marley, the record companies were falling all over themselves to find the next "Big Thing" out of Africa. In short order Sonny Okosun and Tabu Ley Rochereau were launched on US tours, and there was a sprinkling of record releases by various artists. None of this had much impact - the "African Music Explosion" of the early '80s turned out to be a bit of a dud, although it paved the way for World Music™ a few years later. Whoopdy-doo!
One group that had more of an impact than most during this time was Touré Kunda, a Paris-based combo founded by a group of brothers from the Casamance region of southern Senegal. Touré Kunda didn't get a lot of respect from the more hard-core African music fans. A friend of mine came back from one of their concerts in Madison sneering at their "African bubble-gum music."
I've always thought Touré Kunda got a bum rap. Behind the slick production values their sound was always true to the music of their native region, which has never been as "angular" as that of Senegal's North.
Popular around the same time, although not so much in the US, was the Paris-based "Afro-Jazz" group Xalam, which if I am not mistaken, also has its roots in the Casamance. The group was founded in 1969 by percussionist Abdoulaye Prosper Niang. Xalam achieved a level of "mainstream" success that most African musicians can only dream of: recording with the Rolling Stones, opening for Crosby, Stills & Nash and Robert Plant, soundtrack gigs and innumerable world tours over the years. After a few rough years following the death of Niang in 1988 and the replacement of most of the original members, Xalam is this year celebrating its fortieth anniversary!
I've always loved Xalam's LP Gorée, released in 1983 by the French label Celluloid (CEL 6656). The album updates Senegalese folkloric themes to great effect, highlighted by spot-on percussion and the brilliant trombone work of Yoro Gueye. If you like this one, be sure to check out some of Xalam's other recordings, some of which are newly available after many years out of print.
Here's the music, along with song descriptions from the liner notes:
Derived from Mandingo folklore, "Sidy Yella" was also a hit for Touré Kunda. "A Mandingo son, a brave humanitarian warrior, defended his people against the invader with dignity, and died on the battleground":
Xalam - Sidy Yella
"A song about motherly love. A child sings for her mother at the first rooster call. 'When the rooster announces the start of the day, when the girls sing and the boys dance. . . ,' the child sings to her mother. Serere song. N'diouf rhythm":
Xalam - Ade 2
"Gorée is an island located 3 kms from Dakar. An important place, it was made a Portuguese, Dutch, English and French trading post. Thousands of Africans were 'exported' to the USA, the West Indies, Brazil, Haiti & Cuba, transporting a whole culture and civilization. Diola rhythm (Saw Ruba)":
Xalam - Gorée
"Song of the struggle. An old champion recounts his feats and speaks of struggle, of the life which demands sacrifice, courage, patience, willpower and faith: 'There where we pass, the one that passes collects mud.' Life is an eternal struggle. Wolof song. Saban rhythm":
Xalam - Kanu 2
"The story of a woman who prays to the god Djisalbero for a child. Her prayers go unanswered and she sees that around her the other women who have children hardly spend their time caring for them or simply abandon them. Diola song. Boncarabon rhythm":
Xalam - Djisalbero
"The struggle for the liberation of oppressed black people and of man in his home and birthplace. The struggle for the unification of African people. the struggle against racism and apartheid":
Xalam - Soweto
Many thanks to my daughter Aku for translating these liner notes. Click on the pictures at the top of the post and below to reveal the album sleeve in full. Download Gorée as a zipped file here, and thanks to reader/listener Soulsalaam for making the Xalam LP "Ade" Live at Festival Horizonte Berlin available here.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Reader/listener Malam Bala, in a recent comment, reminded me that this blog is long overdue for a posting of good old Ghana highlife music. And what better way to correct this oversight than to post the LP Akom Ko (Decca WAP 281)? This fine compilation features the down-home sounds of guitar highlife on Side One, while Side Two showcases the more sophisticated danceband sound.
Back in the 1990s John Storm Roberts' Original Music label released a series of Ghana highlife CDs that are eagerly sought out by African music aficionados, being as they are long out of print. Giants of Danceband Highlife (OMCD 011, 1990), I've Found My Love: 1960's Guitar Band Highlife of Ghana (OMCD 019, 1993) and Telephone Lobi: More Giants of Danceband Highlife (OMCD 033, 1995) cover much of the same musical territory as Akom Ko, but there is very little duplication of the music itself. So, if you are fortunate enough to own any of the Original Music compilations, consider this another volume in the series.
I suspect these recordings were made in the 1960s or at the very latest, the early 1970s, but Akom Ko itself was apparently pressed sometime in the '70s. I've tried to find out as much about the musicians as I could, but some artists, as talented as they are, dwell in obscurity. I'm passing on what information I have. If you'd like to pursue further studies, John Collins' "Musicmakers of West Africa" (3 Continents Press, 1985) is a good place to start, as well as a number of very informative articles he's written for Afropop Worldwide.
Royal Brothers - Anamon Nsiah
Boaken Stars - Medze M'awerεho Bεko
Bob Kwabena Akwaboah, founder of the band that bears his name, passed away January 2, 2004, leaving a legacy of numerous hit songs and LPs recorded during the 1960s and '70s. His son, Kwadwo Akwaboah, founded the Marriots International Band, which had a burst of popularity in the early 1990s:
Akwaboah's Band - Osu a Mesu
Awesome Tapes From Africa calls Yamoah "one of the greatest highlife singers ever," and I don't doubt it. I've been unable to find out much about this musician and his band, other than the fact that Nana Ampadu, founder of the African Brothers Band and a giant of the 1970-80s highlife scene, got his start with them:
Yamoah's Band - Nkrabea
Oppong's Band - Assaase Nkyiri Fun
Akwaboah's Band - Adeakye Abia
M.K. Manson - Nkokohwedeε Mienu
The Black Beats Dance Band was founded in 1952 by King Bruce and Saka Acquaye. Bruce, born in 1922, had already played with a number of the giants of the Ghana danceband scene like E.T. Mensah and Kofi Ghanaba, and the Black Beats were a very influential group for their time, recording innumerable hits and giving birth to several other outstanding orchestras including Jerry Hanson's Ramblers Dance Band and Acquaye's African Ensemble. A very informative article about King Bruce and the Black Beats by John Collins can be found here:
Black Beats - Medo Wo Sε Wote Yi Ara
The Red Spots, popular from the '50s through the '70s, were founded by Tommy Gripman, who got his start in E.T. Mensah's Tempo's Dance Band:
Red Spots - Oyε a Kae Me
The Broadway Dance Band, based in Sekondi-Takoradi, was led by a Nigerian trumpeter, Sammy Obot and included many great musicians like Stan Plange, Joe Mensah and Duke Duker. Following a legal dispute in 1964, it changed its name to the Uhuru Dance Band and continued to play a vital role in the Ghana music scene until the Seventies:
Broadway Dance Band - Menua
Black Beats - Anibre Sεm
Stargazers Dance Band - Owu Ayε Me Ade
Black Beats - Me Yε Ayera
Update: Akwaboah, who hosts the excellent new blog Highlife Haven, writes: ". . . please let me correct your remark about Kwabena Yamoah: he is the bandleader and guitarist, not the singer. The 'treble singer' on Yamoahs albums is the great Agyaku, who later recorded with Eric Agyeman and Smart Nkansah's Sunsum Band." Thanks, Akwaboah!
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
As I wrote in "The Anioma Sound Pt. 1," the Anioma region comprises the Igbo-speaking areas of Delta State in Nigeria. The name is a actually an acronym derived from the regions of Aniocha, Ndokwa, Ika and Oshimili, and was coined by the late Dennis Chukude Osadebay, one of the founders of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, and former premier of the old Mid-Western Region of Nigeria.
Continuing our look at the music of this area, we start off with a couple of old-timers of the Anioma scene, ending up with some newer artists.
Ndokwa native Charles Iwuegbe may be familiar to those who have heard the wonderful compilation Azagas & Archibogs: The Sixties Sound of Lagos Highlife (Original Music OMCD 014, 1991), now sadly out of print. As that title implies, he was a stalwart of the pre-Biafra highlife scene in Lagos, when musicians of all ethnicities kept the night alive with their wildly inventive sounds. I give my thanks to Anioma music fanatic "Ubulujaja," who passes on this classic tune, "Ejelunor," from Iwuegbe's LP of the same name (Decca West Africa DWAPS 04), as well as Eddy Okonta's "Anioma" in "The Anioma Sound Pt. 1."
Charle Iwuegbe & his Hino Sound - Ejelunor
Perhaps you remember St. Augustine from my posting of Rusted Highlife Vol. 1. Hailing from Asaba, his career took off in 1971 with the release of "Ashawo No Be Work." From a bit later in his career, namely the early '80s, here's a track from Anioma Special (Offune OFLPS 1):
St. Augustine - Evidence Special
As I promised in this post, I've got another tune for you from Aboh's incomparable Ali Chukwuma. Here's the title track from 1982's Ife Oma Dimma (Akpolla AGB 50):
Ali Chukwuma & his Peace-Makers International Band of Nigeria - Ife Oma Dimma
Guitarist Bob Fred shows up in all manner of recordings by Anioma artists, notably those of Rogana Ottah, but he's made a number of LPs on his own with his Ukwuani Brothers Band. Here's a cut from the album Egwu Amala Special (Ojikutu OJILP 032, 1982):
Bob Fred & Ukwuani Brothers Band - Ochinti
About the Mmadu Osa International Band, led by Ikechukwu Izuegbu, I know absolutely nothing, but they put out a number of LPs back in the '80s. "Ele Onye Keni" is taken from their 1983 outing Aboh Youth Progressive Union (Izuson IZULP 006)":
Mmadu Osa International Band - Ele Onye Keni
I've saved the best for last! I've heard a rumor, which I've been unable to confirm, that Rogana Ottah (picture at the top of this post) passed away a couple of years ago. What a shame that would be, as he's been the primo exemplar of the Anioma music scene. As I wrote in the introduction to my discography of him, ". . . Guitarist Isaac Rogana Ottah, 'The Oshio Super King,' a prolific artist from Akoku, Ndokwa LGA, Delta State, is one of the better-known Anioma musicians. His musical career began in the early 1970s when he played in the bands of Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe and Rex Lawson. In 1973 he joined fellow Ndokwa native Charles Iwegbue and His Hino Sound Band. Striking out on his own after Iwegbue's tragic death in 1976, Ottah scored a major hit with his first LP, Ukwani Special, in 1977. In quick succession a series of outstanding recordings, notably the 'Oshio Super series, propelled Ottah to the vanguard of the Anioma recording scene. Although his career has slowed since the 1980s, he still makes a prosperous livelihood as a touring musician and continues to make recordings. "
"Onyeluni Isu Ogaga," from the 1981 LP Oshio Super Two "Onyeloni" (Odec ODEC 003) is an absolute scorcher that showcases Ottah's brilliant guitar work to great effect.
Rogana Ottah & his Black Heroes - Onyeluni Isu Ogaga
I hope to provide translations of the lyrics of these songs in the future.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
The Igbo people live in all parts of Nigeria, but are the big majority of the population (over 90%) in five states: Imo, Anambra, Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi. They also constitute large minorities in Rivers and Delta States.
The "Anioma" area consists of the northeastern corner of Delta State encompassing the Aniocha, Ukwuani and Ika peoples. These three ethnicities are all considered subgroups of the Igbo, as opposed to Delta's other nationalities, the Urhobo, Itskiri, Ijaw and Isoko, who speak distinct languages. Anioma Igbo are set apart from the mainstream of Ala Igbo not only by the Niger River but by varying shades of cultural influence from their neighbors to the west and south.
The idea, if not necessarily the name, of "Anioma," as a community and a culture predates the creation of the modern Nigerian state in 1914. In the early 20th Century the area gave rise to the Ekwumekwu movement, which resisted the imposition of British colonial rule in southern Nigeria. In the early '80s, the Anioma State Movement arose to call for the carving out of a new Igbo-majority state from old Bendel State. Since 1991, when Bendel was divided into Edo and Delta States, the demand for Anioma State has continued at a low boil. The map below shows where the various ethnicities of Delta State reside (click to enlarge):
It's hard to say if there is a distinct "Anioma Sound," despite the title of this post. One might discern a certain directness to the music of the area, as opposed to the relative subtlety of Igbo music east of the Niger, but I stress the relative nature of this comparison. After all, no one would call the music of Owerri's Oriental Brothers subtle!
The best-known Anioma musician is probably Ali Chukwuma, but the area has produced numerous artists who have achieved fame across Nigeria. Eddy Okonta of Akwukwu (left) is one of the foremost of these. He got his start with Bobby Benson's band and played trumpet on the great maestro's biggest hit, "Taxi Driver," before striking out on his own. In "Anioma," from his album Page One '81 (Phonodisk PHA09), Okonta throws his lot in with the movement to create Anioma State. ". . . Ours is ours and mine is mine. . .We pray to God so that we may achieve this. . .":
Eddy Okonta - Anioma
King Ubulu (picture at the top of this post) is another name that comes up frequently when discussing Anioma music. He was born in 1949 in Amoriji-Onitcha in the Ndokwa area, and formed his Ubulu International Band in the 1970s. He died in 2004. Here is a tune from his LP Ubulu '84 Special: Anyi Bu Ofu (Isabros ISAL 026, 1984). "Ogom Egbu Madu" means "my favor for you should not kill me":
Ubulu International Band of Nigeria - Ogom Egbu Madu
I mentioned in this post that I'm aware of only two female singers in the Igbo highlife genre: Nelly Uchendu and Queen Azaka. Why this should be, I don't know, and I can tell you very little about Queen Azaka, other than that, like King Ubulu, she is from the Ndokwa area. Here's a tune from her LP Umuwa Nweni Ndidi (Odec ODB 10L). I find the rhythm on this tune and the next couple interesting. And sorry about the skipping at the beginning of the tune. Bad warp!:
Queen Azaka & her Ebologu Abusu Mma Dance Band - Ukwani Amaka
Chief John Okpor may be just another obscure musician from the recesses of Delta State, but he's made a great recording here. Side One of Ife Nunoku Na Ju Oyi (Franco Records FMCL 003) doesn't let up until about two-thirds of the way through, when the title track segues into the slower-paced "Egwu Nde Oma."
Chief John Okpor & the Golden Tones Band of Nigeria - Ife Nunoku Na Ju Oyi/Egwu Nde Oma
When Priscilla was back home in Nigeria in 1989, she saw the band members unloading boxes of this LP out of the back of a truck. Of course, she knew I'd want a copy, and what a discovery it is! Eric Obodo heads up the Reformed Eti-Oma Dance Band, and their fast-paced sound is reminiscent of the Camerounian bikutsi style exemplified by groups like Les Veterans. The album is Ogbuefi Moses Okom (Mone MRLP 008).
Reformed Eti-Oma Dance Band of Nigeria - Onyeke Muni Nwa
This post has been delayed because Priscilla and I just haven't had time to sit down and do translations of the lyrics (the fact that these songs are mainly in the Ukwuani dialect makes this more difficult), so I'm just going ahead and posting anyway. If there is time I will update it later. In "The Anioma Sound Pt. 2" I'll be posting songs by Charles Iwegbue, Roganna Ottah and others.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
What a shame that South African saxophonist Dudu Pukwana died in exile on June 30, 1990, four years before the coming of democracy to his homeland and the end of the hated apartheid system. Perhaps he took some solace, on February 11 of that year, in seeing the release of freedom fighter Nelson Mandela after 27 years of incarceration.
Born on July 18, 1938, Pukwana was a titan of the South African jazz scene who played a critical role in the Blue Notes and Jazz Giants in South Africa, and in exile with Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath. He later co-founded the Afro-rock group Assagai and Spear, which recorded the influential In The Townships (Virgin C1504) in 1973.
I was inspired to post Pukwana's live recording Life in Bracknell & Willisau (Jika Records ZL 2, 1983) by Matsuli Music's recent post of the wonderful South African jazz LP Armitage Road by the Heshoo Beshoo Group. Released on Pukwana's own label, Life didn't achieve wide circulation, which is unfortunate, as it features some inspired performances, especially the vocals of Pinise Saul.
If you'd like to invesitigate more of Pukwana's music, In The Townships is out of print, but available here. Another popular album of his, Diamond Express (Arista/Freedom FLP 41041, 1975), is also out of print, and available here.
Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Hug Pine (Bambelela)
Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Mahlomole (Lament)/Lafente (Ntabeni-In the Mountains)
Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Baqanga Bay
Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Freely
Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Funk Them Up to Eriko
Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Ziyekeleni (Let Them Be)
Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - The Big (Pine)Apple
Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Zama Khwalo (Try Again)