Apr 11, 2014

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou & Betti Betti (get it)


Here is another collaboration from Poly-Rythmo with Cameroon's music and its ambassador, the woman singer and songwriter Betti Betti. I have no information on Betti Betti, only music which was recorded in Benin.

Thanx to OROGOD for sharing this album!!!








Apr 10, 2014

Actor Alile And His Ugie'75 ‎– Poor Man Dey Suffer

http://stream.cdandlp.net/superflyrecords/catalogue/58339.jpg

This lp is an intriguing blend of deep highlife, soul and even a dash of fuzz.

Unfortunately cannot find any information, pls. contact ....


Tracklist

A1 Poor Man Dey Suffer
A2 Your Hand Work
A3 Feed The Nation
A4 Black Is Beautiful
B1 Atatikolo
B2 Nekpen-Nekpen
B3 Oba Ewuakpe


 

Apr 8, 2014

Kiki Gyan ‎– 24 Hours In A Disco 1978-82

 

Soundway Records present ’24 Hours in A Disco 1978 – 82’, 7 cuts of relentless disco grooves from the sublimely gifted Kiki Gyan. Hailed as Africa’s answer to Stevie Wonder, Ghanaian multi-instrumentalist Kiki Gyan was a musical wunderkind who by 1975 had risen from the lowly status of high school dropout to being ranked eighth in a poll of the greatest keyboardists in the world (occupying the rarefied air of the top ten with heavyweights like Steve Winwood, Billy Preston, and Stevie Wonder) as well as becoming an in-demand session player in the top recording studios of London – all before his twenty-first birthday.
Out on his own, he produced a series of highly ambitious disco records aimed at positioning him as an international star, but weighed down by the excesses of the era, Gyan saw his meteoric rise matched by an equally swift fall back into obscurity.
Loved dearly by his contemporaries and sorely missed since his death in 2005 the story of the life of Kofi Kwarko ‘Kiki’ Gyan is one often told with warning by his friends to the new generation of aspiring Ghanaian popstars.
Soundway Records now collects the best of Gyan’s work as a frontman and solo artist, featuring an array of electrifying disco grooves that still sound contemporary (and in some cases futuristic) decades after their initial release.
- See more at: http://www.soundwayrecords.com/release/va---kiki-gyan/kiki-gyan---24-hours-in-a-disco-1978---82-sndw047#sthash.ZOLSMqtI.dpuf

Soundway Records present ’24 Hours in A Disco 1978 – 82’, 7 cuts of relentless disco grooves from the sublimely gifted Kiki Gyan. Hailed as Africa’s answer to Stevie Wonder, Ghanaian multi-instrumentalist Kiki Gyan was a musical wunderkind who by 1975 had risen from the lowly status of high school dropout to being ranked eighth in a poll of the greatest keyboardists in the world (occupying the rarefied air of the top ten with heavyweights like Steve Winwood, Billy Preston, and Stevie Wonder) as well as becoming an in-demand session player in the top recording studios of London – all before his twenty-first birthday.

Out on his own, he produced a series of highly ambitious disco records aimed at positioning him as an international star, but weighed down by the excesses of the era, Gyan saw his meteoric rise matched by an equally swift fall back into obscurity.

Loved dearly by his contemporaries and sorely missed since his death in 2005 the story of the life of Kofi Kwarko ‘Kiki’ Gyan is one often told with warning by his friends to the new generation of aspiring Ghanaian popstars.

Soundway Records now collects the best of Gyan’s work as a frontman and solo artist, featuring an array of electrifying disco grooves that still sound contemporary (and in some cases futuristic) decades after their initial release.

soundwayrecords.com 


Kiki Gyan - Disco Dancer von Melynga

Kiki Gyan (real name Kofi Kwarko Gyan) was a Ghanaian superstar who was celebrated as “Africa’s answer to Stevie Wonder”. Starting with piano at age five, he took music very seriously, to the point where it had caused him to quit school when he was twelve and join a huge band (in size and stature) only a few years later called Osibisa.

He was a very energetic and talented keyboardist (eventually ranked 8th best in the world), but since most of his band mates were decades older, they made him do most of the “roadie” work as well. This tired him out until he found a source of energy in New York: cocaine.

Upon realization that he wasn’t making anywhere close to as much money as “the white guys” on his label and was even uncredited for some of his music, Kiki left the band in 1977 by teaming up with two musicians and bailing on a live show/recording in London. Shortly afterwards, he started a successful solo career making as much as 8,000 pounds per weekend in the studio and eventually got together with Kofi Ayivor in 1979 to record the European hit-single “24 Hours In A Disco“. According to Ayivor, Kiki claimed he had to go back to Ghana to take care of his sick mother, but took the record to Nigeria instead and released a Kiki-only vocal version (which appears on this compilation) and kept all the money for himself.

While maintaining his advantageous position in an especially prosperous time for Nigeria, he got engaged to Yeni Anikulapo-Kuti (Fela Kuti‘s daughter) in 1979 but left her four years later amidst a physically and financially damaging drug addiction. His condition was so severe, it left him begging in the streets of Ghana while trying desperately to warn up-and-coming musicians of the dangers of cocaine. Seeing as Kiki became unable to practice what he preached, a long-time friend and musician, Hugh Masekela decided to help by sending him to a six-week rehab clinic in South Africa. Unfortunately, this recovery was only temporary as he could never abstain from his temptations. Kiki was found dead on a church toilet on the eve of his birthday in 2004, due to several drug-related health problems (including AIDS).

24 Hours In A Disco is compilation by Soundway Records featuring Kiki’s best work both as a solo artist and frontman of his various musical outfits. There are a lot of really amazing tracks here, but “Disco Train” is personally the most exciting and addictive track I have discovered in a long while. It’s as deep, smooth and funky as one can get with a bass line that sounds like Earth, Wind & Fire at the top of their game (especially considering how the vibe is more American than anything else)! DJs should really file this one in the “last song of the night” category as party-goers are likely to hum this boogie anthem all the way home. Even the track itself goes on for far too long like a lingering melody that refuses to change! All this being said, “Keep On Dancing” is another recent favorite discovery of mine, almost beating “Disco Train” in preference with it’s crazy-catchy, brightly enthusiastic horn section and stereotypical (yet always welcomed) party-themed lyrics. Final words: Kiki Gyan was clearly a legend who left us too soon, but gave the world some amazing music that will most likely survive many generations and this compilation is a testament to his greatness.  

musicismysanctuary.com



Kiki Gyan had his first education at the Chapel Hill Preparatory School in Takoradi and later went to the Tarkwah Secondary School. Kiki?s parents were by then playing the keyboard and some other musical instruments. 

During those days, children had no encouragement from their parents to take up music as a profession because it was looked down upon rather they wanted their children to be doctors, pilots, accountants, etc. Kiki however found himself deeply involved in the music profession because of the love he had for it. 

He loved playing some musical instruments especially the keyboard since he enjoyed it. Kiki dropped out of secondary school when he was in form three and came to Accra to play music. Here in Accra, he had the chance of joining interesting bands like the Avengers, Blue Monks, Boom Talents and the Pargadija Band.

The Pargadija Band had the chance of travelling to England and that was where Kiki met the Osibisa band. When it was time for the band to return to Ghana, Kiki was the only member to show up at the Kotoka International Airport. The remaining members had vanished in search for greener pastures. The story became news all over the media houses in Ghana.
    
In 1972, Osibisa visited Ghana for the first time. Kiki paid them regular visits in the hotel they were lodging. One day, a member of Osibisa, Mac Tontoh, the junior brother of Teddy, the founder of the Osibisa called Kiki and told him that he was too good to be in Ghana with his talent. 

After Osibisa left for England, Kiki went to the Republic of Benin which was by then called Dahomey. There he played with a group called Santiagos for two months and he managed to make some money to fly to England. 

When he got there, the Osibisa band was on a tour in the United States so he didn?t get the opportunity to meet Osibisa. However, Mac Tontoh?s younger brother allowed him to stay in his house till they came back. Luckily for him, Osibisa?s keyboard player, Robert Bailey from Trinidad (Western East) left the group. Mac Tontoh therefore decided to conduct an audition for a new keyboard player. 

During the audition, Mac Tontoh realized that Kiki was so good that he could play all their songs so he became their new keyboard player.  Because he was so good and could play better than the other guys in the group, the other members started complaining that he was too young to be with them but Mac Tontoh knowing his ability insisted that he should be allowed to play. 

Two weeks later they had to go for a tour in the States which was one of Kiki?s terrible tours he will never forget. He said he went through difficulties. As the only young guy in the group, he carried the group?s luggage everywhere that he became exhausted and fell sick. He however forced himself to play during the tour. 

The Queen of England invited the band to the Buckingham Palace to play. The Queen was so much impressed that she even didn?t know what to do to herself. There was an All African get together in Nigeria called FESTAC in 1977 and it was here Kiki met stars like Marvin Gay, Peter Tosh, Steve Wonder, the group known as Third World and many more. 

Kiki was married to Fela?s first daughter, Yeni Anikulapo but they later divorced due to pressures from a Ghanaian woman to whom he later got married to. He had his only daughter with her who is currently in a university in the States now.

He was rated the 8th keyboardist in the whole world.  Apart from Russia and South Africa, Osibisa travelled throughout the whole world. Osibisa is a group made up of Ghanaians, Nigerians and West Indies and has made a mark on planet earth. They have also reached heights that no other group has been able to make till now. ?We could sing to a crowd of about 200,000  people and you would see some going naked, others going crazy and some even die? Kiki said.  
   
Kiki during stated his reason for withdrawing from the group. He said as a keyboard player, he used to write most of the songs but because he was so young, Teddy would rather take the credit and this did not go very well with him since he felt cheated. 

One day they left for a live concert at the Royal Festival Hall in UK. The songs they sang over there were going to be recorded as an album which was meant to be a hit. It was there that he (Kiki) requested for an amount of hundred pounds which was a big money in those times but the leaders were unable to provide that for him so he decided to leave the group. 

There were some other Ghanaians who felt cheated but could not voice their opinions so when Kiki took his decision, they went along with him. Some of these people are the late Jake Soboa, a Nigerian and Kofi Aryivor. Kiki left for the States and then to Nigeria where he made it big and recorded his solo albums ?24hrs? and ?Rose Mary? which became hits in Nigeria.  According to Kiki, he came out during President Shagari of Nigeria?s reign. At that time, the living condition was very good. 

He later went back to the States where he associated himself with some bad gangs who introduced him to drug addiction and that was the beginning of his crisis and downfall. In fact he started using the money he had in purchasing hard drugs such as cocaine, heroine, etc. 

Kiki said his wife then asked for divorce since he had taken the drugs to be his new wife and neither catered for her nor had any feeling for her. He says he now realises the effects the absence of his wife is having on him.
 
Kiki spent almost all the money he had on drugs so he decided to come to Ghana for his money from some people who owed him but nobody was willing to pay. He had to use the little money he had on him for drugs and that has been his end till now. He is now at the International Health Care Center at Roman Ridge where he is being catered for by his producer financially.
   
Kiki?s advice to the youth is that ?Stay away from drugs and focus on whatever you are doing and also have faith in the good Lord.
  
His last words were ?To my only daughter Vanessa Gyan who is 21 years old and currently schooling at one of the universities in the States, I am sorry about whatever I did. I believe God?s time is the best and don?t forget that blood is thicker than water and to my Dad, Kwasi Gyan and Mum, Awoh Myers who are still alive today, I am sorry for disappointing you all? Kiki lamented.

Soundway Records present ’24 Hours in A Disco 1978 – 82’, 7 cuts of relentless disco grooves from the sublimely gifted Kiki Gyan. Hailed as Africa’s answer to Stevie Wonder, Ghanaian multi-instrumentalist Kiki Gyan was a musical wunderkind who by 1975 had risen from the lowly status of high school dropout to being ranked eighth in a poll of the greatest keyboardists in the world (occupying the rarefied air of the top ten with heavyweights like Steve Winwood, Billy Preston, and Stevie Wonder) as well as becoming an in-demand session player in the top recording studios of London – all before his twenty-first birthday.
Out on his own, he produced a series of highly ambitious disco records aimed at positioning him as an international star, but weighed down by the excesses of the era, Gyan saw his meteoric rise matched by an equally swift fall back into obscurity.
Loved dearly by his contemporaries and sorely missed since his death in 2005 the story of the life of Kofi Kwarko ‘Kiki’ Gyan is one often told with warning by his friends to the new generation of aspiring Ghanaian popstars.
Soundway Records now collects the best of Gyan’s work as a frontman and solo artist, featuring an array of electrifying disco grooves that still sound contemporary (and in some cases futuristic) decades after their initial release.
- See more at: http://www.soundwayrecords.com/release/va---kiki-gyan/kiki-gyan---24-hours-in-a-disco-1978---82-sndw047#sthash.ZOLSMqtI.dpuf
Soundway Records present ’24 Hours in A Disco 1978 – 82’, 7 cuts of relentless disco grooves from the sublimely gifted Kiki Gyan. Hailed as Africa’s answer to Stevie Wonder, Ghanaian multi-instrumentalist Kiki Gyan was a musical wunderkind who by 1975 had risen from the lowly status of high school dropout to being ranked eighth in a poll of the greatest keyboardists in the world (occupying the rarefied air of the top ten with heavyweights like Steve Winwood, Billy Preston, and Stevie Wonder) as well as becoming an in-demand session player in the top recording studios of London – all before his twenty-first birthday.
Out on his own, he produced a series of highly ambitious disco records aimed at positioning him as an international star, but weighed down by the excesses of the era, Gyan saw his meteoric rise matched by an equally swift fall back into obscurity.
Loved dearly by his contemporaries and sorely missed since his death in 2005 the story of the life of Kofi Kwarko ‘Kiki’ Gyan is one often told with warning by his friends to the new generation of aspiring Ghanaian popstars.
Soundway Records now collects the best of Gyan’s work as a frontman and solo artist, featuring an array of electrifying disco grooves that still sound contemporary (and in some cases futuristic) decades after their initial release.
- See more at: http://www.soundwayrecords.com/release/va---kiki-gyan/kiki-gyan---24-hours-in-a-disco-1978---82-sndw047#sthash.ZOLSMqtI.dpuf
Soundway Records present ’24 Hours in A Disco 1978 – 82’, 7 cuts of relentless disco grooves from the sublimely gifted Kiki Gyan. Hailed as Africa’s answer to Stevie Wonder, Ghanaian multi-instrumentalist Kiki Gyan was a musical wunderkind who by 1975 had risen from the lowly status of high school dropout to being ranked eighth in a poll of the greatest keyboardists in the world (occupying the rarefied air of the top ten with heavyweights like Steve Winwood, Billy Preston, and Stevie Wonder) as well as becoming an in-demand session player in the top recording studios of London – all before his twenty-first birthday.
Out on his own, he produced a series of highly ambitious disco records aimed at positioning him as an international star, but weighed down by the excesses of the era, Gyan saw his meteoric rise matched by an equally swift fall back into obscurity.
Loved dearly by his contemporaries and sorely missed since his death in 2005 the story of the life of Kofi Kwarko ‘Kiki’ Gyan is one often told with warning by his friends to the new generation of aspiring Ghanaian popstars.
Soundway Records now collects the best of Gyan’s work as a frontman and solo artist, featuring an array of electrifying disco grooves that still sound contemporary (and in some cases futuristic) decades after their initial release.
- See more at: http://www.soundwayrecords.com/release/va---kiki-gyan/kiki-gyan---24-hours-in-a-disco-1978---82-sndw047#sthash.ZOLSMqtI.dpuf
ghanaweb.com


 

Tracklist

1. Disco Dancer – Kiki Gyan
2. 24 Hours In A Disco – Kiki Gyan
3. Keep On Dancing – Kiki Gyan
4. Disco Train – K G Band
5. Pretty Pretty Girls – The Twins
6. Sexy Dancer – Kiki Gyan
7. 4Loving You – K G Band
1. Disco Dancer – Kiki Gyan
2. 24 Hours In A Disco – Kiki Gyan
3. Keep On Dancing – Kiki Gyan
4. Disco Train – K G Band
5. Pretty Pretty Girls – The Twins
6. Sexy Dancer – Kiki Gyan
7. 4Loving You – K G Band - See more at: http://www.soundwayrecords.com/release/va---kiki-gyan/kiki-gyan---24-hours-in-a-disco-1978---82-sndw047#sthash.ZOLSMqtI.dpuf

Apr 6, 2014

Sotuh African Jazz!

 http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-BmTe4C0ytH4/UWGFSkqVwtI/AAAAAAAABVQ/cy33W0DDLS4/s1600/hanover+street.jpg

Colin and Valmont were pioneering Cape jazz music researchers from the turn of the Millennium. In an interview in Cape Town city, they said: 

VL: The regional styles of jazz: A lot of work needs to be done to firm up different definitions of jazz from different regions of South Africa. That is one of Colin's questions. How do you describe Cape Jazz in musicological terms? 

CM: It is a very difficult question to answer about Cape Jazz. One needs to go back in time because first of all from talking to musicians who are now in their late sixties, seventies is that they refer to Cape Jazz as goema music or some of them call it gummy. They have these names for it. And those names are names they would attach to music they heard for example in District Six. There seems to be a relationship between the music and the identity, the goema music and coloured identity. What I am finding is that when I talk to musicians about Cape Jazz, coloured musicians tend to claim it as their own. Musicians like Jimmy Adams or Basil Moses or Harold Japtha refers to that music as 'our music.' 

What musical elements are present in what we term Cape Jazz and what musical elements are present in what we term goema music. What is similar? If you look at Cape Jazz classic tunes. Donald Tshomela goes as far as to say that Dollar Brand was the person who started that sound. He says Dollar Brand is the initiator of that type of music, Cape Jazz. Jimmy Adams denies and says that Dollar does not play that music, Dollar plays African Jazz. What it brings out is that no-one has a clear meaning of what it is. If you take a CD like these collections that come out that are called Cape Jazz you find it is a mish mash of anything. What is defined in that industry as Cape Jazz is actually whoever is a Cape Town jazz musician features on there. Some of them sound like samba, some of them sound like Weather Report and anything else. 

VL: To look at the broad picture may be a useful place to start. The development of South African jazz as an idiom really took off from the 1940's onwards. On the one hand there was a big band sound and on the other hand you had these smaller combo sounds, four member and five member groups that started playing serious jazz with a well integrated African urban traditional sound. The Jazz Maniacs and later on the Jazz Epistles and others did it. The point that I am trying to make is that part of the myth about Cape Jazz and by myth I don't mean it is a lie. The myth about Cape Jazz derives from the fact that at some point in South Africa's history Cape Town became one of the last places especially at the end of the 1950's and early sixties Cape Town was one of the last places where this new kind of multi racial nation building jazz idiom could survive. In other words were musician intellectuals like Abdullah Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela and others could practice their music with a relative degree of freedom. Because of that Cape Town was named as a place as one of the birth places of jazz in South Africa which is both true and false because I think there were political reasons why Cape Town had this kind of liberal atmosphere right until the end. What many musicians did after that is they either left the country or they started playing dance music or they did something else. 

Abdullah Ibrahim is a very difficult guy to interview so it is very difficult to see how his thinking developed. It is clear that he had a sense of himself as a South African. He was taking elements of African music and taking elements of jazz and producing something different. Abdullah Ibrahim was also in tune with what was happening on the intellectual scene in Cape Town. That group of jazz musicians were also hanging out with writers and poets and journalists so there was a conscious sense that here they were producing something new. 

For someone like Jimmy Adams the term jazz is a much broader term and would probably include something he calls straight tempo ballroom dance music or langarm music when it wasn't so clear when he was playing jazz and when he was playing dance music. It was all mixed up. It was popular music. 

Whereas Abdullah did not care whether he was playing an obscure version of Thelonious Monk or Duke Ellington and in fact was more interested in that then playing dance music. That is a very important distinction to draw already when you are talking about styles. 

Would the coon carnival have an effect on jazz? 

CM: A picture that is commonly painted is these young ‘not yet musicians' in District Six over New Year, listening to this goema music and hearing these songs being played on banjo's and watching the troops rehearse and all of these things, for them that seems to be a fundamental part of their music experience which influences them in what they do later as jazz musicians. A factual example is someone like Cliffie Moses who plays with the Four Sounds and who did an LP called 'Jazz in District Six.' One of his songs was called the goema dance. He writes this in 1969, twenty years later from when he first used to hear this music. He remembers clearly this scene of him sitting under the tree watching these coon guys rehearse. When you listen to the music there is no doubt about it that it is a goema tune, but it allows the freedom of improvisation and jazz improvisation so they are using those characteristics that are typically American jazz improve over goema. 

Was there an American influence? 

VL: There was much more of an American influence particularly after WWII. Musicians like all people have their own fashion and after the Second World War, the banjo went out of fashion and the guitar became fashionable. Django Reinhardt may not have been as popular after the Second World War as Charlie Parker or Miles Davis. In District Six, American jazz and American crooning was very very big. You can see its influence in plays like ‘District Six the Musical'. The British influence also started declining from the end of the Second World War. Even Cliffie as a dance musician became a serious follow of jazz music and that LP has got very strong jazz. 

How much has Cape Jazz integrated for instance? How much cross fertilization has there been with Cape Jazz and marabi? There was a lot of integration especially in places like Kimberley on the mines and to some extent in Joburg and in Durban. There were a lot of people coming from Cape Town and bringing all those sounds with them to places like Kimberley, interacting with African musicians, forming new kinds of associations and new styles of music must have emerged and I think marabi is an example of that. 

CM: District Six was not about jazz. There were jazz musicians but jazz was a passing thing in District Six. There were very few venues in District Six and they would play jazz on a Sunday or one day during the week and there was an odd restaurant. There were a lot of restaurants patroned by a white Jewish audience where jazz was played and a lot of coloured guys would play. 

VL: When District Six was happening as a place it didn't have great symbolic value, it was after it was threatened by the group areas act that District Six becomes a metaphor so that it starts appearing in poetry in novels, and it is associated with the jazz musicians, Jonas Gwangwa and all those people who in exile also become mythologised. Along with District Six this image of a new South Africa renaissance developed. In literal terms District Six had little to do with jazz. There was very little jazz in District Six and very little interest in jazz except if it was in the form of popular music. It was Frank Sinatra or something like that. The mythology of it particularly from the middle sixties and onwards when it became politicised is very interesting. That is when District Six became associated with all the new icons of South Africa. 

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-QSA7wh2jzA8/UV1XTafvOjI/AAAAAAAABSY/vOiLQUd1Qec/s1600/dis6guitar.jpg

Did politics affect the music? 

CM: It did affect the spaces that people were playing in. Some venues still exist. The Wiseman hall still exist and the one in Sea Point called the Waldorf. Those are two that might still exist. 

The audiences wanted something very different in the townships. They wanted the big band dance style or marabi music where they could jive. There was no bebop or anything. Sit down listen jazz was a very middle class thing to do. Working class get up and dance. Another space that was crucial was at people's homes. Guys would have their mega jam sessions in their homes. 

VL: The broader political environment would have affected what people listen to. When John Coltrane started going through his free period it got picked up on by quite a few musicians in Cape Town. People like Winston Mankunku became an imitator at first of John Coltrane's more adventurous work in the middle and towards the end of the sixties. That music had its own political symbolism. Max Roach, Archie Shepp and those guys were all doing wild things with free jazz and we know that was very popular among a younger generation of musicians. Chris Mcgregor and the Blue Notes is the most internationally famous example of that. They took African sounds and they blended it with the free movement that was happening in the UK. That became a big hit. 

CM: One of the very unique Cape Town sounds is when you listen to the saxophone players. Jimmy Adams who is a saxophone player explained to me that he used to sit with his dad who was a dance band player and used to play vastrap, squares and Jimmy was interested in jazz and would go and learn jazz in the township and at the end of the day his dad would sit him down and teach him to play his kind of music too. His dad would play the violin to him and he would sit with a saxophone. A violin has a very wide vibrato. And when you listen to the saxophone players there is that interpretation of it. 

VL : Basil Coetzee is an example of that. 

CM: Subconsciously the guys picked it up aurally. This tradition got passed on. It was first string instruments and then in the fifties the banjo's, guitars and violins fell away among the coons and these guys started learning saxophone and started playing the same sound on sax. 

VL : You must also hear the story about the fish-horn. There was a guy who used to walk around Cape Town with a horn to blow and make a vibrato sound and some of the saxophone sounds are like that as well. 

Was there a separate white scene? 

VL : There was even a white musicians union in Cape Town. In the major cities of South Africa, Durban and Joburg had it as well and it was very exclusive and tried very hard to the extent of lobbying parliament to protect white musicians interests. 

There was also an alternative scene which people like Chris Mcgregor, Morris Goldberg, Merton Barrow, Midge Pike and others. Merton Barrow was instrumental in creating spaces where musicians could be musicians and not worry about people's racial backgrounds and in fact tried to work with each other and learn from each other. There was a club in Green Point run by people like Midge Pike, Merton Barrow. That was one of the only places in Cape Town where people could mix. It survived for quite a long time but for the most part there was a separate scene for white and black musicians because white musicians had easy access to the establishments so they could get jobs with orchestras or in the nightclubs. 

I wonder if you can compare African jazz and European jazz to their philosophies. European being individualistic, African being uBuntu? 

VL : How would we differentiate between European jazz and North American jazz? If there is a coherent philosophy behind South African jazz it is African nationalism. After the second world war there was evidence of an African middle class becoming a lot more militant about its role in society. The development of the ANC will parallel all of that as well. This consciousness is also reflected in the way people viewed their musicality. There were African composers who became prominent in the 30's and 40's who for the first time started producing classical pieces, choral pieces and wrote it down with Western notation. There were important milestones and one of them was the development of jazz. 

What is interesting about Cape Town was in some parts with Abdullah Ibrahim and others there was success in that they managed to capture in imaginative terms this notion of South African jazz. Perhaps if musicians weren't forced into exile and people were allowed to grow and interact with each other it would be very different. 

CM: The type of evolution that jazz took here was very different to the type of evolution it had in the States. Jazz in the States was not about musical elements from Europe, foxtrots and waltz's and all that meeting a rhythmic section that came from Africa and fusing them. There was none of that coming together in New Orleans. I argue that jazz is a black African music because I firmly believe that people were denied freedom of speech and music became a form of expression. Music took on the form of expression of communication. The other things are co-incidental. That is the seed of it. The early New Orleans sound starts sounding like marching bands because that was the environment. You had the civil war going on and then this flood of instruments into New Orleans because the army band got disbanded there and there was a ton of instruments lying around and people started doing these marching band things to what became a New Orleans style and that kind of development is very different to what happened here. Here there was a little bit of the influence of church music. 

Was there a spiritual influence like a drummer beating the drum like the heartbeat, bringing rain, causing the crops to grow and for him to be cared for and well fed in society? 

VL : It also got undermined by urbanisation as societies that supported those belief systems were undermined badly over a long period of time. In a more contemporary sense I think a lot of jazz musicians grew up on a spiritual plane. Abdullah Ibrahim's mother for example was a church pianist and taught him to play piano, so a lot of what he plays is influenced by the spiritual music of the church. 

CM : Jazz is also a very class based music. There is this tendency to talk about jazz as classic music. 

VL : Or Jazz as art music. Like classical music, jazz provides a certain disciplinary environment for a musician that you won't get in neo-traditional and other kinds of music. What is powerful about jazz is it can absorb all these other influences as it is such a strong basis for any musician, so whatever other music you go onto play if you have a classical background or a jazz background you are probably going to do pretty well. It has become such a strong background for a musician to have that it is difficult to escape its influence. There are certain things you learn as a jazz musician technically that you wont learn in another environment.

The influence of the Union of South African artists on jazz? 

VL : Jimmy is a musician from the Western Cape and has been a pioneer in many ways. He went and played for one of the African Jazz and Variety shows and somebody pulled him a dirty and he got stranded in Joburg and Kippie Moeketsi was involved in the Union at that time and Kippie used to give him a pound everyday to go and buy something to eat. While he was stuck there the Union did play a major role in helping him to survive and find a job to get enough money to come back. It must have been providing quite a good support network for many musicians. 

CM: Dorkay house was a cultural meeting place. There would be dance and jazz. That was a place they would get together and jam, make music, play music and rehearse. MAPP music school in Cape Town played that role. It trained musicians and created space for rehearsals. It ran programmes. It was a performance venue too. And that is an important chapter in music training in Cape Town in the 1980's. A generation of musicians like Musa, Bennie and others beginning to make their names now came through that school. It also played a political role it was instrumental in the cultural boycott and in the late eighties in allowing exiles to come back and feed back into the community their musical knowledge. When Abdullah Ibrahim came back his first workshop he did at the music school. When Jonas Gwangwa came back the same thing. 

VL: The first international tours, Paul Simon, it was required that they do workshops at MAPP. MAPP used to be Musical Action for Peoples Power and got changed in more modern times to Musical Action to People's Progress. They moved with the times. 

In the 70's there was a disco movement that threatened jazz? 

VL: The musicians had to do what they had to do to survive. If you listen to Spirits Rejoice and the stuff from that period. All the musicians were jazz musicians. Robbie Jansen, Chris Schilder, Paul Abrahamse are all people that regard themselves as South African jazz musicians. They all made their contribution and they also all dabbled in what was popular in the 70's, soul, R n B and so on and fusion. Fusion was and still is a big influence on Cape Town. For me when I thought I was sophisticated as a teenager I started listening to Spyrogyro and Weather Report and all that stuff. It has been integrated into whatever we call jazz now. We can't escape the influence of that period. 

CM: Cliffie Moses and the 4 sounds were a typical jazz band and they backed Percy Sledge who is a soul singer who came to Cape Town in 1975. It was about money. Their Sunday gigs would be jazz gigs but all the other nights they played at the Beverley Lounge was dance. People wanted to dance. 

VL: Jazz has probably more institutional support today than it ever had. 

VL : For purposes of sanity you need to have some kind of definition for jazz. The question is how do you define it? 

Is smooth jazz a contradiction in terms? 

CM : It is the same with Cape Jazz. One of those Cd's calls it snoek flavoured jazz! 

Where is jazz evolving to? 

CM : When I listen to the recording industry I think that it is commercialised. It is about creating recording opportunities for musicians. It is opening a space to black musicians to showcase their music where that wasn't there before. I don't see a jazz movement happening! There are a lot of people trying to step out of that commercialisation. Zim is stepping out like Coltrane did in the 60's. He is going there. Maybe it is a Joburg thing? 

VL : There are two trends, one of which is happening and one of which I hope will happen. The one is I think people are much free-er to experiment now. People are looking at roots, at traditions and are quite unashamed about it. I hope that will grow and we get a better understanding of what traditions are evolving into. We are also exposed to the rest of the world in a way that we haven't been for many decades. That is also going to have an impact on what we do as far as jazz is concerned. Jazz has a dynamic relationship with other music, with traditional music or pop. Jazz is strong enough as a music to survive and absorb other influences. I am optimistic as there is enough support and institutional support to do this. If jazz managed to survive the 1960's, it can only flourish now. At the same time it is depressing that there has to be an overload of commercial smooth jazz. I like smooth jazz myself but would like a better balance between smooth jazz and other kinds of stuff. 

CM : There is an educational aspect that can play a vital role. There are institutions like Pretoria Technikon and UCT College of Music, Natal University, there is a music programme at Fort Hare where Hotep Galeta is teaching and Abdullah is initiating an academy here. And those are training grounds and you learn to play. You learn the discipline of jazz and that can only strive as far as the music is concerned. There will be a tendency for revivalism of African traditional jazz, Mike Campbell for example is re-arranging the music of King Kong written by Matshikiza. They intend having a national tour of King Kong. That is a huge play to put on and it is backed by government money. 

Originally published @  http://www.afribeat.com 

Apr 4, 2014

Everlasting sound of Martha Ulaeto

CONCERT musicians seldom compromise their music for other idioms – perhaps as a mark of professional pride. But on the Nigerian scene, some adventurously versatile classicists such as Prof. Akin Euba, Funmi Adams and Martha Ulaeto have been known to make successful incursions into the popular music realm with remarkable recorded works. Of this trio, Ulaeto recorded three albums in a progressively logical order, a fact that speaks volumes for her deep sense of commitment, and yet she is the least recognised.
As a testimony to her varied talent, she recorded her debut album in 1981. Titled Love me now, the bulk of the work was done in London – with Ghana’s George Lee making tremendous input in terms of production and instrumentalisation. George it was who helped to situate Ulaeto on the scene in terms of eliminating her vocal nuances and idosycracies, which were deeply soaked in the concert style.
The album had a few up tempos which tended to take her away from the romantic flourish of concert music, a technique which propelled her to swing the music. But George’s saxophone was there throughout the singing to boost her voice and lace it with the straight, pop sound of the saxophone, especially as George has a wonderful tone.
He was the leader of the Ghana Messengers, one of the early highlife bands to exhibit signs of progressiveness. Doubling on tenor and alto saxophones, George was one of the early soloists to introduce the jazz progression to highlife. And he had made some remarkable impact both on the Ghanaian and Nigerian scenes way back in 1959 before he travelled to England where, over the years, he was involved in numerous productions and mind-blowing saxophone sessions. George later moved to South Africa where he died a couple of years ago.
Inspired by the instant success of Love me now Martha came up with Everlasting in 1982 followed by Christmas Africana in 1985. Apart from Christmas Africana, which had a definite message of Christmas, Martha’s lyrical theme was essentially inspired by love – as evidenced by Love me now, the very first album and Everlasting.
The second album did not come on strong rhythmically like the first; it therefore lost something in terms of commercial appeal. But this, and the third, experienced progressive improvement in the area of singing. The concert element was gradually disappearing and gave place to the straight, conventional popular musical approach.
However, the albums all have their different qualities. While Love me now has better commercial appeal, with Christmas Africana crafted in the spirit of Christmas, Everlasting is a rich variety of music from various tribes of Nigeria including folklores from Akwa Ibom, a love theme in English. The album is entirely loaded with powerful lyrics.
“My everlasting love, that’s what you are that’s what you are,” says the opening lines of this title song, which portrays the writer and performer as a woman deeply in love at the time. Progressing further, the lyrical lines say, “the very first time I saw your face, I knew you were the one for me.”
The second tune, which is written in Igbo, is titled Ije Lovu, a song about a woman’s love for her man. She gives him so much but he takes it all for granted. Obuzikwo Lovu – can this be love? She asks.
The third item, another love song, begins like this. “Sometimes I reminisce and wonder why it’s so easy to forget to love.” Titled Love is best, the song appeals to people who do everything but love, to take a little time off those mighty schemes and projects, to give and share a little love.
Forcados you yemo is in Ijaw and it means, ‘Forcados I’m crying’. In this song, a young girl is in tears as she calls on the people of her native Forcados to come to her aid. She has been forced to abandon her young lover to marry an older, wealthy man, a sugar daddy, with whom she can find no happiness.
Side two opens with another of Martha Ulaeto composition also anchored on love. The song begins by saying, “Take my hand and let me be the one to show you just how great love can be.”
Adura mi meaning ‘my prayer’ was written jointly by Martha and Taiwo Ogunade, a renowned musician.
Ndito Isong emana nyi which means ‘children of our land’ is a folklore in Efik. Exhorting the children, the song says that they can “excel and shine like the sun to all parts of the world.” It goes further to appeal to all to love and live in peace so that we can build our homes for the children of our land.”
‘Abasi ulok ulok’, a folk song concludes the session with lyrics and music by singer, composer, song-writer Martha Ulaeto. According to her, the song is sung in her native dialect of Ibeno and the people fondly refer to it as Ibeno Anthem. Says she: “There is hardly a happy (or sad) gathering of Ibeno people without the rendering of this song. In it, they call on the god of their forefathers (Abes Ulok) to be with them, give them happiness and see to their every need.”
Everlasting is essentially predicated on love, a virtue, which the world needs today to live at peace with one another. And because all the songs stand out as distinct melodies; it is also a demonstration of Martha’s inventiveness in terms of structuring melodies. And of course the entire session has marked her out as a prolific lyricist.
Everlasting was recorded in London at Pye and Gerrard studios and mastered at Gerrard studios – in 1982. It was produced jointly by Mike Abiola Philips and Martha Ulaeto herself – with several musicians of note as session men.
Martha’s musical inclination was stimulated by her step-mother who was an organist and pianist in those early days. And as a school girl, she was cast in leading solo parts at the Cornelia Connelly College, Uyo. She joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation as an announcer in the early 70s, but her passion for the music profession did not allow her to pursue a career in broadcasting. Consequently, she found time to do solo parts in Dr. Sam Akpabio’s Operatta Cynthia’s Lament in 1971 and Adam Fiberessima’s Magnum Opus, Opu Jaja in 1973.
Working with these two famous Nigerian composers could not but attract public attention to her talents and so she proceeded to the National Conservatory in Athens under a Greek Government Scholarship for advanced musical studies. After her graduation there in 1977, she studied in London under two distinguished teachers, Constance Shacklock and Victoria Ellior. She has performed in many international concerts, prominent among them, the 1985 Africa Rise.
Martha has since stopped recording after her third album, Christmas Africana in 1985. But the three albums she has to her credit constitute enough legacy, especially in terms of contemporary African music. Essentially a concern-oriented musician with a smooth voice, her three albums in the other musical idioms constitute an eloquent testimony to her varied talent.
This adventurous spirit earned her a Solidra Award in Lagos in 1985. Her example should serve to inspire some of the musicologists in our universities who are burying their talents in the debris of seeming academic pursuits. Until they come out like Martha and group, entertainment watchers would continue to see them as being limited in the musical horizon and lethargic in activity.
Their venturing out can only help to revive Nigeria’s sinking music industry.
- See more at: http://zumalist.com/everlasting-sound-of-martha-ulaeto_n6122.html#sthash.lFiIJZuY.dpuf

CONCERT musicians seldom compromise their music for other idioms – perhaps as a mark of professional pride. But on the Nigerian scene, some adventurously versatile classicists such as Prof. Akin Euba, Funmi Adams and Martha Ulaeto have been known to make successful incursions into the popular music realm with remarkable recorded works. Of this trio, Ulaeto recorded three albums in a progressively logical order, a fact that speaks volumes for her deep sense of commitment, and yet she is the least recognised.
As a testimony to her varied talent, she recorded her debut album in 1981. Titled Love me now, the bulk of the work was done in London – with Ghana’s George Lee making tremendous input in terms of production and instrumentalisation. George it was who helped to situate Ulaeto on the scene in terms of eliminating her vocal nuances and idosycracies, which were deeply soaked in the concert style.
The album had a few up tempos which tended to take her away from the romantic flourish of concert music, a technique which propelled her to swing the music. But George’s saxophone was there throughout the singing to boost her voice and lace it with the straight, pop sound of the saxophone, especially as George has a wonderful tone.
He was the leader of the Ghana Messengers, one of the early highlife bands to exhibit signs of progressiveness. Doubling on tenor and alto saxophones, George was one of the early soloists to introduce the jazz progression to highlife. And he had made some remarkable impact both on the Ghanaian and Nigerian scenes way back in 1959 before he travelled to England where, over the years, he was involved in numerous productions and mind-blowing saxophone sessions. George later moved to South Africa where he died a couple of years ago.
Inspired by the instant success of Love me now Martha came up with Everlasting in 1982 followed by Christmas Africana in 1985. Apart from Christmas Africana, which had a definite message of Christmas, Martha’s lyrical theme was essentially inspired by love – as evidenced by Love me now, the very first album and Everlasting.
The second album did not come on strong rhythmically like the first; it therefore lost something in terms of commercial appeal. But this, and the third, experienced progressive improvement in the area of singing. The concert element was gradually disappearing and gave place to the straight, conventional popular musical approach.
However, the albums all have their different qualities. While Love me now has better commercial appeal, with Christmas Africana crafted in the spirit of Christmas, Everlasting is a rich variety of music from various tribes of Nigeria including folklores from Akwa Ibom, a love theme in English. The album is entirely loaded with powerful lyrics.
“My everlasting love, that’s what you are that’s what you are,” says the opening lines of this title song, which portrays the writer and performer as a woman deeply in love at the time. Progressing further, the lyrical lines say, “the very first time I saw your face, I knew you were the one for me.”
The second tune, which is written in Igbo, is titled Ije Lovu, a song about a woman’s love for her man. She gives him so much but he takes it all for granted. Obuzikwo Lovu – can this be love? She asks.
The third item, another love song, begins like this. “Sometimes I reminisce and wonder why it’s so easy to forget to love.” Titled Love is best, the song appeals to people who do everything but love, to take a little time off those mighty schemes and projects, to give and share a little love.
Forcados you yemo is in Ijaw and it means, ‘Forcados I’m crying’. In this song, a young girl is in tears as she calls on the people of her native Forcados to come to her aid. She has been forced to abandon her young lover to marry an older, wealthy man, a sugar daddy, with whom she can find no happiness.
Side two opens with another of Martha Ulaeto composition also anchored on love. The song begins by saying, “Take my hand and let me be the one to show you just how great love can be.”
Adura mi meaning ‘my prayer’ was written jointly by Martha and Taiwo Ogunade, a renowned musician.
Ndito Isong emana nyi which means ‘children of our land’ is a folklore in Efik. Exhorting the children, the song says that they can “excel and shine like the sun to all parts of the world.” It goes further to appeal to all to love and live in peace so that we can build our homes for the children of our land.”
‘Abasi ulok ulok’, a folk song concludes the session with lyrics and music by singer, composer, song-writer Martha Ulaeto. According to her, the song is sung in her native dialect of Ibeno and the people fondly refer to it as Ibeno Anthem. Says she: “There is hardly a happy (or sad) gathering of Ibeno people without the rendering of this song. In it, they call on the god of their forefathers (Abes Ulok) to be with them, give them happiness and see to their every need.”
Everlasting is essentially predicated on love, a virtue, which the world needs today to live at peace with one another. And because all the songs stand out as distinct melodies; it is also a demonstration of Martha’s inventiveness in terms of structuring melodies. And of course the entire session has marked her out as a prolific lyricist.
Everlasting was recorded in London at Pye and Gerrard studios and mastered at Gerrard studios – in 1982. It was produced jointly by Mike Abiola Philips and Martha Ulaeto herself – with several musicians of note as session men.
Martha’s musical inclination was stimulated by her step-mother who was an organist and pianist in those early days. And as a school girl, she was cast in leading solo parts at the Cornelia Connelly College, Uyo. She joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation as an announcer in the early 70s, but her passion for the music profession did not allow her to pursue a career in broadcasting. Consequently, she found time to do solo parts in Dr. Sam Akpabio’s Operatta Cynthia’s Lament in 1971 and Adam Fiberessima’s Magnum Opus, Opu Jaja in 1973.
Working with these two famous Nigerian composers could not but attract public attention to her talents and so she proceeded to the National Conservatory in Athens under a Greek Government Scholarship for advanced musical studies. After her graduation there in 1977, she studied in London under two distinguished teachers, Constance Shacklock and Victoria Ellior. She has performed in many international concerts, prominent among them, the 1985 Africa Rise.
Martha has since stopped recording after her third album, Christmas Africana in 1985. But the three albums she has to her credit constitute enough legacy, especially in terms of contemporary African music. Essentially a concern-oriented musician with a smooth voice, her three albums in the other musical idioms constitute an eloquent testimony to her varied talent.
This adventurous spirit earned her a Solidra Award in Lagos in 1985. Her example should serve to inspire some of the musicologists in our universities who are burying their talents in the debris of seeming academic pursuits. Until they come out like Martha and group, entertainment watchers would continue to see them as being limited in the musical horizon and lethargic in activity.
Their venturing out can only help to revive Nigeria’s sinking music industry.
- See more at: http://zumalist.com/everlasting-sound-of-martha-ulaeto_n6122.html#sthash.lFiIJZuY.dpuf
CONCERT musicians seldom compromise their music for other idioms – perhaps as a mark of professional pride. But on the Nigerian scene, some adventurously versatile classicists such as Prof. Akin Euba, Funmi Adams and Martha Ulaeto have been known to make successful incursions into the popular music realm with remarkable recorded works. Of this trio, Ulaeto recorded three albums in a progressively logical order, a fact that speaks volumes for her deep sense of commitment, and yet she is the least recognised.
As a testimony to her varied talent, she recorded her debut album in 1981. Titled Love me now, the bulk of the work was done in London – with Ghana’s George Lee making tremendous input in terms of production and instrumentalisation. George it was who helped to situate Ulaeto on the scene in terms of eliminating her vocal nuances and idosycracies, which were deeply soaked in the concert style.
The album had a few up tempos which tended to take her away from the romantic flourish of concert music, a technique which propelled her to swing the music. But George’s saxophone was there throughout the singing to boost her voice and lace it with the straight, pop sound of the saxophone, especially as George has a wonderful tone.
He was the leader of the Ghana Messengers, one of the early highlife bands to exhibit signs of progressiveness. Doubling on tenor and alto saxophones, George was one of the early soloists to introduce the jazz progression to highlife. And he had made some remarkable impact both on the Ghanaian and Nigerian scenes way back in 1959 before he travelled to England where, over the years, he was involved in numerous productions and mind-blowing saxophone sessions. George later moved to South Africa where he died a couple of years ago.
Inspired by the instant success of Love me now Martha came up with Everlasting in 1982 followed by Christmas Africana in 1985. Apart from Christmas Africana, which had a definite message of Christmas, Martha’s lyrical theme was essentially inspired by love – as evidenced by Love me now, the very first album and Everlasting.
The second album did not come on strong rhythmically like the first; it therefore lost something in terms of commercial appeal. But this, and the third, experienced progressive improvement in the area of singing. The concert element was gradually disappearing and gave place to the straight, conventional popular musical approach.
However, the albums all have their different qualities. While Love me now has better commercial appeal, with Christmas Africana crafted in the spirit of Christmas, Everlasting is a rich variety of music from various tribes of Nigeria including folklores from Akwa Ibom, a love theme in English. The album is entirely loaded with powerful lyrics.
“My everlasting love, that’s what you are that’s what you are,” says the opening lines of this title song, which portrays the writer and performer as a woman deeply in love at the time. Progressing further, the lyrical lines say, “the very first time I saw your face, I knew you were the one for me.”
The second tune, which is written in Igbo, is titled Ije Lovu, a song about a woman’s love for her man. She gives him so much but he takes it all for granted. Obuzikwo Lovu – can this be love? She asks.
The third item, another love song, begins like this. “Sometimes I reminisce and wonder why it’s so easy to forget to love.” Titled Love is best, the song appeals to people who do everything but love, to take a little time off those mighty schemes and projects, to give and share a little love.
Forcados you yemo is in Ijaw and it means, ‘Forcados I’m crying’. In this song, a young girl is in tears as she calls on the people of her native Forcados to come to her aid. She has been forced to abandon her young lover to marry an older, wealthy man, a sugar daddy, with whom she can find no happiness.
Side two opens with another of Martha Ulaeto composition also anchored on love. The song begins by saying, “Take my hand and let me be the one to show you just how great love can be.”
Adura mi meaning ‘my prayer’ was written jointly by Martha and Taiwo Ogunade, a renowned musician.
Ndito Isong emana nyi which means ‘children of our land’ is a folklore in Efik. Exhorting the children, the song says that they can “excel and shine like the sun to all parts of the world.” It goes further to appeal to all to love and live in peace so that we can build our homes for the children of our land.”
‘Abasi ulok ulok’, a folk song concludes the session with lyrics and music by singer, composer, song-writer Martha Ulaeto. According to her, the song is sung in her native dialect of Ibeno and the people fondly refer to it as Ibeno Anthem. Says she: “There is hardly a happy (or sad) gathering of Ibeno people without the rendering of this song. In it, they call on the god of their forefathers (Abes Ulok) to be with them, give them happiness and see to their every need.”
Everlasting is essentially predicated on love, a virtue, which the world needs today to live at peace with one another. And because all the songs stand out as distinct melodies; it is also a demonstration of Martha’s inventiveness in terms of structuring melodies. And of course the entire session has marked her out as a prolific lyricist.
Everlasting was recorded in London at Pye and Gerrard studios and mastered at Gerrard studios – in 1982. It was produced jointly by Mike Abiola Philips and Martha Ulaeto herself – with several musicians of note as session men.
Martha’s musical inclination was stimulated by her step-mother who was an organist and pianist in those early days. And as a school girl, she was cast in leading solo parts at the Cornelia Connelly College, Uyo. She joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation as an announcer in the early 70s, but her passion for the music profession did not allow her to pursue a career in broadcasting. Consequently, she found time to do solo parts in Dr. Sam Akpabio’s Operatta Cynthia’s Lament in 1971 and Adam Fiberessima’s Magnum Opus, Opu Jaja in 1973.
Working with these two famous Nigerian composers could not but attract public attention to her talents and so she proceeded to the National Conservatory in Athens under a Greek Government Scholarship for advanced musical studies. After her graduation there in 1977, she studied in London under two distinguished teachers, Constance Shacklock and Victoria Ellior. She has performed in many international concerts, prominent among them, the 1985 Africa Rise.
Martha has since stopped recording after her third album, Christmas Africana in 1985. But the three albums she has to her credit constitute enough legacy, especially in terms of contemporary African music. Essentially a concern-oriented musician with a smooth voice, her three albums in the other musical idioms constitute an eloquent testimony to her varied talent.
This adventurous spirit earned her a Solidra Award in Lagos in 1985. Her example should serve to inspire some of the musicologists in our universities who are burying their talents in the debris of seeming academic pursuits. Until they come out like Martha and group, entertainment watchers would continue to see them as being limited in the musical horizon and lethargic in activity.
Their venturing out can only help to revive Nigeria’s sinking music industry.
- See more at: http://zumalist.com/everlasting-sound-of-martha-ulaeto_n6122.html#sthash.lFiIJZuY.dpuf
CONCERT musicians seldom compromise their music for other idioms – perhaps as a mark of professional pride. But on the Nigerian scene, some adventurously versatile classicists such as Prof. Akin Euba, Funmi Adams and Martha Ulaeto have been known to make successful incursions into the popular music realm with remarkable recorded works. Of this trio, Ulaeto recorded three albums in a progressively logical order, a fact that speaks volumes for her deep sense of commitment, and yet she is the least recognised.

As a testimony to her varied talent, she recorded her debut album in 1981. Titled Love me now, the bulk of the work was done in London – with Ghana’s George Lee making tremendous input in terms of production and instrumentalisation. George it was who helped to situate Ulaeto on the scene in terms of eliminating her vocal nuances and idosycracies, which were deeply soaked in the concert style.

The album had a few up tempos which tended to take her away from the romantic flourish of concert music, a technique which propelled her to swing the music. But George’s saxophone was there throughout the singing to boost her voice and lace it with the straight, pop sound of the saxophone, especially as George has a wonderful tone.

He was the leader of the Ghana Messengers, one of the early highlife bands to exhibit signs of progressiveness. Doubling on tenor and alto saxophones, George was one of the early soloists to introduce the jazz progression to highlife. And he had made some remarkable impact both on the Ghanaian and Nigerian scenes way back in 1959 before he travelled to England where, over the years, he was involved in numerous productions and mind-blowing saxophone sessions. George later moved to South Africa where he died a couple of years ago.

Inspired by the instant success of Love me now Martha came up with Everlasting in 1982 followed by Christmas Africana in 1985. Apart from Christmas Africana, which had a definite message of Christmas, Martha’s lyrical theme was essentially inspired by love – as evidenced by Love me now, the very first album and Everlasting.

The second album did not come on strong rhythmically like the first; it therefore lost something in terms of commercial appeal. But this, and the third, experienced progressive improvement in the area of singing. The concert element was gradually disappearing and gave place to the straight, conventional popular musical approach.

However, the albums all have their different qualities. While Love me now has better commercial appeal, with Christmas Africana crafted in the spirit of Christmas, Everlasting is a rich variety of music from various tribes of Nigeria including folklores from Akwa Ibom, a love theme in English. The album is entirely loaded with powerful lyrics.

“My everlasting love, that’s what you are that’s what you are,” says the opening lines of this title song, which portrays the writer and performer as a woman deeply in love at the time. Progressing further, the lyrical lines say, “the very first time I saw your face, I knew you were the one for me.”
The second tune, which is written in Igbo, is titled Ije Lovu, a song about a woman’s love for her man. She gives him so much but he takes it all for granted. Obuzikwo Lovu – can this be love? She asks.

The third item, another love song, begins like this. “Sometimes I reminisce and wonder why it’s so easy to forget to love.” Titled Love is best, the song appeals to people who do everything but love, to take a little time off those mighty schemes and projects, to give and share a little love.

Forcados you yemo is in Ijaw and it means, ‘Forcados I’m crying’. In this song, a young girl is in tears as she calls on the people of her native Forcados to come to her aid. She has been forced to abandon her young lover to marry an older, wealthy man, a sugar daddy, with whom she can find no happiness.

Side two opens with another of Martha Ulaeto composition also anchored on love. The song begins by saying, “Take my hand and let me be the one to show you just how great love can be.”
Adura mi meaning ‘my prayer’ was written jointly by Martha and Taiwo Ogunade, a renowned musician.

Ndito Isong emana nyi which means ‘children of our land’ is a folklore in Efik. Exhorting the children, the song says that they can “excel and shine like the sun to all parts of the world.” It goes further to appeal to all to love and live in peace so that we can build our homes for the children of our land.”

‘Abasi ulok ulok’, a folk song concludes the session with lyrics and music by singer, composer, song-writer Martha Ulaeto. According to her, the song is sung in her native dialect of Ibeno and the people fondly refer to it as Ibeno Anthem. Says she: “There is hardly a happy (or sad) gathering of Ibeno people without the rendering of this song. In it, they call on the god of their forefathers (Abes Ulok) to be with them, give them happiness and see to their every need.”


Everlasting is essentially predicated on love, a virtue, which the world needs today to live at peace with one another. And because all the songs stand out as distinct melodies; it is also a demonstration of Martha’s inventiveness in terms of structuring melodies. And of course the entire session has marked her out as a prolific lyricist.

Everlasting was recorded in London at Pye and Gerrard studios and mastered at Gerrard studios – in 1982. It was produced jointly by Mike Abiola Philips and Martha Ulaeto herself – with several musicians of note as session men.

Martha’s musical inclination was stimulated by her step-mother who was an organist and pianist in those early days. And as a school girl, she was cast in leading solo parts at the Cornelia Connelly College, Uyo. She joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation as an announcer in the early 70s, but her passion for the music profession did not allow her to pursue a career in broadcasting. Consequently, she found time to do solo parts in Dr. Sam Akpabio’s Operatta Cynthia’s Lament in 1971 and Adam Fiberessima’s Magnum Opus, Opu Jaja in 1973.

Working with these two famous Nigerian composers could not but attract public attention to her talents and so she proceeded to the National Conservatory in Athens under a Greek Government Scholarship for advanced musical studies. After her graduation there in 1977, she studied in London under two distinguished teachers, Constance Shacklock and Victoria Ellior. She has performed in many international concerts, prominent among them, the 1985 Africa Rise.

Martha has since stopped recording after her third album, Christmas Africana in 1985. But the three albums she has to her credit constitute enough legacy, especially in terms of contemporary African music. Essentially a concern-oriented musician with a smooth voice, her three albums in the other musical idioms constitute an eloquent testimony to her varied talent.

This adventurous spirit earned her a Solidra Award in Lagos in 1985. Her example should serve to inspire some of the musicologists in our universities who are burying their talents in the debris of seeming academic pursuits. Until they come out like Martha and group, entertainment watchers would continue to see them as being limited in the musical horizon and lethargic in activity.
Their venturing out can only help to revive Nigeria’s sinking music industry.
 


 

Tracklist

A1 Africa Rise
A2 I Pledge To Nigeria
A3 Prayer Of Abuja
A4 War Against Starvation
B1 Absalom
B2 (Naomi) Time Will Conquer
B3 I Pledge To Nigeria (Instrumental)
B4 Africa Rise (Instrumental)