Jun 22, 2009

Another old hero of Afrobeat!


One of the most innovative and pioneering musicians of his time, Orlando Julius made an amazing contribution to the Nigerian music between the sixties and the seventies. This collection includes "Super Afro Soul" with Orlando Julius & his Modern Aces, and "Orlando's Afro Ideas 1969-72" by Orlando Julius & his Afro Sounders. A mind-blowing mix of Nigerian Highlife style with Jazz, Soul, and Funk.

On "Super Afro Soul" you can hear the early musical tremors. It was Orlando’s first album, released in 1966, a head on collision between Highlife - the soundtrack of Independence first in Ghana and then in neighbouring Nigeria (the music of West African political/social aspiration at that time ,‘the successful africanisation of a western structure’ as Prof. John Collins says ) - and ‘60’s Soul from the USA , the soundtrack of Afro-America’s struggle for civil rights and equality . While Fela Kuti’s Koola Lobitos was experimenting with highlife and jazz with little response from Lagos youth, still 4 years and a spell in Los Angeles from creating Afrobeat, Orlando Julius unleashed this pioneering Highlife Soul gem and Lagos clubs resounded to the new sound.

Orlando (some say he borrowed that name from Nigerian film actor, Orlando Martins) Julius Aremu Olusanya Ekemode started life in 1943 in Ijebu-Ijesha in the Osun state of Nigeria. His first instruments were drums and later flute at school, and then he discovered his favourite instrument, the alto-sax, which he studied for two years before he joined local highlife heroes, the Flamingo Dandies of Akure. Highlife was the breaking wave and he surfed it, an unstoppable talent. At 19 he even briefly became leader of Juju music star I.K. Dairo’s Dance Band, for a short time, but then he returned to Highlife heaven with Eddy Okunta’s Top Ace band in Lagos, and immersed himself in highlife and the jazz of Parker and Coltrane. He also traced his musical journey through the ‘Kokoma’ beats. ‘I used to follow the priests and worshippers to where they performed their traditional worship; from there I picked up ‘Kokoma’ music.’ In 1964 he formed his Modern Aces and on their first massive hit single, Jagua Nana, released in October 1965, you can hear that he had married conga, bongos and the Agigdigbo of Kokoma with the sax into his beats. It took the country by storm and spawned a host of evolving sensual wriggles and def dance steps in the clubs. Three more singles followed, Topless (for a while he was ‘The Topless Man’), Ololufe and E Se Re Re.
Around this time, his two musical obsessions, jazz and highlife, were joined by a third, as the airwaves filled with the sounds of ‘60’s soul from the USA: Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Otis Redding, Motown, Stax, Atlantic…and his Modern Aces became one of the very first in Nigeria to forge new directions with traditional highlife, alongside Fela’s Koola Lobitos, with whom he shared band members. On this first album, Super Afro Soul, released by PolyGram in 1966 in the triumphant wake of his hit singles , its clear that he’d caught the soul bug but he was going to play it his way. Lagos transforms the Memphis Soul Stew! Check his unique cover of Smokey’s My Girl, the James Brown ‘echoes’ in Ijo Soul. the Stax like brass riffs and dominant bass throughout the album…but the highlife and kokoma is never far away.

Orlando recorded three albums for PolyGram in Lagos. Orlando’s Idea and Ishe followed Super Afro Soul , each evolving its own sound, along with the changes that were happening on the Lagos music scene. ORLANDO’S AFRO IDEAS 1969-72 is a compilation of some of these tracks.

The outrageously successful arrival of Geraldo Pino and the Heartbeats from Sierra Leone with their soul covers, tight choreography, slick costumes and expensive new sound system upped the ante for every band. The Lagos scene countered. Fela Kuti announced the creation of a new sound Afrobeat and then left for a tour of the USA which would keep him away from Lagos.

Source: www.anthologyrecordings.com


Orlando Julius - Super Afro Soul

Orlando Julius - Orlando´s Afro Ideas 1969-1972

Orlando Julius - Afro Soul

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