Oct 8, 2009

Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family - Na Teef Know De Road of Teef



Artist

Nicholas Addo-Nettey was born in Accra, Ghana on August 7th, 1954. From his early childhood on he was dedicated to music: he started singing in a gospel choir when he was only 6, and later on joined different traditional and cultural groups as a dancer and percussionist. In the 60s, Ghanaian youth were crazy about American soul music, and Nicholas was no exception to the rule. James Brown and Otis Redding were his idols, and by the age of 18 he started to perform himself. Shortly after, fellow musician Joe King Kologbo invited him to the Mecca of African funk music: Lagos, Nigeria. Nicholas was not only talented but also lucky. Kologbo introduced him to Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the undisputed Godfather of Afrobeat. He was able to convince the master of his skills as a drummer and singer and in 1971 became a full member of Fela´s legendary band Africa 70 as a conga player and background singer. The first record he appeared on was “Shakara” – an international smash hit and one of Fela´s greatest. Nicholas was at the right place at the right time. In the 70s, stars like James Brown, B.B. King, Ginger Baker, Stevie Wonder and Manu Dibango came to Lagos to visit Fela’s Shrine Club to hear this new and incredibly heavy thing called Afrobeat.

While playing and recording for Fela’s Africa 70 (he appeared on all of Fela’s releases between 1971 and 1978), Mr. Addo-Nettey also always had his own thing going on the side. He released two solo LPs for the Tabansi Label with the Martin Brothers Band from Portharcort, Nigeria: Mind Your Own Business in 1971 and Na Teef Know The Road of Teef in 1973. The latter, made with Africa 70 musicians and singers, is heavy Afro-funk, recorded in Ginger Baker’s highly equipped Lagos studio, where many of Fela’s albums were recorded, as well. Obviously, Fela was not amused at all about these kinds of things, even less when he heard how strong the Na Teef… album was. Reportedly, he said, “Don’t you ever, EVER play it again!” And so it was. Despite being a killer record, Na Teef… remained undercover for more than 30 years.

The story of Na Teef… would have ended there had it not been for Frank Gossner (aka DJ Soulpusher of voodoofunk.com, a dedicated cratedigger who, in the 90s, found a copy hidden at a record store in Philly, tracked down Nicholas in Berlin, and brought the album to the attention of Daptone Records.

As for Nicholas, in the 70s he experienced life in Fela’s Kalakuta Republic, a place where about 100 musicians, dancers, friends and family members of Fela lived, played, loved, and celebrated together. It was a property in Lagos that had been declared an independent state by Fela, in open defiance of the brutal dictatorship that was ruling in Nigeria at that time. The regime, which hated Fela for his radical messages and his popularity, attacked Kalakuta several times. In one of these raids, Nicholas was arrested with several other band members and remained in prison for nine months, where he was strongly mistreated. During another army attack in 1977, Fela’s mother was thrown out of an upstairs window and killed, and the whole compound was burned to the ground. The dangerous conditions became to much for Nicholas to bear. When playing at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1978, he and other band members, including drummer Tony Allen, left Africa 70 because they didn’t want to go back to Nigeria. While Allen moved to Paris, Nicholas stayed in Berlin where he raised two sons and continues to play music to this day. Pax Nicholas now leads his own band, Ridimtaksi, which features West African musicians, continuing to play his own fresh take on Afrobeat.

– Matti Steinitz

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Information by Voodoofunk

The Pax Nicholas LP was one of the first African records I ever found. It's also one of the rarest records in my posession as I don't know of anybody else who has ever seen or heard it. Which is a shame because this also is one of the best and most unique sounding Afrobeat records out there.

It was in Philadelphia in the spring of 2005. I had made a visit to Smith's Record store. All the high caliber funk 45s had been gone years ago (many of them into my own collection), but I wanted to say "hi!" to the owner Stanley Smith. When I mentioned that I was about to go to Africa to look for Funk records, he said "I have a stack of African LPs in my office, wanna have a look at them?"

Pax Nicholas Cover FrontI found a few nice pieces but the Pax Nicholas LP was by far the most interesting and unique record in the bunch. A few weeks later, I embarked onto a 3 year long digging trip through West Africa. Hundreds and thousands of records were added to my collection but the Pax Nicholas LP always remained somehow special to me.

I tried to track down Nicholas with the help of friends in Ghana and Nigeria but I couldn't find a lead. All it took in the end was a simple google-search and I had found him: Ironically, Nicholas Nettey had been living in Berlin since 1978. Nic was very enthusiastic about getting his record re-issued. I approached my old friends at Daptone Records about this and after having listened to some sound clips, they decided to make this their first African release.

Pax Nicholas - Cover BackWhen I asked Nic if there were any master tapes left, he told me that years ago, he had had a big fight with his brother during which they both ended up throwing the tapes at each other until they (the tapes) were totally mangled.

Thankfully, my copy of this record was in pristine and unplayed condition when I had found it so we were able to re-master from the original vinyl. This album will be in stores worldwide by September.

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Reviews


Na Teef Know De Road of Teef, the previously unreleased album from Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family, is a seriously funky slice of afro-funk recorded in Lagos at the height of afrobeat's summit. Nicholas Addo-Nettey performed and recorded with Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Afrika 70 as a conga player and backup singer from 1971 until 1978 debuting on Shakara and leaving the band during the Berlin Jazz Festival along with Tony Allen and several others. While Allen moved to Paris, Nicholas stayed in Berlin where he continues to make funky music today.

Na Teef Know De Road of Teef was recorded at Ginger Baker's studio in Lagos, Nigeria in 1973, one of two solo albums Nicholas recorded while with Afrika 70. The album previously went unreleased at the behest of Fela who upon hearing how uncontrollably nasty the album was forbade it to be played again. As Nicholas was currently living under Fela's rule in the Kalakuta Republic, he had no choice but to obey. As a result the album was virtually unheard until Frank Gossner (voodoofunk.com) discovered it in a record store in Philly. He brought it to the attention of Daptone Records who gave the world a gift of extreme afrofunk flavor.

This album is heavy. As a percussionist, Nicholas emphasizes a rich texture of interlocking percussion that takes on the identity of the tracks. Nicholas' voice is melancholy and gloomy which matches the keyboards and guitar lines that have an underproduced raw feel. Na Teef Know De Road of Teef represents the craze James Brown unleashed across West Africa and the legions of musicians who were enraptured by the funky interpretation Africa had to offer. Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family is a cut above the vast majority to come out of the Afro-funk wave. Nicholas and the other musicians playing on the album had the pedigree of Afrika 70, the band able to put the most unique stamp on afro-funk, and their musicianship and attitude is evident.

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Brooklyn's Daptone label presents an astounding reissue of the unearthed opus of Pax Nicholas, a one time drummer with Fela Kuti during the most legendary years of his career. As the story goes, Pax Nicholas was a prodigiously talented drummer and singer (as you'll find out when listening to this) brought to the attention of Fela Kuti in 1971. Fela promptly drafted Pax into the Africa 70 lineup where he remained until 1978, when he left the group to live in Berlin (where he's been living ever since) due to civil unrest and persecution at home in Nigeria. During this time in the band he had his own thing going on the side, recording two now-legendary solo LPs for the Tabansi label. The lineup included members of Africa 70 and the Martin Brothers Band, playing a potent brand of Afrobeat so strong that when Fela heard 'Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef' in 1973, he reportedly told Pax "Don't you ever, EVER play it again!", hence the LP hiding away until Frank Gossner recently uncovered it in a Philadelphia record store and turned it over to Daptone for release. At only four tracks long it's criminally short, but obviously still a massive treat for any Afrobeat aficionados and ranks shoulder-to-shoulder with much of Fela's classic material from the same period. It's heavyweight material and deserves to be heard by any ears drawn to a prime Afro-groove.

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Tracklist

01. Na Teef Know De Road of Teef
02. Ataa Onukpa
03. Na Six Feet
04. You

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