Apr 28, 2010
Incredible French afro fusion of 17 musicians, Afro Latin Vintage Orchestra is a syncretism resulting of afrobeat, jazz funk, old descarga, West Indies heritage, ethio groove and raw creol spoken word mixing. Their originality lies in this recipe : atypical rythms for heavy afro rare grooves. Don't miss and enjoy this first release in limited edition.
2. Definitely Roots
4. Dont Lose Your Time
5. Pas Touchez Ca
6. Kingston Abeba
7. Tambou La Sonne
8. Verite Yo
9. Kaladja Killa
10. Ethiopik Mood
12. Parlez Parlez
Unfortunately, no further information could be found.
Labels: Afro Latin Vintage Orchestra
Apr 26, 2010
The Afrodelic Stegosaurchestra is an Afrobeat band based out of Tucson, Arizona. The band was originally formed by drummer Arthur Vint and saxophonist Mike Moynihan in the fall of 2004 after attending a concert by the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra.
The original formation of the group had only five members, but by the summer of 2005 Afro Steg had grown in size to eight members. It was with this lineup that the group began playing festivals and parties in and around the Southwest. At the 2005 Fullerton Jazz Festival in Fullerton, California the band won 1st place in it's division and Mike, Arthur, and Andrew were recipients of individual awards for their solos. Other festivals that Afro Steg has regularly appeared at include the 4th Avenue Street Fair, the Arizona Jazzathon, the Tucson Family Arts Festival, and Filmstock.
In February of 2006, the band won 1st place in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest/Arizona Daily Star "Battle of the Bands." They were voted the best of seven bands that competed on the Rialto Theatre stage on February 10th.
Inspired by these successes, the band again grew in size and augmented their instrumentation with a full percussion section. They self-released their debut CD on January 3rd, 2007 at the Solar Culture club in Tucson.
1. Matches 7:22
2. Baby Goat 6:43
3. Madam Siti 8:10
4. Afrobeat Music 6:21
5. Blue Waterbuffalo 2:01
6. Shaka Zulu 5:10
7. The Gods Must Be Crazy 3:44
8. Giraffe Man 8:32
Labels: The Afrodelic Stegosaurchestra
Apr 20, 2010
How my father's death changed my life
By Tunde Akingbade
Orlando Julius Ekemode, popularly called OJ, the ace Afro-highlife musician, is a man with global musical relevance. Quiet, unassuming, resourceful and multi talented, O J has performed in Nigeria, Europe and America for over 50 years. A song writer, trumpeter, film maker and performer par excellence, he encountered the late godfather of Soul, James Brown and also, wrote the award winning Going Back to My Roots for Lamont Dozier. He has performed alongside Hugh Masakela, Ronald White, Tony Allen and many other great musicians in shows around the world. He originated the art of fusing African rhythms with American soul or pop music in the 1960s. OJ is a star that knows how to blow the horns in his music, yet he does not 'blow his own trumpet' as an accomplished musician. Recently, he released 52 of his old songs. In this interview, OJ speaks on the influence of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in his career; Jimi Solanke, how he helped Fela Anikulapo at the formative stage of his group, Koola Lobitos, among others. Excerpts:
How did you come into music?
I started from school when I was in the elementary school. I was born in Ikole-Ekiti and I attended St. Peter's Anglican School there. That was when I was very young. I left the school because my father died when I was about entering secondary school. From Ikole - Ekiti, I moved to Ibadan in 1957. My father was a trader while my mother was a cloth weaver. She used to weave aso oke. Also, she used to sing in those days and I took singing from her. She had a group of women they called Egbe awon obinrin (Women's Group) and they used to sing together. When she wove those native materials at night, she used to sing and I would sit beside her, beat my drums and sing along.
Before that, I had always known that God gave me musical talent. In school, I also tried to develop it and brush up the talent. As I said earlier, I moved to Ibadan after my father's death. In Ibadan, I went to different Clubs to play with different groups. That was in 1957. In 1958, I was lucky to have been around during the time of Chief Obafemi Awolowo's Premiership in Western Region. He, however, didn't have the opportunity to put music in school though he had the Free Education Programme in Western Region. His party was called Action Group (AG) with the symbol of the palm tree. So, he decided to put something together with his party and they bought musical instruments to set up about 30 different bands. They used the Action Group headquarters at Oke-Ado, across the Odeon Cinema.
I know the place!
Yes. They used the place and Awolowo did not care about your place of origin. He brought all of us together there. They gave us the opportunity to use the place. That was where I played with different musicians in the region.
One day, one of the leaders who used to teach us how to play instruments got a contract to play at a function in Ondo. The hotel where we played was called Modupe Hotel. We went with him. I was playing the drums when we got to Ondo.
However, I was learning how to play the saxophone in Awolowo's musical camp. I continued practicing and was able to continue with the saxophone. From Ondo, we went to Akure and we played at Flamingo Hotel. I later came back to Ibadan because our leader left. It was there that I was able to join Eddie Okonta's Band. He used to play at Paradise Club at Kingsway Area in Ibadan. I played there in 1958, 1959 and I later went to play at Right Time Hotel in Ijebu-Ode. I was one of the band members who recorded the hit song; Mori sisi kan ni sa, Sisi dara tegan ko o. Aso alaso lolo yawo, Sis dara, tete malo, Sinati re poju, Oro re sun mi.
I remember that song in those days
After that, there was a day I.K. Dairo came to play in Ijebu-Ode. He saw me and told me, 'Aburo mi, wale o!' (My young brother, please come home!) He told me someone just gave him instruments for a dance band. Then I went to Ilesha with him. I began to lead I.K Dairo's Dance Band. You know I.K. Dairo had a juju band, Blue Spot Band, which he led. Mine was I.K. Dairo's Dance Band. I came to Ibadan and played the Afro highlife because when I played the people called it Afro. It was different from the highlife played by others. Jimi Solanke was my first vocalist. There was also Isiaka Adio and Eddie Fayehun from Akure. The band was in Ilesa for a while before I moved to Ibadan. That was in 1960, and 1961. In 1962, I decided to play at a club called Independence Hotel at Oke Bola. My band then was called Orlando Julius and his Modern Ace Band because in 1959 and 1960, I was thinking of how to modernise highlife music into Afro because if you listened to my highlife music then, it was not like Roy Chicago or Rex Lawson. I sang the songs: Mapa mi, Fimi mi sile; Aiye le and Jagua Nana. There was also Ma Fagba se yeye nitori ati sun e, Bomode ba mowo we oni lati bagba je, Awati mowo we, Asi ma bagba je, among others.
In 1964, Fela Ransome-Kuti (later Anikulapo - Kuti) used to come to my club. He was at Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) in Lagos then. He went to many clubs then but he used to come to my club in Ibadan every Friday. He came on my stage one day and I liked the way he played the trumpet; you know; he knew how to do that when he was in London where he studied music. He used to listen to my music. He was about to start his Koola Lobitos group then. Four members of my band were released to help him to start his band.
In Ibadan, I was so lucky because when Chief Awolowo brought Western Nigeria Television/Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service (WNTV/WNBS), I had a contract to play for four quarters on a variety show from 6pm - 7 pm every Saturday. I went to Lagos and got another contract to do the Bar Beach Show for another four months.
With Art Alade?
Yes with Art Alade. I was able to release so many songs then - Afro highlife. This week 52 out of those old songs will be released.
Congratulations on the release of these oldies. But can you give us an insight into what led to the composition and release of the songs: Jaguar Nana and Mapami Baby Mapami, Toba dosan mo fe je chicken, to ba se tan o mofe je eja dindin, diedie ni owo ntan lo, mapa mi baby ma pami? (Don't kill me/ baby don't kill me with your appetite/ in the afternoon/ you demand to eat chicken/ by evening time you ask for fried fish/ But slowly/ the money is going sown the drains).
You know in those days, it was good to sing songs that taught morals, and words of advice. Its not that I had a problem with a woman. No, there was no problem. In those days, when you read something that happened you will later put it into a song just as: Ma fagba se yeye nitori ati sun e. or my other songs, Ti e ba nsoro erora foye so/ eni ba dele ijo wa awowo yanu/ eni to ba moyi ere/ a yin Orlando. Egbeje ni irawo/ okan soso mi osupa etc. or Iwo ololufe ma ko mi/ ti nba se e o/ Olomi pemi so fun mi (You sweet heart, do not divorce me, if I offered you, my sweat heart, please call me and tell me).
I wrote the song Topless for ladies in Lagos. Then, ladies wore dresses that exposed their chests, so, I wrote; Asoti kobo ige ti won npe mi Topless/ Asa kan wo Eko/ Bi sisi duro wari/ Toba bere wan tunri / Topless koma da lati wojade (The dress that does not cover the chest that they call Topless/ A vogue has entered Lagos when ladies stand or kneel down/ you will notice it/ but Topless is not fit to be worn outside the home.)
I also sang E se rere (Be good to others). I used the same sound track for the movie of Eku Ida by Tunji Bamisigbin. I did a soundtrack for Tunde Kelani's Saworo ide. I have done a couple of sound tracks.
You have lived in the United States, in Ghana and now, you're in Osogbo, what motivated these movements?
The first movement was to the United States of America and I spent 25 years there I studied filmmaking recording there. I studied music production so that I will be able to help our people here. When I came back, we were at Adebola Street, Surulere. I brought a lot of expensive equipment for our studio here, unfortunately we were not able to record much because of the erratic power supply. Because of the poor power supply, some of our equipment were damaged. I needed to record some of my songs and that of my wife. So, we moved to Ghana during PANAFEST in 2003. At that time, Ghana was celebrating its four years of uninterrupted power supply. But we were able to go there and carry out the recordings. That was where I was able to record my album; Longevity and Reclamation. "Longevity being a long time that I have been in the music business and Reclamation being reclaiming some of the songs that I have done for other people and they ripped me off. The recording labels at that put my records on singles and EPS (Extended Plays) before coming out with albums. I thank God that today, my records are selling in Europe and America and that where I have been able to get royalties. Now, we have decided to release that 52 classics, which shows the complication of the history of my music career including when I met James Brown and how we featured together and other people I worked with - Lamont Dozier on that song that won the award; Kawa Oma Ranti, Ranti Ile O, Isedale Baba Awa (Let us remember Home/ The Roots of our ancestors/ You remember, Going back to my Roots?
Yes I remember. And you are now back to your roots?
Where are you originally from?
I am originally from Ilesa; Ijebu - Ilesa from Ijebu-Ilesa is just about five miles. We are all Ijesas it used to be in Oyo State, but its now in Osun State.
Are you related to one Dr. Ekemode because I know your full name are; Orlando Julius Ekemode?
Yes. The Ekemode in Ife?
He is my brother. He is my brother from the same father. It was thought in those days that if I used Ekemode in my name, I would sound like Apala or Sakara band. Julius is my baptismal name. So, Orlando was borrowed from the late Orlando Martins, you know the late Pa Orlando Martins?
In 1958 and 1959, when Chief Awolowo brought the first television African to Ibadan; the late Pa Orlando Martins, who had acted in films with people such as Bob Hope, the late Ronald Reagan, former US President and many other European actors was brought home then to perform at WNTV. He loved my music. Anytime I played at Oke-Bola, Pa Orlando Martins used to come to the club to listen to my music. That was how I got close to him and I told him I wanted to borrow his name and use it. That was how I bore Orlando Julius even before Orlando Owoh.
You actually reigned around the time James Brown reigned in America. I was in the Primary School and J.B released; Say it loud; am black and proud. What's your reaction?
One of my songs that he used was Ijo soul. I sang Atun gbe ijo tutun de/ ore bole jo/ sama ma mi o/ ijo ti ya (We have come with a new dance step/ My friend if you cannot dance just shake your body/ lets dance). Then, I blew the trumpet - pan pan pan rah! Ore mu iyawo e kalojo (My friend take your wife and lets dance - pan pan pan rah!). So, when James Brown came here and I gave him my record, he returned to America and came out with the popular, I feel good - with the trumpet sound param ran ran rah!
So, he took that from you?
Yes. I got that from the music of Sam and Dave but the one I sang, Ore mu iyawo eka lo jo para para para rah, he got that from me.
The way you get your inspiration and what comes out of your trumpet seems divine what do you think?
Yes it is.
How do you feel back home now?
I feel good, I feel great but the things that you get now are different from our time when we played highlife and Afro beat.
If you look at what is happening in the Nigerian music scene, are musicians well remunerated?
You see we are not being well paid. The hip-hop thing probably you will know more about it, but I don't. It is a problem that should be dealt with by government. And the corporate people too. For example, I was in America for 25 years I played in all the theatres for many years that I found it difficult to think of going to play in Europe. Musical festivals hold in America all the time. So, musicians should be working all the time
How did you meet your wife?
I met her through her godfather - Ambrose Campbell, you remember him?
Yes I remember him....
He sang; Ohun toba dara ko ra fomo re, Omo laso aiye omo laso omo laso aiye, omo laso. He also sang: eniri nkan he, to fe ku pelu e o. Owo eni to ti sonu nko? And that song he did for Chief Awolowo when Awo brought him here to sing during independence; Irohin rere, to de fun gbogbowa Awa omo Nigeria Agbomi Nira . Awolowo Ose, Bami Awolowo, Awolowo, Oluwa ake e Botiseke awoomo Nigeria irorun rere to de fun gbogbo wa Awa Omo Africa Agba omimira.
Did you say your wife is Campbell's daughter?
No. My wife was born in Chicago. She is Afro-American. I met her with Campbell who introduced her to me. He was her godfather.
How did she get to know Campbell?
Ambrose knew a lot of people in America. And he was very popular and luckily my wife met him and he became her godfather.
Apr 19, 2010
Afropop Worldwide's Adam Wasserman caught up with Lágbájá from Nigeria after his show at BB King Blues Club and Grill in New York City, August 2001.
Tell us about the mask.
I chose to use the mask as a symbol that represents the facelessness, the voicelessness the seemingly lack of identity of the common man. And I thought since I felt they were faceless the best thing to communicate that would be to use a mask. I wanted a name that would communicate the same message. The Yoruba word Lágbájá means nobody in particular, and depending on the context of its use, it could mean anybody, somebody.
Tell us a bit about your story; were you raised in a musical family?
I basically grew up listening to music, going to festivals of traditional Yoruba music. As I grew in my consciousness, I started to understand that music is not a thing you see in isolation. The most important thing is your understanding of people and life itself. But the music itself has been in me through the years, listening to big ensembles of drummers, performing at festivals. That is the core of the whole thing.
How did you get your start professionally?
I just put the band together and we started rehearsing, performing, and we went to the studio and started recording.
What about the story-telling element of your songs? Is that central?
That is something that was there from the very beginning. That's something that the whole concept was all about. You hear about our socio-political situation, what we go through as a society or as a people. There is not so much space for love songs because you are dealing with everyday issues, stories about our situation.
Out of all the problems facing society today, do you feel that it is your duty as a musician to bring these issues to the forefront?
That is what Lágbájá is all about. Not only just talk about sometimes solutions, that is just my point of view, but let my point of view be known. Because your voice is heard you are probably able to influence other people that are listening to you.
What do you see as one of the biggest problems facing any society today? More specifically your society.
On my new album called WebeforeMe, we have been moving away from the traditional institutions that put community at the front of society and grew up knowing that you were part of a bigger community and that you were supposed to contribute to its growth. But over time, especially when we started having dictatorships and corruption started to grow, individuals in power started looting the treasury and corruption became a very big thing, and then everything turned into a very selfish individualistic thing. Far from what things used to be. I believe that album says that we should go back to the way that things used to be, where I was my brother's keeper and we were all part of a society, and we placed the interests of the group above the individual personal interests.
So it's a call for humility for us?
Not just humility, but to recognize yourself as part of a bigger whole, and not only to do what will benefit you. It's the same story here as we hear as they talk about all aspects of life. Environmental problems: you destroy the trees, you need them for things today, but then years in the future you talk about the ozone layer being depleted. You create new projects for the future. It's a simple problem where we consume what we need today and not think of a bigger global picture. You can see the same picture from ethnic nationalism. When you see ethnic groups fighting each other, groups that have lived together for many years now killing, maiming and looting, you are not thinking about we.
What is the legacy of afrobeat in Nigeria?
Afrobeat is a big legacy because Fela contributed a lot to our understanding and having a global view of our position as an African. That was a big influence of everyone of my generation. People perform that style of music. That and other styles of music like highlife exist side by side. But many of them have borrowed one way or the other from Fela's afrobeat.
If you could tell me where your music comes from, do you see it as an amalgam of all of these things?
I have so many influences, but the major one is traditional Yoruba drum rhythms. That's why most of the band is made up of drums. That is the core of my music.
What inspired you to write the song, Simple Yes or No?
Usually I don't even know because its not like I sit down and start writing. The song just comes according to the particular situation. It was inspired by the politicians because they never give you a straight answer. But then I expanded it to apply to everyone, because no one ever gives a straight answer to anything.
On the album the song "Vernacular," we hear you having a conversation with Fela, how did that come about?
Through the use of technology, I strung parts of his voice, sentences, phrases, syllables together, to make the message that I wanted to communicate.
What makes you decide what language you want to sing in for a certain song?
Its how the song comes, it just flows from one language to the other without a straight demarcation. If it comes in Pidgin, I sing in Pidgin, if it comes in Yoruba I sing in Yoruba, if it comes in English, I sing in English.
What of note is happening in the Nigerian music scene today?
There are lots of great musicians. There is fuji, which is really very big. There are lots of them playing that style. Fuji is probably even the most popular music of the Yoruba right now. It is a very dynamic music scene back home.
What are some of the reactions that you are getting from people that maybe have never even been exposed to your music?
Most of the time I just see them get excited, move their bodies. Most of the gigs on this tour were festivals, and from the very first note to the end were just dance.
Is there a certain presence, or deity or feeling that you would like to evoke when you use Yoruba drums?
I approach it from the point of view of how I am musically motivated. It is a very rich source of heavy rhythms. It was Yoruba rhythms that gave rise to the music of Fela and afrobeat. Fela is a Yoruba man, Yoruba gave rise to King Sunny Adé...the same Yoruba music gave rise to fuji. It is a source of rhythms. It is a rich cultural base that has been taken in different directions to form different styles by different musicians. All the styles have come from the same direction of Yoruba drums. I don't try and evoke one particular style or groove, those grooves just come from traditional Yoruba grooves. That is how I have been influenced by the Yoruba culture itself.
What is your opinion of the status of where popular American music is where they find themselves having roots in the Yoruba tradition?
I have a very personal opinion. As far as I am concerned, those styles of music are basically African in influence and can be traced back to the history of slavery. So a music like reggae performed by Jamaicans, there is a lot of African influence in there. In Afro-Cuban music, calypso, you see the same thing, that the music was developed by Africans. The same thing is true of rhythm and blues, soul, jazz, hip-hop, rap. The main difference there is that they are using instruments that were developed from the west to perform. But the music still has a lot of the attitude that is totally African. The history of groove itself, the history of funk, comes from African drums playing together. It has come from ancestors that have come 400 years ago from Africa. Now the music has grown from other influences from the environment that is this environment here in America. Music is dynamic and it can't just stand still forever. So there was interaction between new music. But the basic spirit of the groove was still there. All of African-American music is full of heavy rhythms. The drums play a less significant role in European music than what came from Africa.
Do you think that these (New World) types of music that are amalgams are still recognizable to Africans as having been influenced by indigenous African music?
It has grown beyond the influence and new forms have developed. Back home I asked myself, why does nobody know Bruce Springsteen, and why doesn't anybody know Guns N Roses? But all African-American music becomes big back home, in the days of James Brown and soul it was big, and the same for jazz and funk. Today the same thing is true; the smallest rap artist is big back home in Africa. Nobody plays rock, or country; it just doesn't court our radio. I think that it has to do with feeling it, it just has to do with the rhythm and the beats that they hear. I think that it is a natural thing that people listen to that music and communicate with it, without really thinking about what the source or history of it is. So I concluded that you cannot recognize the influence of Africa on those rhythms, but the history of it can be traced back to the African influences.
What about the future?
I think the more that the western world is exposed to African music, the more likely they are to appreciate that there is a mighty world of rhythms that have found their way into contemporary arts. People will create new directions, and people will be inspired in different directions. That is only possible when there is exposure to all those rhythms and all those grooves. I think what we are doing is one way of exposing that, and then using what we have learnt from the sophisticated Western harmonies and melodies. I think eventually it will reach more people, and it will be taken in all different directions. There is no harmony structure that is more sophisticated than traditional jazz.
Do you eventually see African music being able to appeal to everyone?
It is tough to say that. I have visions of seeing that happen, but it is a tough task. It is more a matter of economics and marketing than arts. Everybody wants something new. But I think when the exposure is possible; I think it will be easier to be universal. I want to be at the forefront of this happening by just doing what I do. I want to be a step and a means, and then I want people to take it from wherever we are so that it can grow.
Alma Afrobeat Ensemble provides a jazzy and energetic hip-hop inflected version of Afrobeat music, a polyrhythmic blend of funk and protest, dance and social commentary. The Alma Afrobeat Ensemble started in New Orleans then moved toChampaign-Urbana, Illinois, and later transeferred to Chicago. The band began as a celebration of the music of Fela Kuti, encompassing world class musicians from the music school at UIUC. Due to the success, band leader Aaron Feder started composing tunes and brought the band to the next level. The band quickly became a favorite around central Illinois, playing frequent gigs at the Cowboy Monkey, often times with lines around the corner. The band received major radioplay from WEFT radio in Champaign, in addition to in studio recordings and interviews. Gigs at the JayTV/Jam Productions owned Canopy Club followed, highlighted by an Afrobeat celebration with Chicago Afrobeat Project. Shortly afterwards the band played the Summer Camp festival in Chillicothe, IL, and continued playing gigs in Chicago, including the Kinetic Playground and regular appearances at Morseland. In August 2006, Aaron Feder moved to Barcelona to study with John Kwame Adzraku, a Ghanaian high-life/afrobeat musician who has spent time at the Shrine in Nigeria, and even shared the stage with Fela Kuti on multiple occasions. Upon Aaron’s move, the band has settled into a schedule of shows twice a year, summer and winter, in Chicago and Champaign-Urbana. Since Aaron’s move, highlights include playing Millennium Park as part of the 2007 Illinois Great Performers’ Festival, as well as the Chicago Cultural Center in 2008.
AAbE fully recognizes and accepts the social role that Afrobeat and World music entail, and have played multiple benefit shows, including Shelter From the Storm benefit to ReNew Orleans, the band Goat-a-Palooza, benefit to help rural African families, as well as the Zimbabwe Rural School Fund, and shows supporting the Independent Media Center in Urbana, and the Leftist Lounge in Chicago.
Aaron Feder- “Tenor” guitar/band leader/composer. A lifelong musician, Aaron began serious study with Don Tisch, M.A. and protégé of the legendary Fareed Haque, and is band leader for the Kwame Afrovibes in Barcelona, where he studies with John Kwame Adzraku from Ghana, and Joseph Fermin from Ecuatorial Guinea.
Source @ myspace.com
01. Live Na Yeye
04. Nu School
05. Own World
06. South Africa
The disc can be downloaded for free at their homepage!!!
Labels: Alma Afrobeat Ensemble
Apr 17, 2010
“Pax” Nicholas Addo-Nettey’s early life was spent on Fela Kuti’s Kalakuta Republic. He would eventually appear on all of Fela’s records between 1971-78, singing and playing congas like he had been since age 6. Eventually, a teenaged Nicholas even recorded solo projects on the side (much to Fela’s chagrin). In 1978 while at the Berlin Jazz Festival, Nicholas (along with Tony Allen and other members of Africa 70) decided to stay and avoid returning to Nigeria. To this day, Nicholas, now in his mid-50s, resides in Berlin with his two sons.
Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef, one of those solo projects Nicholas made in the ’70s, was reissued by Daptone and is out now. It was discovered by Frank Gossner, a collector and DJ who—for 3 years—scoured West Africa for records. Strangely enough, he found Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef in Philadelphia before leaving on his trip. But the record “remained somehow special” to Frank, even among the thousands of records he’d eventually find. He took it to friends at Daptone and, fortunately, here we are talking about it now.
Fela flouted convention, so it’s interesting to hear the product of someone who came from that environment. Imagine growing up in Kalakuta and Fela Kuti and Tony Allen are your bandmates? As expected, Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef is strong afrobeat with long songs that are swift and exuberant. It’s a lovely record from a young Pax Nicholas who was even lovelier when we recently spoke. Nicholas still gigs, still records with his current band, Ridimtaksi. Here are some of his stories.
How old were you when you started playing music?
I have always had an interest in music from the age of six. But the decision to go into music came to me at the age of 15 years.
Did you feel it was your life’s calling? Or were you just raised into it?
I would say, I was raised into it. When I was growing up there was a lot of music around me. In the church with gospel music, and in the community where people met from time to time to play traditional music with drumming and dancing.
How did you end up in Kalakuta?
In 1971, I travelled to Nigeria on the invitation of Joe King Kologbo and his family. While in Nigeria, he introduced me to his brother the late Igo Chico who was the main tenor saxophonist with Fela’s band- Africa 70. He then introduced me to Fela as a singer and percussionist from Ghana. Later I was asked by Fela to visit his shrine at the Surelere night club. The rest is history.
Were there a lot of other children there?
Yes there were other children.
What comes to you now when you think of your time at Kalakuta?
I enjoyed my time there. Thinking back, I miss the brotherhood, friendship and the daily involvement in music. My times at the republic will not be forgotten
What was everyday life like? How was Fela as a person?
Apart from all the good times that we had at the shrine, everyday life could be a bit complicated. This was due to Fela’s ongoing clashes with the government of Nigeria at the time. The Police sometimes came in unexpectedly with attacks and the like. Having said that there was also a lot of fun. Partying, playing music and enjoying the company of each other was the order of the day. It was a whole community in itself.
As a person, Fela was very kind and generous. He in turn demanded a lot of respect and accolades from the musicians and people around him. He was a disciplinarian who acted immediately to correct anyone who did not follow the laid down principles and rules that guided the band and those living in the ‘republic’.
Do you remember any lighter moments involving Fela?
Oh yeah, there were quite a number of funny stories, but one that I have not forgotten is this day at a Kalakuta show when the police invaded the republic and there I saw all of Fela’s lawyers, including himself, running for their lives. Now one would think that the lawyers were to defend him and yet they were running. One other funny thing was the way the police came. They came with cutlasses and axes and different kinds of primitive weapons and that was really funny. We had to talk and joke about that incident for many days.
How was he as an artist and musician?
As an artist and musician, I think Fela is a legend. He was a great man with ideas and dreams. He was a godfather of African music. His style, his message and his performance was unique. I learnt a lot from my close working with him.
How old were you when you joined Africa 70? How was playing with such a great band? Did they make you a better musician or did you make them better musicians?
I was 17 years old when I joined Africa 70. Playing with the band was a dream come true. It felt very good and especially at that age. It was a well-disciplined, tight and well-coordinated orchestra. Maybe the best on the continent of Africa at the time. Certainly they made me a better musician.
Did you meet any of the famous musicians ( i.e. James Brown, BB King, Stevie Wonder, etc.) when they came to Fela’s club?
Yes, I even played side attraction with B.B King and the band at Tafawa Balewa square in Nigeria Lagos.
What was the club like? Describe how you remember it.
The club was established mainly for Fela to play his music, for worship in African traditional religion and to promote and propagate his political convictions. The club was huge and well decorated with pictures of the late Dr. Kwame Nkrimah of Ghana and other African liberational leaders. He also had a picture of his mother and other items that he used during worship.
Talk about the first record you recorded—how old were you then? What was your mind like while making it? What do you think of it now?
I was 19 years old when I recorded my first album. I wanted to portray some social realities at the time. I realized that the society was segregated into people of the same kind moving together and doing things together. They understood each other better than those who were not in their circle of engagement.
It was like this: I was playing and touring with Africa 70 band a lot. When we came back from touring we always had some free time.
This time I would use to play gigs and record with the Martin Brothers. In 1971/72, we already recorded the highlife album “Mind your business” for which I composed the titles and sang without asking anything from them. That´s why they wanted to help me with my own album later. They introduced me to Tabansi, the boss of the famous Nigerian contractor and label Tabansi Agencies. Tabansi and the Martin Brothers are from the Ibo tribe and they knew each other very well. Jacob Martin, my best friend, was able to convince him to sponsor my record so that we could get it started. Now we needed a studio and the best place to record in Nigeria was Arc, the one that had been opened by Ginger Baker some years before. By that time Ginger Baker had already left, but the studio had been bought by a Nigerian and was still working. At this studio I made my first album.
Is it true Fela was so competetive that he didn’t like you recording your own music in the same studio he used? What was your reaction?
Yes. Well I felt disappointed and sad. But you know Fela was the boss and I could not do anything about it. Fela was unchallengable.
Talk about the making of the “Na Teef…” album. How old were you then? What do you think of it now?
I was 19 years when I made the album. I think it is still a great album and many should be given the opportunity to listen to it.
What is your memory of the first attack by Nigerian officials on the compound?
My memory on the attack is the brutality of the Nigerian police and soldiers at the time on innocent civilians. It was an ugly episode in the history of Nigeria politics.
Were you there when Fela’s mother was killed?
I remember faintly the day she was killed. It was a sad day for all of us.
How was your relationship with Tony Allen? How did his drumming strike you?
We have a good relationship still but we don’t play music together because of distance. He lives in Paris. He was in Berlin sometime back and we played together at concert. As a drummer I think he is one of the best Afro-beat drummers I have known.
Why did you decide to stay in Berlin?
I didn’t want to return to all the political witch hunting and police brutalities meted out to Fela and those associated with him.
How was life in Berlin immediately different than Nigeria?
Well, life was peaceful, more structured and obviously much better than in Nigeria.
Talk about your current music, Ridimtaksi—how often do you play?
It is a band made up of African and European musicians. The idea is to bring about a new Afro-beat style of music. We play on special occasions and musical events. We also have tours from time to time.
What do you think Fela Kuti’s legacy is to the world?
His Afro-beat style of music. He brought an awareness of the fusion of Jazz, funk, pop and African traditional music and thereby promoted African music to the rest of the world.
How do you remember him?
As a friend and musician, Fela left with the legacy of hard work, discipline, keeping a dream alive and obviously to keep promoting Afro-beat music. My experience working with Fela is what keeps me researching and bringing new ideas to create a modern style of African music fused with other forms of music.
Talk about the music of West Africa in general. What makes the music special to you?
What makes afrobeat special is the bringing together of different forms of music (soul, pop, jazz and classical) to make rhythm. Afro-beat is narrative and happy music with strong rhythms. That’s why it’s lasted.
Published concurrently on Soul Culture, October 22, 2009 by David Ma
Apr 16, 2010
Inspired by the infectious afro-beat music of Nigeria and its neighbours, The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra delivers contemporary African funk to Australian dancefloors. This mammoth ensemble comprises up to twenty musicians hand-picked from Melbourne’s African, jazz & hip-hop scenes. The experience and creativity of these established musicians energises the group’s original compositions and the sound of the entire band is a force to be reckoned with.
The afro-beat movement of the 60’s and 70’s is making a resurgence worldwide in live venues and clubs alike. The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra combines these North African rhythms with hip-hop which has recently become a major force in Australian music and culture. The group is the brainchild of Zvi Belling, Ethan Hill (DJ Manchild) and Tristan Ludowyk who are long time friends and musical collaborators, each with vast and diverse musical backgrounds to draw upon.
The band directors recently travelled to Africa to promote the new single and recorded with African hip hop stars Tumi (South Africa) and Modenine (Nigeria). These artists will feature on the band's upcoming debut album, which will be accompanied by a 12” vinyl release. The band’s current single is “Future Africa” features N’fa and 1/6th and was recorded and mixed by Andy Baldwin in New York.
Public Opinion Afro Orchestra - Do Anything Go Everywhere
The power of Afrobeat, sizzling funk, righteous hip hop, rootsy grooves and 20 of the hottest musicians from Melbourne's booming music scene, all come together on the sublime debut by The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra.
Hot on the heels of their impeccable vinyl-only release Two Sides of the Truth/Do Anything Go Anywhere, The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra have made an album to command the attention of world music fans, hip hop aficionados, jazz cats, funk and soul freaks and indie hipsters alike.
There are strong echoes of the Afrobeat movement from the 1960s-70s, as well as the influences of the African diaspora in Australia over the past decade, yet this is boundary free, totally modern music that sounds as fresh in the clubs as on the streets of Melbourne where it was born.
Do Anything Go Anywhere delivers seven irresistibly loose-limbed, exotic jams which resonate with ferocious grooves, positive messages, conscious hip hop and gutsy soul. Lyrical odes to the power of resistance and the spirit of the African and Australian people hit home with smoking hot sing song vocals, heavy duty horns, gritty guitar grooves, jazzy solos, all snaking out on top of the infectious polyrhythms of the percussion section.
In 2009, the core members of The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra travelled to Africa to immerse themselves in the roots of Afrobeat and record the basis of Do Anything Go Anywhere. They jammed with family members of Fela Kuti at Lagos, Nigeria's Afrika Shrine nightclub (the home of Fela Kuti's Afrobeat revolution in the 1970s), collaborated with local Nigerian hip hop stars Modenine and Terry Tha Rapman, and journeyed to South Africa to record with rising hip hop star Tumi.
Back in Australia, the ever-rotating roster of the Orchestra poured into the studio to lay down the grooves and unique voices of Do Anything Go Anywhere.The Orchestra lineup includes African expats, local hip hop and funk merchants and the cream of the Melbourne jazz scene. The explosive result is Do Anything Go Anywhere, one of the most electrifying, inspiring and unique records you'll hear all year.
Afrobeat has experienced a rebirth of late with Seun Kuti reinvigorating his father's sound and new acts like Antibalas, the Budos Band and Nomo giving renewed life to the sound. Now we have the debut from a band that is based locally, but has players from across the globe. These players play many other styles of music in other bands, and bring elements of those styles to The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra. You can hear 60s to 70s Afrobeat, jazz, hip hop and funk brought together by this 20-strong group. They are already a super-group and this is their first album! You'll be exposed to heavy duty horns, gritty guitar grooves and great songs...not to mention the incredibly infectious beats!
1. How Long It Go Take 9:37
2. Future Africa 9:21
3. Two Sides Of The Truth 8:17
4. Mumbo Jumbo 11:58
5. Do Anything Go Anywhere 9:38
6. Let Them Know 8:08
7. Boom Boom 5:19
Labels: Public Opinion Afro Orchestra
Source: Ntama Journal of African Music and Popular Culture
© Eppi Fanio, Wednesday, 12 August 1998 14:03
Musician and former vice-president of the Music Foundation Archives, Lagos
In life, and in death, he is relevant. When the poor passes on, it is in the tranquillity that such a passage desires but when Fela died, the crowd that he pulled when laid in state testified that the heavens themselves blazed forth his death, like that of a prince. Fela was not a prince. He was a king in his own right, the king of Afrobeat and the absolute ruler of "Kalakuta Republic", his own commune.
Many, his foes and his admirers alike, only thought of his past, his innovation of a genre of popular African music, his escapades, his brushes with the law, his anti-establishment stance and bohemian life style. They thought of the Fela they knew in the flesh. Few thought and still think of Fela as he is now. Where would he be by now in the beyond, because Fela as a conscious human spirit is still existing in another realm. All religions of the world teaches this. Documentary evidences of life-after death have corroborated that truth. So when the news of his death was still as hot as freshly fried "akara" (bean cake) balls, one of my daughters asked; "Daddy, where would Fela be by now, in heaven or in hell?" I was hit to attention. The question struck me as very significant because only very few people, perhaps, think beyond the contribution of Fela to music and his visible style of living.
Since it is better to satisfy the queries of tender minds instead of sweeping them under the carpet, I had to give a reply in the knowledge of the truth which has now been permitted to be revealed to mankind;"!t is not for man to judge where Fela would be. Wherever he may be, would be in accordance to the way he lived his Life while on earth, the purity of his thoughts and actions to enable his environment, his body, and all that he came into contact with in his day to day activities.
"This, in obedience to the Laws of the Almighty in creation, would propel him to spiritual community of similar propensities in accordance with the Law of Homogenous Species. It is a community where consciousness exists, but the environment is different to that of our material world". That was my answer to the question.
Fela's transition was shocking, but it was the newspapers' delight. Screaming headlines and articulate features graced the pages of the Nigerian tabloids. The electronics media, radio and television were not out done. It had been all praises, eulogies and analyses of his music with its caustic or lewd lyrics. That is the usual when a great man dies. Fela was born great and he achieved more greatness by virtue of hard work and his intelligence, hence he strode like a colossus. But great men do not incarnate by accident. They are meant to be beacons to Iesser beings. They are supposed to be role models, powerful opinion leaders with the responsibility to change the earth and make it a better place.
If people like that die, should people be made to look at only one side of theirexistence through this earth life?
It is in this light that an alternative focus is being projected on Fela, the music legend of our time. Such an expose perhaps could serve as a lesson to other mortals, great or ordinary whose spirits are still encapsulated in the gross material earthly cloak.
Fela's first constituency outside his immediate family could be taken as the music community. Before "Jeun Kooku", he was a Super-Star, a star to other stars, when he came back home from England in 1963 he was easily noticed. He would storm the Various music shows organised by the youths of the time in his shirt, front but tons opened halfway down, its collar turned upwards and a trumpet in his hand. Fela would perform if it was necessary with the youths and criticised the performances of the unabashed imitators of Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Cliff Richards et al. At "Kakadu" Night Club in Yaba, Lagos, he gravitated the youths like an exposed lump of sugar attracts a column of ants, to his one chilling Sunday afternoon shows. To some of us who were aspiring musicians, our saviour had arrived. We just loved him.
We followed his progress. We bought his records, right from when it was on Phillips to RK and until later times the EMI labels. We patronised his shows all over Lagos and Ibadan, especially if he was billed for the Havana Night, an annual youth Mecca organised by the Sigma Club of the University of Ibadan.
After his American odyssey, resulting in the impact of American black consciousness movements on his psyche, Fela became a new being. Apparently, his ego got the better part of him.
In music it was Fela and nobody else. He was instrumental to the organisation of music competition between himself and Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson who was then the king of hi-life music. His mother Funmilayo Ransome Kuti was one of the judges, if not the principal judge. Fela "won" and was proclaimed the greater of the two. He would discourage any of his band boys who furayed into any musical adventure. If any of them improvised on the musical riffs he had' instructed them to play, wahala had descended on that one.
He would compete with his acolytes. Some saw that as the spirit of competition but others saw it as ego-tripping per excellence. Young musicians learning the ropes of the trade looked up to Fela to lead them to organise a union' of musicians, to encourage and educate them. They were disappointed.
Fela was for himself and all those aspiring musicians were left to themselves, to the vicissitudes of the uncertainty of the emerging music industry. It is a fact that Fela's ego tripping and grip control of his buys had historical antecedent in the annals of Nigerian popular music. Hi-life band leaders were not known to be lovers of performers'; unionism. Obviously, such movements if they were permitted to exist would have led to the demand for a minimum wage and other conditions of service for the boys.
But with Fela's education and potential as a leader, he was looked upon to bring change to the status quo. He must have known the advantage of the power of collective, bargaining because during, his music tutelage in England, he was a performer and the Great Britain had a strung union of musicians. On hindsight, one may think that his dream of changing the Nigerian political status quo when he became ideological after his American tour might have been easily realised if he started his political movement from the Union.
Saying that Fela was intelligent is an understatement. In one of his shows, he claimed that University Professors were intelligent. He , as a Musician belonged to, the group of the intelligentsia. Whatever that meant, he displayed admirable superlative intelligence in his approach to the marketing of his music. The identification of his target audience, the lyrical contents of his music, the exploration of Nigerian "pidgin" English, young lady chorus line and dancers seductively dressed to appeal to that target market are the hallmarks of ingenious marketing. Mention should also be made of his close as sociation with Rod Publicity for his image building. All the mix qualified Fela as a music marketing guru. The question now is, was he really a freedom fighter for the masses, or did he use his knowledge of mass psychology to satisfy the need of his ego? What practical steps did he take to exemplify his ideological stance? Did he have the intention to truly free the masses that was why he floated Movement of the People - MOP - his unregistered political party? Or was his the case of an incarnated spirit who later on derailed from his mission? The answers are left for historians and other scholars to unravel.
What is common knowledge is that Fela's earthlife started in the proximity of freedom fighters. His father used the platform of education to free the minds of the young. He was the principal of Abeokuta Grammar School and a strict disciplinarian. Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti, his mother made history by mobilising women to fight for their rights. In contemporary Nigeria his older brother Olikoye was first among equals in delivering the people from the pang of diseases, especially little children, his achievement in primary health delivery system is yet to be equalled. Opinion were traded on Fela's girls. The thinking in some circles is that with the amount of money he made at his peak, setting up vocational training for them in the commune would have been an ennobling venture. If he had done that instead of the apparent encouragement of laise-de-faire attitude to life's "enjoyment", society could have been better for it. Most of these girls would have had a productive future to look forward to. Fela's world wide name is unquestionable, when he died the Cable News Net work - CNN, British Broadcasting Corporation BBC, Radio France International and many more international broadcast media paid him glowing tribute. His fame could perhaps have been greeter if he had been positive to some ideas and offers that came his way. POP megastars, Paul Mcartheny of the Beatles, Ginger Baker, the drummer for the super rock trio Cream, among others were his admirers. Some of these stars were attracted to Nigeria because of Afrobeat. Consequently, they visited our shore for inspiration from African music from where Fela also drew his own inspiration.
Ginger Baker packaged an aggregate of Nigerian young musicians. Tunde Kuboye, Joni Haastrup, the Lijadu Sisters with Remi Kabaka to infuse into a new rock band, SALT for a European tour.
These foreign musicians were not given open arms by Fela. Similary, the firms at 'Tamla Motown Records' and tem - CBS-Records which offered international distribution deal, were turned down. He was, however, required to collaborate with American arrangers and producers for the project to be of international appeal. Fela turned all of them down. His reason, we understood, was that he would not want his music to be "adulterated". The thinking was that had Fela accepted those offers, it could have been an opener for internationalising Afrobeat. His successful outing could have opened floodgate for other Afro artistes. His music would have been the most colourful with the contribution from other talents. Consequently, some of his recordings could have burst the charts. By now Afrobeat could have been to Nigeria, what Reggae is to Jamaica our Soca , to Trinidad and Tobago. Afrobeat could have been a foreign exchange earner for Nigeria in international popdom. His refusal was an opportunity lost or at best delayed.
Fela had come and gone. His existence was not for nothing. He had a mission, but did he actually come to recognition of his calling? The answer depends on the perception of whoever is an swering that question.
To know Fela is to love him. His sense of humour and his depth of thought are admirable. Those who know him closely would always be thinking of him. They would miss him. They can, however, have consolation in the truth that he is still living though they cannot see him. The conviction is that the AImighty in His infinite mercy would avail him the opportunity to make straight his path for joyful activities towards the lunged - for heights.
Source: Ntama Journal of African Music and Popular Culture
© Eppi Fanio, Wednesday, 12 August 1998 14:03
Musician and former vice-president of the Music Foundation Archives, Lagos
Apr 15, 2010
Watching a large van of gesticulating American musicians in hot pursuit of Nigerian soldiers is an uncommon site in the city of Lagos. But the members of San Francisco band Aphrodesia had no choice. The band’s new album, Lagos by Bus, (Cyberset Music)—which uses Afrobeat as a backbone but also draws on Afro-Cuban music, Ghanaian Highlife, and jazz—is named after this harrowing experience. Unlike most of the current wave of Afrobeat bands in the U.S., Aphrodesia does not simply pay tribute to Fela Kuti, the father of Afrobeat, but seeks to create original music, with a diverse set of influences. They also have the rare trait of being led by, not one, but two women vocalists, whose hard-hitting songs alternate from chant to melodic song and tantalize the dance floor. And this time they went back to the source. Audiences will have a chance to hear this unique take on Afrobeat as Aphrodesia launches the Lagos by Bus tour, July 20 through August 8 hitting the Northeast, Midwest, Colorado, Idaho, and Oregon.
The trip to Africa gave Aphrodesia new inspiration for their latest album. A series of poetic and humorous hand-painted signs on stores all around Nigeria became the lyrics for “Holy Ghost Invasion,” which practically wrote itself. “Bus Driver” is an anthem to world unity while paying homage to the man who gave them the strength and the ability to get around Africa. Other songs draw on Afro-Cuban and Zimbabwean music, and many of them alternate between firsthand experience and socio-political messages. The album takes listeners for a ride of chance meetings and pan-global inventiveness with both political edge and danceable immediacy.
The American band had always talked of going to the origins of Afrobeat and Highlife together. Thanks to an invitation from Ghanaian band the African ShowBoyz, whom they met and played with at U.S. festivals, Aphrodesia decided it was their big chance to go to the well. By the time of the car chase, they already had a grueling day getting across the border from Benin to Nigeria.
“We had to bribe our way through the self-appointed gatekeepers, who sit there with two big oil drums and a big pole across the road,” explains band co-founder and bassist Ezra Gale. “We would pay and they’d lift the pole and then we’d drive 40 more feet and there’d be another guy.” This went on for most of the day with a lot of waiting in between. When they finally made it across the border, Nigerian soldiers stormed onto the bus demanding passports. “What happened next was like something out of the A-Team, speeding after them on a highway, motioning them to pull over.”
“At one point, they had us lined up outside the bus and we’re thinking, ‘What’s going to happen?!’” says Lara Maykovich, vocalist, songwriter, and the other band co-founder, who had spent two years in Ghana in the late ’90s learning many of the melodies and rhythms the band has built into their repertoire. “We finally got them to pull over and told them we were a band. We got our passports back by trading cassettes for them!” laughs Gale.
They hadn’t planned to press cassettes for the trip until trumpet-player Todd Grady coincidentally sat on the airplane by a Ghanaian businessman who had a cassette-pressing plant. The tapes came in handy on several palm-greasing occasions. The trip was full of chance meetings.
Prior to leaving for Nigeria, the band sat at an Internet café in Accra, Ghana. They still wondered how they could connect with Femi Kuti, the son of Fela, with the hopes of playing at his new music club, The Shrine, named after his father’s legendary club and furnace of Afrobeat. A man sitting next to them struck up a conversation and ended up giving them the number for Femi’s sister Yeni, who runs the club. They called her right away and she said, “Oh yes, I have heard of you guys. Why don’t you come over and play next Saturday.”
“We got there and Femi was just the picture of hospitality,” remembers Gale. “Though we were late because of crazy Lagos traffic, he insisted we sit down for a big chicken dinner and relax. Besides being completely exhausted from the armed soldiers and border stuff, the audience was standing around looking at us with folded arms. Three or four songs into the set, Femi joined us on stage to play, and as soon as he did, that was like the seal of approval we needed and everyone loosened up and had a good time, with Femi going off into the crowd to dance with them.”
While the adventures were thrilling, the trip to Africa is not unexpected for a band whose cofounders have been exploring gritty music from all corners for their entire adult lives. From 1996 to 1997, Lara Maykovich lived in the small Ghanaian fishing village of Kokrobite, where she was taken under the wings of a family of singing sister-wives who had been abandoned by their husband. “The town had no electricity or running water, so every night there would be a circle of candlelit tables where people would sell different things,” recalls Maykovich. “There was this woman with a gorgeous voice who would sing as she fried up and sold omelet sandwiches. I would go every night and it grew into this singing circle with all of her sisters and daughters teaching me to sing in Ga and Hausa.” When Aphrodesia went back to Kokrobite earlier this year, Maykovich found out that one of the granddaughters had been named after her.
Maykovich also traveled to Cuba in 1999 to study Afro-Cuban traditional music, whose influence can be heard on “Agayu,” which praises the spirit of the volcano. “I went to Matanzas, which is the spiritual mecca of Cuba,” Maykovich explains. “A lot of the old traditions came from there. I went every single night for three weeks. Since I already had learned some of the songs before I got there, the ceremony leaders would not let me off the hook. Even if I didn’t know the songs, I had to pretend to know them. I became instantly employed! When I first started singing these songs, particularly the orisha and nature spirits, I felt like I didn’t actually seek it out. They found me in a way. I just felt like it was part of my creative payback. I know this sounds totally wacky, but these nature spirits claimed my voice.”
Around the same time, Maya Dorn, who shares songwriting duties in the band, went to Cuba and the two continued to share their love for Cuban music and dance. “I had already been writing songs and I shied away from the scene at first because how could I write songs in another language?!” remembers Dorn. “I thought, ‘I’m not going to get involved. But the seed had already been planted. And when we all went to Cuba, we were infused with this passionate desire to explore more about Afro-Cuban music.” Dorn’s prior songwriting has brought some structure to the band’s writing, bridging their diverse influences into accessible sounds.
As a music journalist writing for newspapers and magazines, Ezra Gale says “All this Afrobeat and Afropop and traditional African stuff invaded my stereo system and wouldn’t leave.” When Maykovich and Gale met they began arranging music in Gale’s backyard studio “shack.” As their arrangements became more complex, trying to recreate the multiple layers and interlocking guitar parts of the Afrodiasporic sounds they loved, the band went from a foursome to needing a horn section, another guitarist, and then a percussionist. “Before we knew it, we were an 11-piece band,” says Gale.
“A lot of the parts are very simple,” explains Gale. “But the parts together are intricate and hard to play together. When we train a substitute guitar-player, everything will go fine one-on-one, but when we try to put it all together, within the larger context it can be hard to see where things fit in. If you are missing any parts it doesn’t sound the same. The sum is greater than the parts.”
With such a diverse array of influences, Aphrodesia’s sound represents the next generation of the American Afrobeat movement, where respect is paid to various music forms, but with fluid migrations between genres and cultures, all with the intention of making people move: heart, soul, and feet.
There's something tenaciously organic about Aphrodesia's latest sensuously funky slab, Lagos By Bus (Cyberset). Long excellent purveyors of African influenced slinkiness, their sophomore studio album erases any notion of mere homage, to Fela Kuti or otherwise, and delivers a tactile, fully fleshed sound of their own that handily bridges the New World and the Mother Land.
With a title that either intentionally or subconsciously references Bob Marley and the Wailers seminal live album Babylon By Bus, Lagos is at least partially the offspring of Aphrodesia's 2006 tour of Africa. For a largely Caucasian band from San Francisco to perform in front of Africans is a big deal, and the experience clearly put a cool zap on their heads. On Lagos they've arrived at a wholly original territory, sinewy with the flavors of Ghana and Nigeria but also touched by the pan-global Africanism of '70s experimenters like Lonnie Liston Smith, Gary Bartz Ntu Troop and The Daktaris. It's as if visiting Africa awakened in them an awareness of the good things in American soul, jazz and R&B.
Unlike the better known & celebrated Antibalas, who always seem to be trying too hard, this rolls like a healthy, active circulatory system. You see the flush of their skin, feel the splash of their sweat, taste the salt on their harmonizing lips. Call it "Thank You For Talking To Me, America," where the Africa of '70s James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire and more joins their grasp and facility for traditional African music to create an truly international sound, free from the straightjackets of culture, race, nationality, genre, etc.
"Agayu" is a robust, horn-driven Afro-funk of the highest order, a lean beast stalking its prey in the tall, blond grass until bursting into a sophisticated trumpet section that recalls the best early Chicago or Blood, Sweat & Tears. Opener "Virgin of the Sun God" simmers with languid heat until bursting into light. "Ochun Mi" and "Every Day" show modern French/European influences common in African pop. Closer "World Under Fire" is a deliciously slippery roll, the sound the Talking Heads might have arrived at if they'd ever fully given themselves over to their Afro leanings. They rise and punch with extraordinary power on "World," where the band moves as one rippling animal in a fitting conclusion to one of the most exciting cross-continental hybrids to drop in ages.
Throughout the playing is sweetly together but flexible, full of movement and forward thrust but never stiff. Aphrodesia takes you places on Lagos, an album haunted by road signs and spectral figures from a continent most of us will only experience through books, TV and legends. That they've merged those myriad deep currents with the best parts of domestic African flavored music is a testament to their drive to create their own voice in a field where aping giants is the easiest path. By going their own way, doing the introspective work of forging something both personal and far reaching, political and ecstatically emotional, Aphrodesia have created their best work yet.
The influence of Fela Kuti continues to be felt today in the music of Aphrodesia, a large ensemble highlighted by two female vocalists, a jazzy horn section, and some very tight rhythms. For a group of predominantly Caucasian folks from San Francisco, their Afrobeat often possesses such a deep and funky groove that it’s easy to find yourself transported to 1970s Nigeria. Much more recently, Aphrodesia actually made a pilgrimage to that birthplace of their chosen music. The CD’s title, Lagos by Bus, should be taken literally. The mementos from their trip to the Nigerian metropolis of Lagos are scattered all throughout the band’s songs. Most obviously, the reggae-tinged and slow-grooving “Bus Driver” is a tribute to the man who ferried Aphrodesia around during their African odyssey. Most of what rubbed off on the group, though, comes pouring out of their best songs, like the extended and upbeat grooves on “Ochun Mi” and the especially funky “Agayu”. Occasionally, Aphrodesia get just a tad cheesy. Whenever they stray (even briefly) into jam band territory, the illusion of being in Africa is broken. For the better part of Lagos by Bus, however, we are carried along on a sweaty, dusty, steamin’, red-hot ride through the heart and soul of Afrobeat.
The 11 California-based musicians of Aphrodesia are part of a new wave of US-based Afropop bands who don’t simply draw inspiration from recordings but are driven to travel and learn from their sources. The group’s principals are two women with experiences in Ghana and Cuba and familiarity with Shona music from Zimbabwe. Aphrodesia’s new CD commemorates the band’s collective — and intrepid — overland trip from Ghana into Nigeria, where they opened for Femi Kuti at the legendary Lagos nightclub the Shrine, home of Africa’s most widely imitated modern genre. Afrobeat, with its funky grooves, trenchant brass arrangements, and feisty call-and-response vocals, is the glue that binds these nine original tracks. But along the way, we get traditional mbira (hand piano) and guitar-driven boogie from Zimbabwe, an Afro-Cuban homage to the healing saint Babalu-aye, and, on “Everyday,” the two lead women singing in Ghana’s Ga language over a funky brass-and-electric guitar backbeat. The band are tight and fluid, and their command of far-flung languages and musical genres is sure-footed without being reverential.
Without going all Pollyanna/Julie Andrews on you, it truly is a global village we live in. Blues is in Mississippi, Britain, and Mali; bluegrass bands originate in former Soviet republics; and Afrobeat has a prime mover in the Bay Area with Aphrodesia. Afrobeat originated with iconic Nigerian singer/bandleader Fela Kuti, who pioneered the style by combining the horn-laden, churning funk of James Brown with West African sounds. Aphrodesia (more than fifteen musicians and singers listed) aren't dilettantes — they are dedicated, good enough to open for Femi Kuti (a son and musical heir of Fela) on their Nigerian tour (hence the disc's title). The members don't settle for Afrobeat's basics — the chant-like vocals, sparkling guitar riffs, dramatically exultant horns, and insistent funk-flavored rhythms; they up the ante by bringing some personal touches to the table. The pensive, Peter Gunn-goes-to-Africa instrumental "White Elephant" has jazz overtones, especially with Charlie Gurke's sly, bluesy baritone saxophone solo, while "Bus Driver" and "World Under Fire" are subtly supplemented with reggae rhythms. Toward its conclusion, "Agayu" powerfully builds up steam in a manner recalling both electric-era Miles Davis and Fela at their respective bests. The only downside of Lagos is the choral vocals occasionally sound a tad ... anemic. Aside from that, this dandy disc serves as a tidy teaser for the rave-up that Aphrodesia is no doubt capable of live.
1. Virgin of the Sun God (5:03)
2. White Elephant (3:34)
3. Holy Ghost Invasion (1:55)
4. Bus Driver (7:39)
5. Ago Mado (1:33)
6. Ochun Mi (6:26)
7. Every Day (7:08)
8. Agayu (6:21)
9. World Under Fire (7:49)
Apr 14, 2010
Reinventing Afrobeat the Aiyetoro way
I was taken aback when midway into our conversation, Funsho Ogundipe, with a straight face declared that, "Afrobeat is dead!" Surely, I thought Ogundipe, leader of Ayetoro who in the late 90s, released a piano-driven, blues-flavoured Afrobeat hit album with gems like ‘Something Dey' and ‘Tribute to Fela', must be deliberately putting me on. Here was the man many music lovers and critics rightly considered as the new mature voice of post-Fela Afrobeat, literarily biting the finger that musically fed him.
To my relief, Ogundipe then proffered reasons why he felt that Afrobeat was ‘dead.' "How many people are playing Afrobeat?" he asked rhetorically "If Afrobeat, like Jazz, wants to be relevant," he continued "or does not want to become museum music, it has got to incorporate the modern sounds, whether hip hop or fuji. In Jazz there was much more onus on the musicians to play their own beat and then improvise." "We must remember" he recalled, "that Fela brought musicians from various tribal groups; a mixture of African nationalities; Nigerians, Ghanaians, Cameroonians, Beninoise and Congolese, and they all brought the rhythmic impetus of their people to create Afrobeat music."
Time for change
In essence, Ogundipe's concern is the modernisation of Afrobeat and the need to permanently situate the music as a lasting genre on the fast-changing competitive international popular music scene. According to him, Afrobeat has to change! "Early Afrobeat musicians did not want the music to expand in terms of sound and colour," he observed, "to use it for cartoons and romance. It is almost ironical that Afrobeat should only be about open protest. We have to improve on our use of irony, satire, social meaning and have oblique lyrics."
In the light of such views, Ogundipe, predictably, is concerned about the negative mindset that associates Afrobeat with hemp-smoking - an excuse for putting the music down. "Winston Churchill did opium, Obama claimed use of cocaine. It has cost Fela and Afrobeat dearly to be portrayed as a drug-crazed, sex-addicted music; turning it into a monster and depriving the music from the blood that originated it. Afrobeat at its best is African classical music. People should not forget that all the revolutions in music have been rhythmic. Remove the beat from Afrobeat and, it is not there!"
It is obvious that Ogundipe's articulate views on the state of health of Afrobeat and its future survival and sustenance are based on further learning, experimentation and continued experience. He left Lagos and lived in London from 2000 to 2007 and, for the past two years, has spent six months in Accra, Ghana and the other six in London. "I left Nigeria to become a better musician and face more challenges. Nigeria was stifling and I needed to play with better people, see better people play." And with his children now in secondary school in England, he could afford to relocate to Ghana, "because it is close to home and it is frightfully expensive to come home to Nigeria."
Why? "I play the piano for five or six hours everyday. The overheads in Accra in terms of electricity, security, petroleum, make more sense than Lagos."
He -as a major shareholder, and his Ghanaian friends, own a digital production house, Atta Productions, which provides equipment for movie and music producers. What has been his musical direction and development over the last decade?
"I simply took the name Ayetoro with me and started playing with that name. As a keyboard-accentuated Afrobeat musician, I have matured more as an arranger, composer and piano player, and this reflects the way my music is arranged. My models are Thelonius Monk, Duke Ellington, Sun Ra and Miles Davis. I strive for a group sound; using individual sidemen who have their own sound. They contribute through improvisation and they also have to be good ensemble players and must be sympathetic to other musicians. Up until now, the best musicians were not attracted to play Afrobeat. It may have been for social reasons but I am changing all that now!"
To the credit and influences of ex-Fela drummer Tony Allen and keyboardist Ogundipe, many more bands in Europe and America are now playing music with distinct Afrobeat roots. In London, Ayetoro developed a reputation for live shows. His first gig in England in 2002, was the Africa Oye Festival; the biggest world music festival in Europe held in Liverpool. He has also played at the famous 100 Club on Oxford Street, London.
What are the new flavours in his music? "I do not know what name to give my music. Not Afrobeat; maybe ‘Naija Blues' which is the title of my first album. The music I play now satisfies my yearning for structure and improvisation at the same time. Not one-chord music like old Afrobeat; which was restrictive. I use the structure of 12-bar blues, diminished chords and whole tones to improve the musical colouristic choice available.
I strongly believe in discipline in music. My old album ‘Something Dey' involved tension release."
Ogundipe has grown into a musician that straddles many worlds. In Ghana, he was appointed musical director and principal composer of the Culture Caravan Initiative of the French Embassy and Vodafone that took concert parties, live band and a play on stage across Ghana. "I had to create atmospheric sounds, not just sweet sounds, but music in totality," he recalls. He then took a 14-piece band called Afrobitten that included dancers and singers to the Alliance Francaise in Accra.
What is his opinion on the calibre of young musicians now on the scene in Nigeria? "There is an exciting new generation of young musicians in Nigeria from the Muson Music School, who have the discipline of classical music training and can play and improvise. Since 1998, half of the musicians I worked with in Nigeria were from the Peter King School of Music. I think it will be musically rewarding to have Nigerian hip hop singers play with learned musicians."
Ogundipe's recently released albums successfully demonstrate his immense musical growth in one decade as well as show in energy and musical diversity, the futuristic directions of the ‘new' Afrobeat. He directs the music with maturity and confident expertise from keyboards, piano, Wurlitzer electric piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano. ‘Afrobeat Chronicles' (Vol 1) subtitled ‘The Jazz Side of Afrobeat' features Byron Wallen, a prominent non-American jazz trumpeter in the Diaspora. ‘Afrobeat Chronicles' (Vol 2) subtitled ‘Omo Obokun' in reference to his Ilesha roots, features a choir of expatriate Cuban bata drummers and percussionists who play two rhythms; one for ‘Iyesha' [As Ijesha people pronounce it] and the other for twins.
BY TAM FIOFORI
2010’s revelation could well come from Montpellier. For the last ten years or so, the collective ‘Fanga’ has been on the up, blending afrobeat, jazz and funk and playing a music that is eminently spiritual. Fanga means ‘strength of conviction’ in Dioula and the commitment of the group is emblematic of its name.
An alliance of complementary personalities and cosmopolitan energies, Fanga first took form in 1998. Returning from Africa, Serge Amiano brings back a few vinyls of the likes of Fela, CS Crew and CK Mann that he plays to the Burkinabese rapper Korbo. Amiano being a hip-hop producer naturally takes on the role of the group’s artistic director right from the start.
The discovery of this urban African music of the 1970s quickly forms the basis of a shared passion. In 2000 the album ‘Black Voices’ by Tony Allen definitively seals Fanga’s birth and its afrobeat foundations with an obvious orientation towards dance and the solid relationship between the eight members of the group.
Fanga brings out its first six tracks in 2001 with a minimal rhythm section. Joined by the bass player Rajaneesh Dwivedi and the drummer Samuel Devauchelle, the group records ‘Afrokalyptik’ in 2003, its first album. The following album ‘Natural Juice’ comes out in 2007, warmly received and with much acclaim. Fanga is not only highly praised by Gilles Peterson but also the New York magazine Wax Poetics.
Having played with Antibalas, Seun Kuti and Kokolo, Fanga has nurtured solid relationships within the international afrobeat community. In the studio, the group’s path crosses that of Tony Allen and the sadly demised Segun Demisa, both pillars of Fela Kuti’s Africa 70, as well as that of the iconoclastic rapper Mike Ladd. Fanga launches its live project on stages around England, Holland, Spain and Italy.
Despite being firmly rooted in certain Nigerian and Ghanean musical traditions (those of the 1970s’ afro-beat and high-life) Fanga is equally at home to musical concoction, as demonstrated by the samples and other hip-hop and electronic ingredients, not to mention the vocals in Dioula, English and French. The gritty horns and earthy analogue keyboards shape the group’s sound whilst Korbo has no hesitation in embracing his Mandingue roots.
Flowing without restraint, Fanga exudes both spirituality and an intense persuasive power. It is home to an iron fist, characteristic of the most proud and organic of black musics. Melodious and hypnotic, the pieces developed by the group not only strive towards a groove conducive to a state of trance but is also equally appealing to the mind.
Whilst avoiding lengthy discourses, revolutionary messages and the pretension of offering answers to the problems of the world, Korbo nonetheless poses serious lines of reflection, in particular, defending the right to be different as well as nurturing a deeper harmony between humankind and nature. He denounces the social injustice arising from the pyramidal economic structures that have become uncontrollable and egotistical. Newspaper headlines often inspire Fanga’s songs.
Brought up on the raw energy of hip-hop, the group reposes equally on certain values that even today can only be found in Africa, a sort of candour and instinctive sense of rhythm which lends such freshness to Fanga. This urge to respond when faced with a base emotion, however fleeting, has governed their musical progression since the beginning of the 2000s.
Empassioned and passionate, their music contains alluring promise. Fanga takes on an entire dimension on stage. Those who’ve had the chance of seeing the group live can only agree. Under the ongoing artistic direction of Serge Amiano, Fanga has recorded its third album in spring 2009 in Montpellier, entitled ‘Sira Ba’ (The Long Road).
Over the course of nine pieces, the collective Fanga offers a look at the past through the eyes of the present and the future. The Jamaican singer Winston McAnuff infuses a reggae accent in I Go On Without You, whereas the Togo All Stars orchestra shines out like a thousand fires on Dounya, one of the strongest and most jubilant of the album, resonating in the afro-funk echos of Moussa Doumbia and Amadou Ballaké.
Alternating drawn-out lyrical climaxes, explosive brass passages, killer riffs and melodic ease, ‘Sira Ba’ displays a powerful force of conviction, reflecting an uncompromised musical complicity and an impressive flow of energy. Julien Raulet’s guitar work reacts perfectly with the keyboards of David Rekkab and the percussion of Eric Durand.
Martial Reverdy’s baritone reinforces the energy and persuasive power exuded by Fanga, along with the lyrics that take us straight back to the most glorious hour of the golden age of afrobeat, laced with the influences of that ‘great black music’. Once fallen under the spell of this strength of conviction, all that remains is to dance.
Fantastic funk from Fanga -- one of the hippest Afro-styled combos around! These guys have a bit more grit in their grooves than most -- still very much in the best 70s-inspired Afro Funk styles you'd expect, but with a nice edge in some of the rhythmic undercurrents -- almost as if their new recordings were actually some lost indie label sets from years back! Given their Parisian origins, the combo's also got a really international outlook on their music -- and seem to add in some more complicated changes to the rhythms -- almost a pan-post-colonial style that allows for some great variety on the album, while still hanging onto a funky groove at the core. Titles include "Bassi Te", "Follow Me", "Corruption", "Yeleko", "Dounia (part 1)", "Ni Ya Wouele", and "I Go On Without You".
1. Bassi té
3. Dounia Part I
4. Follow Me
7. I Go On Without You (feat. Winston McAnuff)
8. Tiogho tiogho
9. Ni ya wouele
10. Dounia Part II (feat. The Togo All Stars)