Sep 30, 2011

From Benin: Orchestre Super Jheevs des Paillotes

Orchestre Super Jheevs des Paillotes were from the West African country formerly called Dahomey, now known as Benin.

Samy Ben Redjeb, the founder of Analog Africa and publisher of the amazing compilation "African Scream Contest" went to Benin, and interviewed guitarist D’Almeida Expédit:

The band formed, without me, around the early 70s. They had struggled to get things going, they didn’t have a steady guitarist and were soon looking for a musician who could transform their chaotic energy into something productive. A few members were dispatched to Cotonou in ‘71, and that’s where they found me. During our first jam session I improvised a few things on guitar. They had never seen someone handling that instrument the way I did, They all wanted me to stay, but I told the manager of the band, De Souza Marius, that I would only stick around if he found me a daytime job. Two weeks later not only me but the entire band was employed at the CFDT, the local textile manufacturer which De Souza was also managing. We all felt more comfortable financially and could better focus on our music. We had some incredible musicians.

Our late bass player Agbotro Jude was considered to be one of the best in the country; he is the composer of the song you want. And then our crazy drummer Ambroise Gnagenon…He was a genius He would build his drum kit out of goat skin and other weird tools; we use to call it “La batterie indigene”. The bass drum pedal would break in the middle of every live performance; we would stop, waiting for him to fix it, and then continue. He had a really wild style. He is gone now, but you can still see the drum at Las Trois Paillotes. That’s the place we would meet and rehearse everyday after work, and on Saturdays we would set that place on fire! We were popular here but it was a regional thing – we did not use to record you know -but we toured a bit. Dasa, Azofe, Sabalo; it was hot!

One day Apova Bruno from Discafric came to Bohicon to record a band called Las Superstar de Cotonou. which had come here for a concert. Bruno arrived with his recording equipment, and while he was assembling his set-up he heard us practicing nearby He was intrigued by our sound and came to talk to us about making a recording, which we did three weeks later at Les Trois Paillotes. He brought his Nagra reel-to-reel, we played into one microphone, and that was it. We recorded that track three or four times and he later chose the best version. We did not hear from him for a while after that, despite people telling us that they could hear our song on the radio. Anyway I finally bumped into him one day while he was trying to get drunk in a bar in Bohicon. I forced him to follow me to our manager’s house so that they could clarify our payment. They had a brief chat and one week later we received one 7” inch single. That was all we ever received for that recording, which is the only one we ever did.

This article was originally published at amazing Thanx!!!



Definitely a very original attempt in the funk & latin fields by this obscure Beninese orchestra. Side A is a deep 'n messy uptempo afro funk jerk w/ a strong psych feel. Side B is a ruff 'n crazy Beninese afro latin mess on a pachanga beat, w/ great guitar work that give it very psych feel as well.


Side A: Ye Noan Lon An
Side B: Agbangningba

Additional information by Orogod:

The A side of this record has been recently edited by Analog Africa, then relayed by Radiodiffusion Internationaal, but the "Super Jheevs des Paillotes de Bohicon" have never been featured on Oro. So here is the original and all EP edited on Discafric label and pressed in France. I think it has been recorded in the early 70s.

Thanx for the permission to re-post!

Sep 28, 2011

Hot Club Afrobeat Orchestra (download)

More than twelve years after his death in 1997, the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti Black President, a mixture of sounds and pulsating African jazz and funk, is more popular than ever: a musical on Broadway and mounted a feature film on its life currently filming retrace his extraordinary destiny.

Founded in 2008 at the Hot Club de Lyon, the group variable geometry honors the Nigerian saxophonist and singer with a background of ten to fifteen musicians gathered around Benjamin Valfroy, former keyboard Super Etoile de Dakar Youssou N'Dour, and musicians from groups such as Mei Tei Sho, Dokhandème, Gnawa Diffusion, Maxxo, Imperial Kikiristan, Gipsy Groove Gang, or Djazia Satour Thirsty Selenite Band ...

Similar to a group, the Hot Club Afrobeat Orchestra surrounded by scenes from different projects and asked: In October 2009, it Dele Sosimi, former keyboard musical director of Fela and Femi Kuti and his drummer Kunle Olofinjana who were invited to three concerts (the Hot Club and the Macon Music Cellar). The opportunity to refine the standard repertoire of Fela (Water No Get Enemy, Lady, Gentleman, Colomentality, Sorrow Tears & Blood, Zombie, Shakara, Shuffering & Shmiling, Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am) in the presence of a "bandleader" respected, and work some of his compositions (Local Champion, BBENY). Throughout the concerts, the group also rubbed the flow of Afrobeat riddims MC's and singers such as Peter Solo, Nasree, Patrice Kalla, Gas, or Lee Harvey Razamike Asphalt. Fruitful meetings with music makes great improvisation.


Hot Club Afrobeat Orchestra by hotclubafrobeat

Sep 27, 2011

Rikki Ililonga & Musi-O-Tunya - Dark Sunrise


Singer-guitarist Rikki Ililonga may have lived in Denmark for 30 years, but he’s also an originator and ongoing steward of Zamrock. In the early 1970s, Zambia enjoyed, if that’s the right word, a set of circumstances finely tuned to instigate a rock and roll subculture. The landlocked central African country had been independent of English rule for about a decade, long enough for the first president to become the first dictator and to pick an economy-throttling fight with major trading partner Rhodesia … but not long enough for the white, English commercial class to pack up and leave. Since they had the money, the foreign-born folk exerted inordinate influence over what records made it into the shops and what got played on the radio. Take a legacy of hope, confront it with impending economic collapse, mix in an influx of international pop sounds in a newly emergent urban metropolis with strongly rooted rural cultural practices, cut off easy transit in and out of the country, then let it all simmer in the hot tropical sun — the result was a small circle of interrelated, mutually supportive psychedelic combos that included Witch, Amanaz, and Ililonga’s Musi-O-Tunya.

Collectively they displayed a penchant for fuzz guitar and heavy beats inspired by Cream and Hendrix, but there are also differences. At least on record, Witch and Amanaz could have been from anywhere where the guitars were loud and the tape decks cheap; Musi-O-Tunya’s singles and one album sound very much like music of Africa. The band’s burning guitar freakouts often took off from a foundation of skipping beats that could have originated in neighboring Congo or further west in Nigeria and Ghana, and even though English is Zambia’s official language, they sang a lot in Benba, Chinyanja, and Silozi. They also used an indigenous name; Musi-O-Tunya is the pre-British name of Victoria Falls and translates as “The Smoke That Thunders,” which isn’t a bad name for a band that aspires toward heaviness. Musi-O-Tunya’s earliest recordings date from a sojourn in Kenya in 1973, and while the drum-chant-whistle workout “Ng’ombe Shala” on one of its early singles displays the band’s roots, the flip side “Mpulala” shows that rock ‘n’ roll was part of the equation from the beginning. The crisp guitar sounds fresh out of the garage, the drumming and the song’s structure owe a lot to Mersey Beat, and the guitar and bass duel in the middle sounds like some kids trying to realize their favorite Yardbirds jam and not quite succeeding.

The recording quality on Wings Of Africa, Musi-O-Tunya’s sole album and the source of most of Dark Sunrise’s first CD, is a huge leap ahead of the one-take murk of the singles, and the music keeps pace. “The Sun” is lithe and lively; Canadian Kenny Chernoff’s soprano saxophone and Ililonga’s tart guitar fills snake in and out of the massed vocals and dynamic percussion. It’d sound just right next to your favorite tracks on the Nigeria Special and Ghana Soundz compilations. But it’s the tunes where Ililonga pushes his rock influences to the front that mark Musi-O-Tunya as a band apart. “Dark Sunrise” totally rocks, with a towering backbeat and big, fat guitar leads that’d bring a tear of jealousy to a nascent pedal-hopper’s eyes. The riff of “One Reply” sounds stunningly similar to Lou Reed’s “Charley’s Girl”; since it was recorded in 1974, two years before Reed debuted his tune on Coney Island Baby, one wonders if he could possibly have heard Musi-O-Tunya’s song first? Probably not, but in any case, the Zambians kick more ass than Lou did in his “playing football for the coach” phase, especially when Ililonga’s guitar tries to muscle to the front of the mix.

Is there any scenario more typical of ’70s rock than the talented guy saying “I don’t need these jerks” and going it alone? That’s just what Ililonga did in 1975, the year he recorded the first of the two LPs that make up Dark Sunrise’s second CD. The set comes packaged in a swanky hardcover book, and most of its pages are given over to Ililonga’s very specific remembrances of Zamrock’s circumstances and personalities. According to his telling, the rest of the band didn’t want to keep learning new songs, so he ditched them; certainly his solo LPs are powered by a hunger to play in a myriad of ways that Musi-O-Tunya did not. “Hot Fingers” is a shameless and aptly named bit of guitar flash; “Stop Dreaming Mr. D” memorializes his old band to the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar and harmonica that could have been played by Richie Havens; “The Nature Of Man” could be early Traffic mixed with a little Buffalo Springfield; “The Hole” is brazenly explicit get-it-on funk; and “Working On The Wrong Thing,” with its sparse groove and rude synth, would fit right in on that Shuggie Otis record. Whether the songs muse on the travails of Zambian urban life or Ililonga’s love life, they articulate a first person singer-songwriter stance that foregrounds the “I” (as opposed to the voice that represents or describes the community) in a way rarely heard beforehand in African pop.

Ililonga’s willingness and inclination to operate as a man apart has served him well. He left Zambia in 1980, around the time that the economy completely tanked but before AIDS wiped out his generation (to this day, 10 percent of the population is infected). He’s sustained his music career around Europe, and also facilitated the dissemination of Witch and Amanaz’s music in recent years alongside his own. One of Dark Sunrise’s chief pleasures is reading his reminiscences about his old mates and the scene they briefly inhabited., written by Bill Meyer


One of the great lost movements of modern African music finally gains time in the stateside spotlight in the form of two excellent reissues from Stones Throw archivist subsidiary Now-Again.

Until recently, the storied Zamrock scene of the mid-to-late 1970s was only prevalent within the parameters of the nation from which it derived - the Republic of Zambia, a copper-producing country landlocked by the unsteady climates surrounding them in Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania and Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south and Angola to the west. The country was also rife with poverty and the then-gestating AIDS pandemic that plagued the lives of several of Zamrock's founding fathers.

These dire straits did not make many of the albums released within the harsh confines of Zambia all that accessible beyond the few ex-pats who brought their record collections to Europe and the United States, where they migrated. Eventually, though, word got out about this fuzzy, freaky fusion of reverberating, wah-wah drenched electric rock, which the musicians had heard on Western pop albums from Jimi Hendrix, Santana and the Jefferson Airplane that were bootlegged into the country, not to mention being influenced by the high energy funk brought forth on James Brown's legendary 1971 tour of Zambia. Additionally steeped in the indigenous polyrhythms of the music along the Congo plus traditional Zambian folk, the sound of Zamrock became a sonic delicacy highly sought-after among the globe's most serious break hunters.

And there is no doubt that the time is indeed nigh for this rediscovery spurred by the crate diggers at Stones Throw/Now-Again. Dark Sunrise is a two-CD anthology of the scene's first breakout star, guitar wizard Rikki Ililonga, and his band Musi-O-Tunya. Housed in a beautiful, hardbound book-style package and featuring a scholarly essay on the evolution of the Zamrock revolution in the extensive liner notes, Dark Sunrise gathers together on the first disc Musi-O-Tunya's 1975 debut album Wings of Africa with a cache of super hard-to-find 7-inch singles that date back to early 1973, while the second CD houses Ililonga's two solo albums, 1975's Zambia and 1976's Sunshine Love, which are more rooted in the bandleader's affinities for the songwriting styles of Loaded-era Lou Reed and Taj Mahal back when he played with Ry Cooder.


Los Angeles being a car town, driving soundtracks are important and help calm the nerves and lift the spirits while navigating the oft-living hell that is the daily commute.

Thank goodness, then, for "Dark Sunrise," the exquisite new reissue of the mid-1970s music of Rikki Ililonga and his group Musi-O-Tunya. Ililonga was a prime mover in the Republic of Zambia's rhythm rock scene of the 1970s, and this two-CD set captures a unique, and nearly vanished, secret history. The release has filled at least one frustrated Angeleno's car with (very loud) distraction over the past few weeks.

Issued by the Los Angeles-based reissue label Now-Again, "Dark Sunrise" features 31 songs that jump tempos and signatures but retain a consistent rhythmic base. The southern African country from which the music sprang, the Republic of Zambia, was at the time a poverty-stricken place in which pressing records was an unaffordable luxury, so the mere existence of these songs seems somehow miraculous. Explains Now-Again owner (and the set's executive producer) Eothan "Egon" Alapatt in the reissue's liner notes:

"[T]he records that did surface in the collecting community of the monied Japanese, European and North American record obsessives of the mid-'90s were often in worse condition than worn Frisbees. The condition of the average Zambian record found 'in the field' is on par with that of the war-torn discs found occasionally in modern-day Angola."

Alapatt was aware of Ililonga's music through collector's circles, and tracked down the singer, who was living in the Netherlands and had workable master recordings -- some of which compose "Dark Sunrise."

It's perfect driving music, filled with steady rhythms, a funky horn section and some great, James Brown-esque swagger. Unlike the clean, gymnastic guitar tones being made in West Africa at the same time, the sound of the south was filled with fuzz guitars and solid chords, which makes the end result more driving, and a little more aggressive, especially on Ililonga's early recordings with his band Musi-O-Tunya.

The second disc features solo Ililonga, and he sounds like a mix of Arthur Lee, Bob Dylan, Damo Suzuki, Fela Kuti and Curtis Mayfield, and, musically, moves from groovy, Dylanesque garage-rock breakdowns -- augmented with congas and wood blocks -- to wilder, more guitar-centric, psychedelic work with tangled solos.

It's an important reissue, and offers yet another glimpse into the sound of Africa in the 1960s and 70s. In the past half-decade, countless African crate-digger classics have been reissued, each another piece of the puzzle from a continent less archivally minded than most. But "Dark Sunrise" is a peak, and a vivid glimpse into a particular moment in time., written by Randall Roberts


There are particular things in life which bring out sentiments even to the most hardened individual. And music is one of them. Especially good music. As Thomas Beecham said, “Good Music is that which penetrates the ear with facility and quits the memory with difficulty”.

At times, one need not even comprehend the lyrics in a song, as long as the ear recognizes the value of the beat at play, then the listener would understand the universal language that is music. As human tastes are varied, not every song is appreciated by everyone. Yet still, there are those who have had difficulties of purging the songs of Zambia’s most indomitable bands and soloists from their minds.

Though pace setters like Alick Nkhata and the Big Gold Six were more of folk singers, they were trail blazers in commercial recording and their songs were well received. Good as they were, not many heads were turned by their sounds, until a group of young men barely into their twenties banished themselves to the city of Nairobi, Kenya; in pursuit of good recording studios and lucrative contracts. The move paid off because their self exile imbued them with creative juices; consequently, they came charging with an energetic verve and a ground-breaking resonance. And before anybody realised what was going on, it happened. They had inaugurated a new sound which was later to be echoed by contemporary groups; a fusion of James Brown’s raw funk as well as Jimi Hendrix’s fuzzy psychedelia; music that flirts with Fela’s Afro-beat and Congolese rumba and simultaneously brings the blues of Taj Majal; and it was christened “Zamrock”.

Unbeknown to them, they were on an expedition that would degenerate into diametrically opposed opinions, which would lead to disbanding, leaving their fans feeling short changed and wanting more of the innovative sound from the new band. They were the Musi-O-Tunya!!!

The band was an institution, where, if you did well in your lessons, you would go on to larger things; which is true of most of its former associates, but if you botched your course, you were consigned to a cavity which; opportunely; never happened to any of them. Because as it was, the critical accomplishments of the band propelled the former members to greater things, masking the commercial failures, which were taken on the chin and treated as show-biz teething problems, given that while they found fame, they did not make a fortune. Be that as it may, all the former bandsmen went on to have successful careers long after the group went into oblivion.

The line up of those who had a stint in the group reads like a “Who is Who”, in the “Zamrock” Hall of fame. Rikki Ililonga, Ndara “Derreck” Mbao, Alex Kunda, Jasper Siliya Lungu, Paul “Ngozi” Nyirongo and Brian Chengala all graced the band, albeit some joined as a result of departures of other members, owing to the egos which were emerging. Of all the above mentioned; only Rikki and Brian, who now goes by the surname of Shakarongo, are still alive. It is more than thirty five years since they first recorded and their music has until now, been very rare and some of the most sought.

Fans do not have to wait anymore. The group’s founder, major song writer, and most successful former member, Rikki, has teamed up with “Now Again Records” and record distributer “Stone Throw Records”, both of Los Angeles California. They have released Dark Sunrise, an Anthology of Rikki’s music, a trilogy of Musi-O-Tunya’s first album, Wings of Africa and the band’s six singles, together with Rikki’s two solo albums, Zambia and Sunshine Love, on the “Now and Again” Label; junkies of early “Zamrock” are in Paradise.

Disk one is Musi-O-Tunya, whose opening tune is ‘Tsegulani’. The instantly recognizable, brusque and pulsating voice of Ndara “Derrek” Mbao comes hurtling and lamenting, taking you to a crescendo with the inimitable Paul Ngozi’s lead guitar wizardly. After six minutes and twenty seconds, you will think the song will have ended too soon, as it takes you into the second song ‘Mpondolo’, which opens with a Kalimba played by Derreck, and then the trumpet takes over, intermittently with the group backup vocals and a sporadic solo horn. Siliya Lungu’s expertise on African drums is explicit. The rest of the tracks are ‘Walk and Fight’, ‘The Sun’, ‘Dark Sunrise’, ‘One Reply’, ‘The Wings of Africa’, Jekete Yamankowa Part 1 & 2, ‘Chalo Chawama’ ‘Ng’ombe Shala’, ‘Mpulula’ and finally ‘Smoke’.

Disc two contains Rikki’s two albums, ‘Zambia’ and ‘Sunshine Love, which have a combined eighteen songs. It is a delight listening to the silky ‘Shebeen Queen’, the sorrowful ‘Munzi wa Kangwanda’, the forlorn ‘Angel Black’, the enlightening Musamuseke, the instructive ‘Ulemu’, and the captivating ‘The Hole’. The later, along with other Ililonga songs were proscribed on Radio Zambia. Given the sort of songs that receive airplay these days, it is unquestionably time to revisit the decision.



1. Tsegulani
2. Mpondolo
3. Walk and Fight
4. The Sun
5. Dark Sunrise
6. One Reply
7. The Wings Of Africa
8. Jekete Yamankowa Part 1
9. Jekete Yamankowa Part 2
10. Chalo Chawama
11. Ng'ombe Shala
12. Mpulula
13. Smoke
14. Sansa Kuwa
15. Sheebeen Queen
16. Stop Dreaming Mr. D
17. The Hole
18. Hot Fingers
19. Se Keel Me Queek
20. The Nature Of Man
21. Musamuseka
22. Zambia
23. The Queen Blues
24. Love Is The Way
25. Lovely Woman
26. Munzi Wa Kangwana
27. Working On The Wrong Thing
28. Ulemu
29. Sunshine Love
30. Take It Light
31. Angel Black

Sep 26, 2011

Fela Kuti - I.T.T. (1980) / Original Sufferhead (1981)


After the demise of Africa 70, Fela set forth to create a new group of musicians that he could mold, shape, and direct to play out his musical conceptions. Instead of just offering a new group, he also progressed his compositional style and attitudes. Stylistically, the compositions became longer, more complex, and in some senses tighter; they began to take on Western classical structures in their arrangements but still carried the improvisational, American soul, and traditional African forms that gave birth to the original Afro-beat sound. Original Suffer Head is the first recorded offering from the group that he deemed Egypt 80; the name reflected his strong Pan-African sentiments. Released in 1982 after another brutal attack on his residence that almost killed him, it showed that he had yet to be broken by the authority figures who sought to silence him. (After decades of beatings and incarcerations, they would slow him down eventually, but not until after 1990.) Lyrically, "Original Suffer Head" calls attention to the strife and conflict that framed Nigeria in the 1980s, such as the lack of basic necessities in an era when the country was rich in petroleum sales. With words such as "Them come turn us to Suffer-Head," Fela attacks those in power for Nigeria's lack of development of food, water, and shelter, implying that the country's third-world status is a result of government corruption and stealing. "We must be ready to fight for am o," he pointedly remarks, "I say Suffer-Head must go." Also included on this album is "Power Show," a relatively forgettable number originally composed for the Africa 70 group but recorded here by Egypt 80 in a laid-back groove, with Fela making non-accusatory remarks about the state of Lagos in general.

Sam Samuelson


Fela Kuti's records in the early and middle 1980s contain some of the most directly scathing remarks ever put to disc (notably, Original Suffer Head, Coffin for Head of State, and Authority Stealing). Sure, Ice-T, N.W.A., and Eminem have since been more pointedly offensive, but Fela deploys a smarter, slyer, and wittier approach to satire than anyone else. In I.T.T. (a play on the telecommunications company, International Telephone and Telegraph), he attacks two central characters that Fela calls out as thieves by name: President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo and Chairman of ITT and President of Decca Records, M.K.O. Abiola. Fela gets the jabbing started by describing how the British used to employ their African subjects to carry trailers full of excrement throughout the cities for disposal, then transposes the attack to Obasanjo and Abiola as they have forced their African subjects to carry their metaphorical sh*t of oppression, inflation, and corruption. He says, "We don't tire to carry anymore of them sh*t," while a rousing, call-to-arms chorus backs him up; Fela continues, "We go fight them well now." His methods were very dangerous, as his enemies were extremely powerful and his audience very receptive. For his actions, Fela would continue to be beaten and jailed throughout his life. Musically, I.T.T. is an average instrumental attack; however, average for Fela and Africa 70 is still quite above the watermark.

Sam Samuelson


“I want to tell you my brothers want to beat the truth, I want to knock some truth right into your heads…we must be ready to fight…find out for yourself” — Fela Kuti – “Original Sufferhead”

With so much Fela on the mind because of the “Power Show” 7 Pack we had available during KPFK’s fundraiser it seems only fitting that I spend a little time talking about this music and about the man. More than a few people shy away from Fela’s later work with his second afro-beat group Egypt 80. I think a lot of the lack of enthusiam for these later records has to do with the terrible production on several (Army Arrangement being the main culprit…the only Fela record it seems record stores generally have and it’s the one Fela record no one in their right mind should want in the original) of these later period albums. One of the great benefits of having Fela’s music reissued and remastered has been a second look at many of these later records (point in fact “Army Arrangement” is actually a fantastic album and song, now that it’s been cleaned up and all of Laswell’s studio histrionics are stripped away).

One record that really needed no remastering and stands as one of the best late period Fela records (only bested by Beast Of No Nation from 1989, which is incidentally my single favorite Fela record) is Original Sufferhead. Released in 1982, his first album with Egypt 80, “Original Sufferhead” and the flipside “Power Show” (here edited into just an instrumental version, you’ll have to get Fela’s indictment of small time officials who throw their “power” around on the full CD, which also includes International Thief Thief aka I.T.T.) have all the hallmarks of Fela’s legendary style and sound. The new group Egypt 80 lays down an intricate and funky back beat punctuated by Fela’s saxophone and organ. The mood early on is a bit playful, with the upbeat beat and Fela’s stated desire to “Sing it nice and together” before some call and response between the instruments and the singers. But eventually Fela gets down to business. He wants to bring attention to the main problems that face Africa as a continent and Nigeria in particular.

“Water, Light, Food, House,” the basic necessities of life and things that many people take for granted where these things are plentiful, such as in the US. In 1982 and here still in 2011 these things are not so plentiful in much of Africa. But, as Fela details, one by one in detail, this is not because they do not exist in Africa. Instead the water, energy and food problems of Africa are largely created because the people do not control these resources. For example, as Fela details in reference to food, where the “Big Big People” in Corporations plant food and goods such as cocoa, brown nuts and rubber which are then sold outside of Africa, but the Africans have to buy their rice from Brazil, Thailand and elsewhere instead of being able to use their own land to produce the food they need. The housing matter is a different matter as Fela says himself in the song. Housing seems more tied to the general poverty of many people in Africa, poverty that if the resources already described connected to water, energy and food were not largely taken away from Africans, either by multi-national corporations or the despotic leaders of these countries, would not exist. Africa is a rich land, but the unequal distribution of power and resources leads it to be “underdeveloped” and its people to “live like servants” and “sleep inside of dust-bins.”

Part of the reason I felt like this record in particular was a good one to highlight at this very moment is that it seems to encapsulate so much about what is going on right now in N. Africa and parts of the Middle East, where people are tired of how things have been and no longer are willing to accept their oppression at the hands of despots who continue to enrich themselves personally while leaving their people destitute. It is for this reason that Fela and Egypt 80 say “Original Sufferhead Must Go!” and the people must be able to control their own destinies. As history continues to unfold, let us hope that this vision will come to pass and the people will finally be free as Fela so longed for them to be.


Like V.I.P. Vagabonds In Power and Authority Stealing, 1980's I.T.T. International Thief Thief and 1981's Original Sufferhead address the moral vacuum at the heart of the Nigerian state—and its use of violent reprisal against dissent.

In "International Thief Thief ," Kuti makes fiercely insulting attacks on two of his biggest enemies, former Nigerian president General Obasanjo, and the local chief executive of the multi-national corporation Internal Telephone & Telegraph (ITT), Moshood Abiola, who was also the boss of Decca Records in Nigeria. Obasanjo Kuti regarded as a crook, an incompetent and a thug, and he held him directly responsible for the death of his mother following the army's 1977 pillage of Kalakuta. Abiola, he believed, with evidence, had both cheated him out of royalties and conspired with Decca's London bosses to neuter him after the 1977 attack, in order to maintain favorable relations with Obasanjo's regime. Both men, Kuti sings, are "thieves," "rats" and of "low mentality."

The original back cover illustration used for Original Sufferhead—later replaced by the design inside the gatefold of this edition—was a black and white photo taken shortly after a particularly savage beating Kuti received from the police in 1981 (the only beating, among dozens that he received over the years, during which he felt that his life was in danger). Clad only in a pair of Speedos, Kuti displays his bruised and battered body. Extraordinarily in the face of the evidence, no-one was ever prosecuted, much less punished, for the assault. Arguing from the personal to the political, Kuti sings that his injuries are part and parcel of the vicious treatment meted out indiscriminately to Nigerians.

Read the full article at


Nearly every one of MCA's twofer reissues of the best albums in Fela Kuti's discography is worthwhile, and this pairing of 1980's I.T.T. and 1982's ORIGINAL SUFFER HEAD is no exception. By the early '80s Fela had already honed his intensely polyrhythmic Afrobeat sound to perfection, and these two recordings feature all of the extended vamps, roiling rhythms, searing horns, call-and-response vocals, and political invective he was known for.

ORIGINAL SUFFERHEAD marks the debut of Fela's Egypt 80 band, an ensemble that continued the thread of Fela's earlier albums while adding an increasing musical complexity. As is the case with much of Fela's work, the lyrics here address the political injustices of Nigeria at the time, satirizing public officials while commanding the people to get up/stand up. But the real revolutionary tenor of this music comes through in its sprawling grooves, whether on the relentlessly driving "Original Suffer Head," the chill, jazzy "Power Show," or the roiling, polyphonal "I.T.T. Pt. 1 & 2."


I.T.T. (1980)

At the time of its release, the name of this album (and the eponymous title track) would have been recognized by any Nigerian as the acronym for “International Telephone and Telegraph”, Nigeria’s biggest telecommunications conglomerate. In this track, however, Fela satirically used the acronym to mean “International Thief-Thief.” The song is a 24-minute direct attack on multinational’s CEO, Moshood Abiola, who also happened to own Decca, the label Fela was signed to at the time, and with whom Fela was in full battle mode based on the label’s refusal to release his albums. Fela takes this opportunity to publicly disgrace Abiola for, in Fela’s eyes, becoming a stooge for the white man through his general colonial mentality, and specifically for his collusion in the CIA-led effort to dislocate Chile’s democratically elected Marxist president Allende. The lyrics also include a pointed history lesson outlining the way, in the days of slavery, the white man would find a willing African who would sell his own people into slavery.

Written by Mabinuori Kayode Idowu

Original Sufferhead (1981)

Original Sufferhead begins with a minimal and otherworldly improv with a Fela’s new band, Egypt 80, before building up into a bold, intricately structured Afrobeat anthem decrying the situation of the masses in Nigeria. “Let’s sing a nice song together,” Fela suggests, as the chorus parallels the agile melody of his of sax. He then, with the help of the chorus, launches into a list of the problems that plague the people: no water supply, the exorbitant price of living, no health care, double digit inflation. The B-side, Power Show, builds on the same theme, highlighting the ruling class oppression of the masses. The lyrics tell the story of a rich man in a fancy car that, pulling alongside a poor man traveling alone, verbally abuses the man. Fela calls this the “Power Show”, and excoriates the behavior – it’s not the right thing to do for your fellow human being.

Written by Mabinuori Kayode Idowu

Sep 19, 2011

The World Ends: A Conversation with African Music Archivist Uchenna Ikonne

Interview I

...about the compilation "The World Ends ... Afro Rock And Psychedelia In 1970s Nigeria"

As the counter-cultural movement reached its apex circa 1967 in San Francisco with swarms of people preaching peace, love, communal living, psychoactive drugs and “dropping out,” there was a similar revolution commencing in Nigeria that had nothing do with good vibes, wearing flowers in your hair, or communing with New Age mantras. Nigeria was in the midst of a brutal civil war that would end up spanning over two years and extinguish over three million lives in the process. “The World Ends” is the newest compilation of African psychedelic music released on Soundway Records that gives voice to the renaissance of music that occurred after that savage period in Nigerian history. I interviewed Uchenna Ikonne, the man who has been tracking down the music from this turbulent era, and we got to speaking about the apoliticism of the post-civil war generation, Fela as a proto-Kanye West, and some of his favorite records off the comp.

How did you come across all the records/knowledge that are contained in the compilation? Could you relate 1 or 2 interesting stories in the process of finding these records?

That’s a bit of a tough question. I wish I could share with you picaresque adventures about discovering this music but I don’t think that journey has been all that interesting. I was born in the 1970s and while I was too young to have ever been a part of this scene, I grew up in the shadow of it, hanging around older guys and trying to decipher their reminiscences of the music they had rocked to in the seventies. For some reason, those memories stuck with me for years even as this music was forgotten by the masses and maybe about ten years ago I started trying to actively collect some of these lost records.

That led almost organically to me trying to document the history of the musicians who made these records and the world that influenced them. So I started doing a lot of research. I spent almost a year crisscrossing Nigeria, tracking down these guys, many of whom had quit the music game decades ago; some of them didn’t even remember the records I was talking about because this was several lifetimes ago for them. They were pretty flabbergasted, some of them, that these old records were remembered at all, let alone being appreciated by a new audience overseas.

You say that the Nigerian army was instrumental in providing the necessary resources for these young musicians to access instruments. Could you explain how politics played a role in the music itself? I know that the music showcased in this comp is after a heavy civil war, so I wonder if the musicians were trying to escape the political realities that they had just experienced through music, or did they use the music to expand and understand their communal experience of civil war?

The musicians themselves were largely apolitical— like 99% of young guys who join bands anywhere in the world, they mostly just wanted to have fun hanging out with their friends, playing the music they loved, and meeting girls. But I suppose there was a subtle political component to the music. The majority of the bands that recorded during this period came from eastern Nigeria, the part of the country which had until recently been the secessionist state of Biafra, which was the primary theater in which the war had unfurled as Nigeria fought to re-absorb Biafra into the union. By the end of the war, the previously-rich region had been left devastated—physically, economically, and spiritually. Most of the indigenes had lost family members and all their possessions, and while everybody was glad the horror of the war was over, the current reality was still pretty harsh. Many of the survivors of the war testify that the music was a means of escape that really kept their spirits up.

What are your top 3 songs from the compilation and why?

1. “Somebody’s Gotta Lose or Win” by The Hygrades: I like the rollicking, deep rhythm & blues feeling on this. The Hygrades were led by Goddy Oku—a veteran of The Postmen, who were the first rock & roll band in the Eastern region of Nigeria—and he retained a lot of that old school sensibility. So even though most of the performances of the 1960s Nigerian rock & pop bands might be lost to time because so few of them got the chance to record, this track provides some insight into what they sounded like.

2. “Deiyo Deiyo” by The Hykkers: The Hykkers were also one of the groups from Nigeria’s forgotten 1960s rock & roll heyday; in fact, they were probably the first pop band in the country. They were known primarily as TV stars who appeared on a weekly show, playing mostly Beatles covers, so the wild, psychedelic sound they display on this record was a major change of pace for them. Actually, it was a change for the scene as a whole since it was one of the earliest records in this psych-fuzz style.

3. “Blacky Joe” by P.R.O. (People Rock Outfit): I love the rich, emotive vocal tone of the singer Stoneface Iwuagwu on this rock ballad. A lot of times when people talk about African music, the emphasis is always on rhythm and uptempo bootyshaking, but the truth is that what most Africans (and especially Nigerians) are really into is saccharine melodies and sentimental ballads. Of course, there’s also a pretty wild guitar freakout at the end of the song to justify its inclusion on a compilation dedicated to psychedelia.

You talk about Fela in the notes and I thought it was interesting that you made Fela out to be an opportunist, which frankly didn’t surprise me. How do you think the youth of that time viewed him and his music? Were they trying to break free from Fela and his influence, much like how the Sex Pistols wanted to destroy the Beatles/ Pink Floyd? Perhaps my example is a bit abrasive, but what I would like to know is if the musicians of the scene were in a way tired of Fela and what he represented. If they did in fact continue to revere Fela and hold him in high esteem, could you explain why?

There was no time for them to be tired of Fela or what he represented because what Fela represented at that time was actually considered quite fresh and state-of-the-art. Even though he had been on the scene since the early sixties, his music had been considered a bit too avant-garde and as a result he hadn’t experienced much in the way of major success until the single “Jeun K’oku (Chop & Quench)” was released at the end of 1970—around the same time as the rock explosion. And what made that record unique from all of Fela’s previous output was the fact that it was produced like a rock record.

At that point, Fela had been referring to his music as “afrobeat” for a few years, but up until then it was little more than a theoretical genre tag looking for a sound to attach itself to. The funk-rock edge of “Jeun K’oku” functioned as the roux that coalesced Fela’s highlife and jazz influences and finally gave afrobeat the backbone and musculature it had thus far lacked. It very quickly became the best selling record in Nigerian music history and its phenomenal success served as a major impetus for EMI Records to not only sign more rock acts (who had been ignored by all the major labels up until then) but also to urge them to develop a more overtly “afro” sound rather than merely aping Western styles. So even though he hailed from the previous generation, Fela was—obliquely—a godfather of the afro rock scene. Of course, the young rockers probably didn’t aspire to emulate him directly: coming from a jazz background, his music was primarily horn-based while these young guys were more interested in electric guitars and organs. But even Fela himself soon traded his trumpet for an electric organ, an instrument intimately associated with rock music.

As for whether the respect between Fela and the rock musicians was mutual, it’s hard to say for sure what he truly thought about them. In general, it’s hard to tell what he thought about any musician other than himself, really. Like a lot of ego-driven genius-types, Fela liked to give the impression that the only music he had ears for was his own. He sometimes spoke glowingly of certain foreign musicians, but it was rare for him to comment positively about other Nigerian acts. But what’s important to remember is that he was, above all, a professional musician operating in a fiercely competitive environment, so he probably did not see much value in promoting or even complimenting any musician who could be considered a rival to him.

As much as he criticized the rock bands for being unoriginal and imitative of Western musicians, by the same token he also dismissed the practitioners of hardcore indigenous music styles like juju as being embarrassingly quaint and hokey. Even when esteemed Ghanaian afro rock pioneers Osibisa (whose music exerted a huge influence on “Jeun K’oku”) came to Nigeria, he lambasted them and tried to incite the audience against them. Fela was kind of like the Kanye West of Nigeria in that he was never comfortable with any situation in which he was not the center of attention!

Oscar Paul Medina


Interview II

Uchenna Ikonne could be described as a walking encyclopedia of some sort because of his knowledge of the history of Nigerian music. Based in the United States, he is a filmmaker by vocation and a lawyer by training, but his consuming passion is Nigerian music. Ikonne is currently working on reissuing a lot of Nigerian classic songs under his label, Comb & Razor Sound.

With your knowledge of Nigerian music classics, many would be shocked to realise that you are only 35 years old!

That does often take people by surprise. I’m primarily known as an online presence, chiefly for my writing on my blog, so most people have no idea of my background, age, or appearance. They generally expect me to be much older than I am because I’m writing about Nigerian music and popular culture of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s; and they’re often alarmed to learn that I’m in my 30s.

The funny thing about it is that I have spent a lot of time interviewing musicians from that era, and even when I’m sitting with them face-to-face, they still forget how old I am. Like, we’ll be discussing some events that happened immediately after the civil war, and they’ll say to me, “Shey, you know that nightclub we used to go to in Port Harcourt… You remember when so-and-so played there one Friday night like that in 1971. Were you there that night?”

When stuff like that happens, I’m not quite sure how to process it: do I take it as a compliment that I appear so knowledgeable of the era that they forget I wasn’t there? Or does it mean that hard life has aged me to the point that men in their 50s and 60s can look at me and think I am their age mate?

Do Nigerian youth know enough about Nigerian songs of old?

I would not even be exaggerating if I said that many of our youth actually believe that the Nigerian music industry started in 1998 or so. They realise that yes, there must have been music in Nigeria “back in da dayz” - but they think that maybe we only had a handful of artists: Fela, Osadebe, Sonny Okosuns, Onyeka, maybe Evi-Edna, and a few other really popular names like that. I am not playing!

I have had many young people express this to me directly! But what’s curious is that a lot of times, even Nigerians who are old enough to remember better have completely forgotten most of the music of the past; cultural amnesia is an epidemic in our society, and that’s a shame.

Tell us why you decided to embark on this task!

If I didn’t do it, who would? Well, the main thing I am working on right now is the Comb & Razor Sound record label, which will be reissuing a lot of classic music from Nigeria, as well as other countries in Africa and South America.

I’m trying to make it so that our releases are more like “publications”—big booklets full of historical information, stories, and photographs with a CD attached to them.

Because really, people aren’t that interested in just buying CDs anymore and CDs are too easily pirated, anyway. You have to give them the value for their money. We’ll also be releasing the music on vinyl records, which happens to be my preferred format.

You recently embarked on a trip to Nigeria to get more information; were there any challenges?

The number one challenge is always the relative inaccessibility of the information. It’s not like you can just walk into a library or something and comfortably find information. You have to dig for it. And frankly, not a lot of people have the stamina or resourcefulness to do that.

I remember when I first started telling people in Nigeria that I am looking for old records and stuff like that.

They told me, “You can’t find that kind of thing in Nigeria today.” My reply was “No, you mean YOU can’t find it… I can!” And they would say “Ha! You won’t see that sort of thing in the market o!” The market? Are you kidding? Who is looking at the market? To find this stuff, you need to go ‘under’ the market! For months on end I would be rummaging through dark and filthy storage spaces, day in and day out. Getting sinus infections from the dust and mould… digging through urine-soaked garbage and getting bitten by rats. And in the end, when I show all the material I’ve gathered, people always ask “How did you find this stuff?” as if I’m a magician. But really, it’s all right here under our noses!

Security was also a major challenge. Undertaking the project required me to traverse the breadth of the country several times over, and navigating the terrain while trying to stay ahead of the kidnapping epidemic in the East. Well, let’s say it required a good deal of gumption and creativity.

The challenge I feel defeated me, though, was the complete unavailability of a lot of the material. I’m actually a filmmaker by vocation, and my original intention had been to make a documentary film about Nigerian musicians.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get enough period footage to create a sufficiently dynamic documentary because of a lot of the tapes of musical performances recorded for television in the 1960s, 70s and 80s were either dubbed over or thrown away. So, unfortunately, I had to put that project aside.

Any collaborations with record labels in Nigeria for more information?

No, not really. For one thing, most of the big record labels from Nigeria’s golden age of music - EMI, Phillips, Decca/Afrodisia, and the like - they don’t exist anymore. And many of them even discarded or destroyed most of their records, master tapes, artwork, videos, and documentation.

Record keeping is almost non-existent in Nigeria. Why do you think this is so?

It’s probably a controversial view, but I think that we as Africans have a peculiar relationship to the concept of antiquity. We joke about “African time” and what-not, but I really do believe that the African perception of time is a bit more… fluid than it is in the West. We tend to live primarily in the present, and even our concept of “the present” is very elastic.

I once read about an anthropologist who was looking for artefacts in a certain African country, and he was presented with a carved wooden mask representing an ancient fertility god. He asked the indigenes if the mask was “authentic” - by which he meant: “does this particular mask actually date back to an ancient era of this land? Is it an antique?” And the people told him, “Of course it’s authentic” - by which they meant: “Yes, it was made here, and it still represents this particular fertility god who we still worship.”

Whether or not the mask is old was unimportant to them: all that matters is whether the mask did its job as the avatar for the god. It wouldn’t make a difference to them if the mask was carved 3000 years ago or yesterday. And if there was a mask from thousands of years ago representing a god that they no longer worshipped, then they would have no qualms with burning it or throwing it away because it served no useful purpose for them in “the present.”

So it is with us in Nigeria. We’re fixated upon how utilitarian things are to us in “the present,” and “the present” trumps everything.

That’s why you have television stations erasing the only copies of classic TV shows like ‘The Village Headmaster’ so they can use the tapes to record today’s music videos. It’s why record companies hired contractors to cart away and destroy entire libraries of master tapes of Nigerian music from the 1940s to the 1980s, so they’d have room for the music of the 1990s. ‘The present’ is all that exists for us.

When will your releases hit the market?

The first of these publications will probably be released in the US and Europe at the end of November. I’m not sure exactly when it will come to Nigeria, but obviously it will find its way here. It’s a musical chronicle of the years of Nigeria’s Second Republic (1979-83) and covers a lot of the notable developments of that era: the increased professionalisation of the Nigerian music industry with the rise of high-tech independent labels like Phondisk and Tabansi, the rise of solo singers as the old bands died, the emergence of more women in the music scene, and so on.

The next one will probably be out in December, and it will focus on the venerable Semi-Colon Rock Group of Umuahia. Then in early 2011, we’ll have something concentrating on music from Cross River and Akwa Ibom States and then a spotlight on Benin-style highlife, and lots of other stuff in the pipeline.

Is royalty payment a big issue for you?

It is a big deal to me. A BIG deal. You see, one thing that a lot of people don’t know is that most Nigerian musicians of years past never made any money off the sales of their records. I mean, ask someone like Onyeka Onwenu if she ever made even one naira from record sales. There’s no way I can in good conscience perpetuate that kind of exploitation of our artists and so, it’s of the utmost importance to me that the original artists are paid, even if it’s not a huge amount of money.

CDs actually are not selling as much as they were ten years ago, so nobody is getting rich off selling discs. But one thing we’re working on is developing ways to licence the music for use in films, television, adverts, ringtones, and other applications, and hopefully we can make some decent money for the artists that way, because some of them really, really need it.

What do you hope to achieve with this project?

I’d love to tell you that I hope to become a millionaire from it, but I’m much too realistic to even fool myself with that, let alone fool you. If, as a result of my efforts, Nigeria’s rich heritage of popular culture becomes fully recognised and celebrated, and I get to see our national artistic legends reap some of the money and kudos they deserve, I think I’d call myself a happy man.

And if I’m able to even make a few pennies from it myself to stay afloat and continue doing what I do, that would be a bonus, because this is really expensive work and I fund it pretty much completely out of my own pocket.

What’s next after this?

Well, I don’t like to look like I’m this guy who is stuck in the past, because despite my interest in history, I’m very much on the cutting edge of culture! I want to sign some contemporary artists to Comb & Razor Sound; I’m just looking for artists who are really unique. What I would really love is to find a really cool, young Nigerian hard rock/funk band.

Also, this whole music thing is really a side track that I stumbled into over the past two or three years and it has taken me away from my work as a filmmaker, so I’d like to get back to making movies soon.

To that effect, I have some film projects I’m developing. I haven’t completely given up on the documentary either. I’m also working on a book on the history of Nigerian filmmaking, and a cartoon series for Nigerian TV.

Jayne Usen

Stoneface Iwuagwu - Happy Birthday

Stoneface was already a veteran of the Nigerian music scene when he formed this band [Remark: Stoneface And Life Everlasting] and cut their only 45 in 1973. Starting with the Tall Men in the mid 60's, Stoneface was soon asked to join the Postmen with legendary guitarist Goddy Oku and the great Sonny Okosuns. After a stint in the Hygrades he formed his own group with Kingsley "Dallas" Anyanwu (from the high school band Dee-Mites), lead guitarist Maurice "Jackie Moore" Anyaorah (from Salt & Pepper Organisation), rhythm guitarist Roy Obika and bassist Jimi Henshaw--and formed Life Everlasting.


01. Happy Birthday
02. Lonely Singer
03. Nana
04. Can't Stop
05. Burning
06. Twinkle Little Star
07. My Baby, Another Man's
08. Kpum Kpum Mkpu Ogele

Sep 16, 2011

Peter King - African Dialects

Peter King of Nigeria is perhaps better known in Europe and America than at home. this is because his "Miliki Sound" has sold very well out there, "Omolewa" is still blowing their minds like nobody's business, and they agree that the essential Peter King is "A Soulful Peter King" Needless to say that they also realise that Peter's "Moods" are many and varied.

A Lot has been said and written about the musical career and life of Peter King, but suffice it to say that outside of the great Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Peter is the only true and formidable multi-instumentalist on the scene today, very proficient in the technical execution of all the instruments in the reed family. A devoted jazz musician, Peter's tonal conception is in the Rollins-Ammons-Coltrane tradition.

When he plays a ballad, it is a religious execution as he observes all the sequence, improvising in a thematic style. On a typical Up-tempo, he does not justmake it funky, he wails as he makes the changes. What's more, he's monstrous, fierce and forceful.

Most musicians are now in the habit of mounting two tunes on an album - one groove on one whole side and another on the other side. Peter King believes in providing his fans with their money's worth. This is exactly what he has done here in "African Dialects" an album in which he has packaged for you a variety of sounds from various music categories including the soul rock and afro-rock feelings of African Dialect, Joy, Sunshine Lady and Jungle Boy; the unusual personal reggae treatment of Happy Song and Carribean Air: the highly inspiring highlife style of Adura; Sweet Soulful Congo with its gentle touch of Latin, not forgetting Gentleman Joe, a calypso professionally rendered in an nusual tempo.

Benson Odonije


With African Dialects, Peter King stepped into the scene

Spilling over to the 80s, the 70s was a big boom for the Nigerian music industry, especially in terms of new trends and dimensions.

And, although Nigeria’s Peter King who now owns a music school did not benefit in commercial terms from the sales of his records, some prevailing circumstances helped to prepare him for the challenges that lay ahead, inspiring him and giving him hope and the sense of belonging. The man through whom these favourable circumstances came forth; and to whom Peter King should forever be grateful as the architect of his fortune, is the late Sanu Olu. He made it possible through the release of African Dialects.

A classical case of being at the right place at the right time, it can safely be said that the late Sam Olu is the reason why Peter King is in the country today, sitting pretty as a music teacher.

But for Sam Olu’s intervention, Peter King, who had been coming home from his base in London and going back because he could not easily fit into the scene, should probably have been in Britain, still struggling with highlife fusion and the instrumentalisation of popular songs.

When he arrive at the country in 1979 to try and see if he could find his feet on a scene that was saturated with all kinds of fusions – Afro rock, Afro beat, Afro funk and Afro highlife, he was lucky to meet the late Alhaji Sam Olu who was angry with Decca West Africa at the time for a breach of contract. He had just set up a parallel recording establishment with a studio in Ijebu Ode, his hometown and an office in Lagos where he recruited musicians for his newly established recording stable, Shanu Olu Records.

His grouse with the then multi-national Decca West Africa was that without due regard for the initial agreement which made him the sole distributor of their records in Nigeria, the company suddenly reneged and brought in other distributors to share in the market. Determined to bring down the company to its knees, he attracted some of their major stars with better contracts deals. He enlisted Orlando Owoh, Maliki showman, Prince Adekunle, SJOB Movement Waziri Oshioma and a few others whom he snatched from Decca on his stable.

Eddy Grant had come from London and approached him for the contractual release in 1978 of Wipe Mon fe o, an LP that turned out to be astonishingly successful in Nigeria because it had a Nigerian song in it that was not only romantic but also generated an exciting, commercial rhythmic concept. Sam Olu did not have a knowledgeable and professional Artiste and Repertoire manager in his employment to discern for him what sounds were appealing or commercial. He rejected Eddy Grant’s album, which eventually became a big hit for EMI. Sam Olu regretted it afterwards.

Incidentally, it was about this same time – immediately after this incident that Peter King also came from London with African Dialects not wanting to take chances, not ready to repeat the same mistake, he jumped at it, hoping it would be a huge success, but it was not.

Quite a mixed bag, it contained songs of highlife calypso, rock, reggae and what have you. Unfortunately, it did not at all compare with Eddy Grant’s mono-cultural sound of wild reggae and ska which immediately appealed to everybody. But African Dialects parades some really good music.

Sanu Olu did not stop there. He helped P.K to clear his instruments from the airport and into the bargain, signed him on and gave him a Volkswagen Bus for carrying his instruments on engagements. These incentives lifted PK’s spirit and compelled him to stay. As for African Dialects, the album did not enjoy commercial success. Sanu Olu’s hopes were dashed.

However, I came into the picture to write the liner notes in 1979 saying:

• Peter King of Nigeria is perhaps better known in Europe and America than at home here in Nigeria. This is because his “Miliki Sound” has sold very well out there; Omolewa is still blowing their minds like nobody’s business, and they agree that the essential Peter King is A Soulful Peter King. Needless to say that they also realise that Peter’s Moods are many and varied.

A lot has been said about the musical career of Peter King, but suffice it to say that outside of the late great Rah saan Roland Kirk, Peter King is the only true formidable multi-instrumentalist on the scene today – very proficient in the technical execution of all the instruments in the need family. A devoted jazz musician Peter’s tonal conception is in the Rollins-Ammos-Coltrane tenor tradition.

When he plays a ballad, it is a religious execution as he observes all the Sequence, improvising in a thematic style. On a typical up-tempo, he does not just make it funky, he wails as he makes the changes. What’s more, he is monstrous, fierce and forceful.

Most musicians are now in the habit of mounting two tunes on an album – one groove on one whole side and another on the other side. Peter King believes in providing his fans with their money’s worth. And this is exactly what he has done here in African Dialects, an album in which he has packaged for you a variety of sounds from various music categories including the soul rock and Afro feeling of African Dialects itself, Joy, Sunshine Lady, and Jungle Boy, the unusual and personal reggae treatment of Happy Song and Caribbean art, the highly inspiring highlife style of Adura, Sweet, Soulful Congo with its gentle touch of Latin, not forgetting Gentleman Joe, a calypso professionally rendered in an unusual tempo.

At the time African Dialects was released, Peter King and such albums as Miliki sound, Omolewa, Moods and Soulful Peter King which was perhaps the most commercially successful in the market.

Sanu Olu Records which released African Dialects, had its head office at 100 Olateju Street Challenge, Mushin, Lagos. And to underscore the inestimable value he placed on this recording, he created a new label with it, called “Grandstar” – which African Dialects as number one – GSN 1001.

Like Haruna Ishola, Sanu Olu was one of the most adventurous and visionary indigenous label owners in Nigeria, but he died before his efforts bore fruit.

Benson Idonije


01. African Dialects
02. Happy Song
03. Joy
04. Caribean Air
05. Sunshine Lady
06. Adura
07. Golden Jungle Boy
08. Sweet Soulful Congo
09. Gentleman Joe

Sep 12, 2011

The Big Mean Sound Machine - Ourubros (download)

Ithaca's The Big Mean Sound Machine is a 10 piece ensemble that fuses elements of afrobeat, garage rock, funk, jazz, and dub rhythms to provide western New York with some of the dirtiest, fattest, grooviest beats ever heard. Seamed together by an amazing rhythm section of Angelo Peters on Bass, Andrew Klein on Drums, Bryan Davis on Percussion, Rob Tate on Organs, and Dan Barker on Guitars, the core of the group commands attention while providing a passionate and constant groove. Combine that with the talents of Bobby Spellman on Trumpet, Emily Pecoraro on Tenor Sax, and Remy Kunstler on Bari Sax, and you have polyrhythmic monster.


Saturday night, the local funk outfit The Big Mean Sound Machine brought their ten-piece act to Castaways and inspired all in attendance to get undeniably funky. The first thing that struck me about the band is that all of its members were having an absolute blast on stage. Bassist Angelo Peters and guitarist Dan Barker led The Big Mean Sound Machine and behind them were a dancing, smiling ensemble of percussionists, keyboardists and horn players. Frequently, members of the band would play different instruments in different songs, and musicians who were not playing their main instruments during particular songs would always add to the groove with maracas, cowbells, wood blocks and other rhythm instruments. The band acted as a veritable democracy of funk, in which every citizen plays an important role in the production of funky grooves, equitably distribuiting solos and acting as a cohesive unit.

The Big Mean Sound Machine describes themselves as a “Live Experimental and Electronic Afro-Beat, Funk and Dub” band on their MySpace. Despite that description’s unwieldy length, it does a good job at describing their ambitious sound, which got everyone in Castaways bobbing their heads and moving their hips. The music was entirely instrumental, but the spacey and psychedelic jazz that they played did not require lyrics to draw in the listener. Each song would start out with a standard afro-beat groove and then be brought to an extreme tempo or volume as it progressed. Peters’ talent on the bass was showcased during a powerful dub breakdown that occurred towards the middle of the show, during which his uncanny knack for grooving incited even the most dance-averse audience members to shake their stuff. A featured alto saxophonist layered the sound of the band with an ambient-minded, freeform style of play. His incendiary playing meshed with the psychedelic rhythms of the songs in such a way that made the jazzier songs that the band played seem more dangerous, like music from a jazz club on the brink of hell. Dramatic descriptions aside, that raw edginess was what I liked most about The Big Mean Sound Machine because it differentiated the band’s music from your typical jam band fare. The music was still smooth and funky, but the high energy of the band members showed me a raw passion that they had for their music that I normally do not feel at jam band shows, which can often seem aimless and meandering. The different musical styles that were explored throughout each song were all played with the same high level of intensity and kept the show from becoming monotonous by offering something new for the audience’s ears to enjoy on every track.

Castaways proved an adequate environment for The Big Mean Sound Machine. There were enough people at the show to fill up the dance floor but not enough to make it feel crowded. The audience was fun and only made the atmosphere around the show more exciting. There was not a noticeable Cornell presence at the concert, but the audience was nevertheless diverse, ranging from grizzled old barflies to promiscuous high school kids wearing fake mustaches. Everyone was visibly into the music, which provided for an exhilarating evening. One particularly avid fan named Mike provided me with what may have been the most accurate statement of the night when he likened one of the songs’ intros to a snake-charming melody.

If you are a fan of live music and don’t have anything against an instrumental concert, I would highly recommend going to see The Big Mean Sound Machine. The diversity of their music is engaging, yet always danceable and groovy, and they are a local band that has just as much fun as their audience.


1. March of the Machine
2. The Egg
3. Dr. Iguana
4. Drunk and Crying
5. Tongue Power
6. Tzar Bomba
7. Nice Vice
8. Jujumanji
9. Spacecakes
10. A Grain of Sand

Download by name the price you want:

The Big Mean Sound Machine- Ourubros

Out of Russia: Kimbata - Mea Culpa (download)

Unfortunately, I cannot find any Non-Russian information about this band, therefore, I just add a video I found:

For every Russian speaking person, Kimbata has a page here.

A couple of songs can be downloaded for free at lastfm here or check out below.


01. Mabuidi
02. Mokili Zunguluke
03. Mea Culpa
04. Nzengolo
05. Wa-Wa-Wa
06. Bakentu
07. Mwana-nsuka
08. Efreka-wella
09. Tukambeno
10. Mosala
11. Nayambele

Sep 10, 2011

New Daptone collection: EL REGO

El Rego is a true legend of African Soul Music. Here for the first time on album are 12 of his greatest recordings from the late '60s and early '70s hand-picked by Daptone Records. The album will be published on October 25th.

Afro-soul collector/DJ Frank Gossner had spent years combing West Africa tracking down 45s by Theophile Do Rego (aka El Rego) before finally meeting him face to face in his home in Benin. From that relationship came this album, which we present to you here in a twenty-page hardcover bookcase CD featuring El Rego’s own story of his life and music along with pictures from his personal collection and artwork from his original 45s. The music has been remastered with great care, and the vinyl contains an exclusive bonus 45 (while supplies last) of “Se Na Min,” one of his most sought-after Afro-funk tracks, backed with “E Ma Non Tin Me,” a beautiful and somewhat more traditional song about two blind men who agree to go together and leap to their deaths into a river.

If you want to listen, do it here:

The music of El Rego varies astoundingly in style and rhythm: traditional rhythms of Benin played with modern instruments, John Lee Hooker–esque blues, Fela Kuti inspired Afrobeat, Afro-Cuban clave, and straight-up James Brown–style funk. However, there is a common musical thread that runs throughout. The music has a raw soulfulness and a unique flavor that can be attributed beyond the sound of Benin, to the sound of El Rego himself. There is a timelessness to the recordings that ties all of the traditions that inspire them directly to the grooves that were dominating the radios and jukeboxes of the early ’70s. The record is teeming with breaking drums and twanging guitars, twisting bass lines, and undulating percussion. But most importantly, the rhythms are all crafted by a man that not only performed, but also owned nightclubs and had an intimate understanding of the importance of dancing.


1. Feeling You Got
2. Zon Dede
3. E Nan Mian Nuku
4. Djobime
5. Dis-Moi-Oui
6. Hessa
7. Kpon Fi La
8. Do Do Baya
9. Vive Le Renouveau
10. Achuta
11. Cholera
12. Ke Amon-Gbetchea

Bonus 45:

1.Se Na Min B
2. W E Ma Non Tin Me

Sep 7, 2011

Canadian Afrobeat: Miami Device

Miami Device is a 9-piece Afro-beat/Funk band based out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Since their inception in 2007 the band has grown from a small four-piece funk experiment into the deep grooving, Fela Kuti inspired, juggernaut that exists today. With heavy driven horns atop syncopated guitars and layered percussion they produce a dance inducing, highly energetic live show.

The band boasts an incredible roster of local talent including members of Five Alarm Funk, Rude City Riot, The Carnival Band and Foundation. Their dynamic, rhythmically complex and extremely funky live show has seen them share the stage with internationally acclaimed acts like K-OS and Chin Chin.

In 2008 the band had it's first release of a self titled EP for which they undertook all recording, mixing and creative duties. A new full length album is scheduled to be released in late summer of 2011 and is highly anticipated. A tour throughout Canada is scheduled to follow.

Miami Device's live show is a truly memorable experience. An incredibly unique sound and an energetic live show keeps venues packed to the brim and fans consistently coming back again and again. They are certainly one of the top up and coming live acts in Western Canada.

Miami Device


1. Illogico
2. Taurus
3. Monopoly

Sep 5, 2011

Who the f*** is Segun Bucknor?

Due to the fact that I recently re-discovered Segun Bucknor and listen to his music again, I thought I have to share some more information and reviews about him.

Segun Bucknor is definitely not a household name. It seems that when it comes to Afrobeat, the first and last name that comes to the mind of most people is Fela Kuti. However, there were many talented musicians who were Fela’s contemporaries that never garnered international stardom. Bucknor was one of them. He had a very brief career. It only lasted 6 years, but they were 6 glorious years. He might not have been popular internationally, but he was wildly popular in Nigeria, Ghana and Benin from 1969 to 1975.

The first thing people do with Bucknor is make the obvious comparisons to Fela Kuti. That’s understandable. What many people do not know is that Bucknor & Kuti are related. They are 2nd cousins. Like Kuti, Bucknor came from a wealthy family, so he went to school abroad. In the early 60s, he was enrolled in Columbia University. It was there that he was exposed to funk like James Brown. The funk influence is fairly obvious if you listen to Bucknor.

In his 6 year career, Bucknor had two bands. The first band was the Assembly, while the second band was called the Revolution. His music, much like Fela Kuti’s dealt with political & social issues. This did not go unnoticed by the Nigerian Government. Similar to when the Nigerian military stormed Fela Kuti’s Kalakuta Republic, Bucknor was in the middle of a performance when army guards stormed the stage. Unlike Kuti, he wasn’t able to continue. Fearing for his life, he abandoned his outspoken criticism of political corruption. This was the end of a brilliant career.

So, Segun Bucknor might not be a household name, but it’s a name that anyone remotely interested in Afrobeat, Highlife and funk music from Nigeria should know. He’s the real deal.



Segun Bucknor is a semi-forgotten figure in the history of Nigerian music, so much so that the only somewhat decent photo I could even find of him is the obscure image from the cover of the compilation Strut released a few years ago. His records are as hard to find as hen's teeth, and he's usually only mentioned as a footnote to Fela, as one of his lesser contemporaries on the late-1960s Lagos music scene.

Actually, the connection to Fela goes back a bit further than that. Segun Bucknor was born in 1946 into a well-regarded Lagos family of musicians; his cousin Wole--as part of the Afro-Jazz Group that also included Bayo Martins and Zeal Onyia--was a Nigerian jazz pioneer who tutored young Fela Ransome-Kuti on the piano.

(Wole Bucknor also featured as a member of an early version of Fela's Koola Lobitos and fathered at least one child with Fela's younger sister, Yemisi Ransome-Kuti. He went on to become the Nigerian Navy's director of music, and I think he is also the father of popular Lagos wedding planner and socialite, Funke Bucknor.) (Edit: Actually, he is not; Funke Bucknor-Obruthe is Segun's daughter, as is media personality Tosyn Bucknor.)

As a student at the venerable King's College, Bucknor sang in the choir, and at the age of 15 he got the chance to play and recorded with highlife bandleader Roy Chicago's Rhythm Dandies dance band. By 1964, highlife was becoming old hat for post-independence Nigerian youth; a Beatles-aping quartet called The Cyclops had inspired a wave of high school rock & roll bands. With three school friends (including future esteemed photojournalist Sunmi Smart-Cole) and played mostly covers of popular pop and rock songs. The following year, he left the band to study liberal arts and ethnomusicology at New York's Columbia University, and it was during his three-year sojourn in the US that his imagination was captured by a sound that had heretofore not made much of a splash in Nigeria--soul music, particularly the music of Ray Charles.

Bucknor sought to introduce soul music to the Lagos scene when he returned to Nigeria in 1968, but he found that he had been beaten to the punch by new bands like The Strangers (led by organist Bob Miga), the Hykkers (featuring guitarist Jake Sollo, later of The Funkees, Osibisa and general awesomeness) and most of all by "Nigeria's James Brown," Geraldo Pino (who was actually Sierra Leonean).

Bucknor swiftly reconnected with his Hot Four buddies and they formed a new band called The Soul Assembly, recording two sides "Lord Give Me Soul" and "I'll Love You No Matter How." The Soul Assembly disbanded in 1969 and reformed as Segun Bucknor & The Assembly, this time moving away from straight imitations of US soul and toward a more organically African expression of soul music. As has often been the case throughout the history of African popular music, Afro-Cuban rhythms served as the bridge between the Motherland and the New World, as evidenced on tracks such as "That's The Time" and "Love and Affection."

As Bucknor further developed his brand of Afro-Soul, he cultivated a flamboyant visual style to accompany it. Eschewing the sharp western-style suits that characterized popular musicians of the day, he and his band (now renamed The Revolution) appeared shirtless, festooned with cowrie shells. Bucknor shaved his hair into a demi-mohawk and added to the stage show a trio of insane, booty-shaking nymphettes called The Sweet Things:

Lately, a lot of music writers have tended to write Bucknor off as a Fela imitator or follower, but watching that footage, I can't help but wonder about the degree to which Bucknor influenced Fela in terms of visual presentation (he rocked the "jungle" costumes and the scantily-clad girl dancers first) and even in terms of the fusion of soul and African sounds.

One area in which I am fairly certain that Fela influenced Bucknor, though, is the in the increasing social commentary in songs like "Son of January 15th," (the date of the 1966 military coup d'etat that usurped Nigeria's First Republic) and "Pocket Your Bigmanism" (an indictment of the new Nigerian upper class).

In 1975, feeling that the cycle of Afro-rock/soul bands had run its course and was losing out to both the encroaching DJ culture as well as to the new generation of Yoruba juju musicians that had emerged in Lagos since all the Eastern musicians deserted the city during the civil war, Segun Bucknor disbanded the Revolution and concentrated on journalism. He still lives in Lagos and very occasionally performs, but I kinda wish he had kept going through the 1970s like Fela did and claimed his rightful place in the pantheon of innovators in Nigerian popular music.



Who Say I Tire is the "most complete compilation to date" focusing on the work of 1970s Nigerian Afro-funk musician and political activist, Segun Bucknor. Although history may have overlooked Bucknor's career in comparison with his legendary contemporary, Fela Kuti, this double-disc collection draws attention to a major talent. Key to Bucknor's musical development was a three-year period in the USA during the 1960s, meaning that on his return to Nigeria much of his early work featured a a newfound awareness of soul music and American funk. It was later, during the advent of the 1970s that Bucknor set about redeveloping the African aspect of his music, forming Segun Bucknor & The Assembly and subsequently Segun Bucknor & The Revolution. The transition was marked by switching from an onstage get-up of Western-style suits to bare torsos and shaven heads, marking a return to African tradition and roots. By the mid-1970s Bucknor had turned his attentions to journalism, but the political commentary and powerfully soulful sounds of his music remain a document of the times.


While he didn’t have the same longstanding career or notoriety as Fela Kuti, Nigerian singer, pianist, guitarist and composer Segun Bucknor was just as much of a trailblazer in what came to be known as Afrobeat. Like Fela, Bucknor started out playing in the popular highlife style. And like Fela, it was a visit to the United States (Bucknor studied arts and music at New York’s Columbia University from 1965 to 1968) that opened his eyes and ears to American soul music. Upon returning to Nigeria, Bucknor formed The Soul Assembly, a band whose sound closely echoed what he’d heard in the States. After that short-lived group ceased to be, Bucknor sought to combine the swing and drive of soul with a musical foundation that was more specifically African and a viewpoint that likewise reflected the growing radicalism of post-colonial Nigeria. He dubbed his new band The Assembly (later The Revolution) and the most complete compiling of his work with them is found on the double CD set Who Say I Tire.

Cues taken from the sweeter side of soul can be heard on tracks like “Only In My Sleep,” “That’s The Time” and “Love And Affection,” but it’s when tackling more prickly subject matter with “Adebo,” “Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow,” “Poor Man No Get Brother” and “Son Of January 15th” (which laments the day in 1966 when Nigeria’s prime minister was killed in a military coup) that things really sizzle. The music is raw, funky and consistently fine, and Bucknor’s is usually the only voice testifying above the chug of drums, percussion, guitar, bass, keys and horns. The nearest thing you’ll find to Fela-style rambling is on the song that gives the album its title, where Bucknor makes it clear that adversity will not hold him back. Despite such an assertion, he pretty much called it quits by 1975 and switched his focus to journalism. But he still performs occasionally in his home base of Lagos, and if the release of Who Say I Tire does anything to steer him towards more of a full-on comeback, that would be very good indeed.


Frustrated by the direction of Nigerian music in 1969, Fela Kuti decamped to the US for a tour that lasted around 10 months. He left a vacuum filled by Bucknor, who proceeded to sing songs of social commentary, criticism and political awareness, with an almost primeval African jazz-funk bent and stage presence. This double-album of early 70s rarities mixes a rhythmic, repetitive series of funk loops providing an almost hypnotic, drug-induced backing for Bucknor’s targeted lyrics.