Oct 18, 2012

Pazy and the Black Hippies



While Reggae music had its prominence in 70s Nigeria, it was highlife and Fela Kuti's afrobeat that gave the country its own musical national identity. Originally from Southern Nigeria’s Benin City, Edire “Pazy” Etinagbedia and his band The Black Hippies released their second LP, Wa Ho Ha on EMI Nigeria in 1978 building on a body of work that effectively glides between these styles creating an incredibly unique record that has become a cult classic. Wa Ho Ha features Pazy and his Black Hippies engaged in call and response vocal anthems all backed by incredibly deep rock steady grooves and afrobeat rhythms filled with funky horns and psychedelic guitar accents. Recorded in the legendary EMI Nigeria studios, Wa Ho Ha typifies the 70s Nigerian sound enthusiasts the world over have come to know and love, but puts an inimitable twist on it.

This rare gem has been lovingly remastered and the original art work painstakingly restored. Used copies seldom appear on the market, and when they do, it’s usually in small private circles and you could put yourself through a semester or two of community college for what it costs to obtain a beat-up copy. Available on CD and vinyl, Secret Stash is proud to partner with Comb & Razor to present the first ever reissue of this funky rarity. As always, the LP version includes a free digital download of the entire album and the CD version comes in a premium digipak.

secretstashrecords.com  

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Some information by amazing Comb & Razor:

As I have stated a few times before, I have something of a love-hate relationship with Nigerian reggae. I mean, I've actually warmed up to it considerably over the past year or so (mostly for scholarly reasons) but as I have precious little space in my personal collection (and even preciouser little money to spend on vinyl in this wintry economic climate), when I'm shopping I usually veto the Naija natty riddims right off the bat.

Thankfully, they're usually easy to identify too, since 1980s album designers took to stenciling jagged lettering and red-gold-green hues on every goddamn sleeve. Or my other rule of thumb is: "When in doubt, just avoid any LP that depicting persons with dreadlocks."

Pity me; for my prejudice almost made me pass on Pazy.*

In fact, I did pass on the record twice before I finally picked it up on a whim... Well, actually, it was a bit more of an educated process than just a "whim"; after all, my aversion is chiefly to reggae from the mid-1980s onwards and the orange-and-black EMI label on this disc suggested that it was from the 1970s... 1982 tops. And while I didn't recognize any of the musicians listed on the back (Pazy Etina? Makos? Colins Osokpor? James Etina?), none of them were credited with "Linn drum programming" or "synbass"--Jack Stone was even given as playing the organ and not "keyboards"! So yeah, I figured that if nothing else, at least this reggae record would be rootsier than the tinny Casio skank that scored much of the Babangida and Abacha eras.

Sure enough, the album does start off with a couple of decidedly tasty reggae cuts--one minute into the inaugural track, the lovely Carlton & the Shoes-esque "Comfort Me JahoJah" (never mind how it's spelled on the back cover), I already knew this was to become one of my favorite records--but soon veers off into some heavy psychfunkrock of the brain-frying variety.
 

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Review

Unearthing an album from Nigeria’s 1970s which is blending afrobeat with reggae music is a dream come true for any music lover. Apart from the quality of ‘Wa Ho Ha’, it really captures the spirit of that age – just take a look at the cult cover.

Back in 1978 reggae music was still enjoying its heyday and Bob Marley was becoming a universal figure while at the same time Fela Kuti had just released his smash hit ‘Zombie’ (1977) and his sound was already extremely popular in Nigeria and beyond. As the ‘developing world’ was certainly living its own musical revolution, punk was already at peak and British bands were increasingly looking at Jamaica for new sounds (not to forget Bad Brains in the US). The common denominator of all these musical movements was a youthful spirit of rebellion and in some cases a serious contestation of social norms and political elites.

 Afrobeat and highlife (as imported from Ghana in the 1920s) shaped much of the cultural identity of Nigeria – Fela Kuti is still considered a musical and activist luminary of his time and his sons Seun and Femi still carry the torch. What is lesser known is that reggae had also its prominence in Nigerian 1970s. Edire “Pazy” Etinagbedia and his band  ‘The Black Hippies’ hailing from Benin City of South Nigeria managed to combine rock steady beats which point directly back to 1960s Jamaica with Nigerian afrobeat drizzled with hints of psychedelic rock.

 The album starts in a rock steady fashion with ‘Comfort Me JahoJa’ and ‘My Home’ but then it slowly drifts towards the afrobeat territory with the funky soul/pop of ‘Come Back Again’ and the afro-centric funk rock of ‘Elizabeth’ which closes the A side of the album. The second side is more upbeat with afrobeat being centre stage thus the songs are slightly longer. Both ‘Wa Ho Ha’ and ‘Lahila’ are memorable afrobeat anthems with ‘Papa’s Black Dog’ in the middle having a strong early-Funkadelic flavour.

Pazy’s ‘unkempt’ falsetto dominates the music in the first songs while the instruments take over progressively (the last three songs are almost instrumental). You can expect a quality recording in the legendary studios of EMI Nigeria, top-notch musicianship and a punch of attitude typical of that times as described above. I must admit that Pazy’s out-of-tune vocal leanings might turn some people off but those interested in the music of the 1970s will definitely embrace this reissue. More than anything ‘Wa Ho Ha’ is a cult album.

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SIDE A

  1. Comfort Me JahoJa
  2. My Home
  3. Come Back Again
  4. Elizabeth
SIDE B

  1. Wa Ho Ha
  2. Papa’s Black Dog
  3. Lahila

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