Jan 31, 2012

Lemi Ghariokwu - THE amazing Afrobeat artist

"Anoda Sistem" by Ghariokwu Lemi

Lemi Ghariokwu is a Nigerian artist and designer who is most renowned for providing many of the original cover images for the recordings of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti.

His work involves a variety of styles, often using vibrant colours and individuated typefaces of his own design.

More than 2,000 album covers have been designed by Lemi, including covers for Bob Marley, E. T. Mensah, Osita Osadebe, Gilles Peterson and Antibalas.

Many of Ghariokwu's cover images echo and sometimes comment on the work and politics of the recordings that they accompany, serving a consciously integrated metatextual function.

Ghariokwu's approach to his work with Kuti involved listening to and digesting the music and then expressing his reaction in his paintings, design and comments which provide a high level of detail on the many album covers he delivered.

Lemi's relationship with Fela Kuti was very cordial. He gave Lemi total freedom with his work and thoughts to the level that he just did as he pleased, albeit responsibly, with how and what he wanted to express. Lemi had the rare previlege of putting his photograph and comments on some of the covers and was treated like a son, friend, adviser and comrade by the Afrobeat legend.


Lemi Ghariokwu: Afro Art Beat from Damien Priest on Vimeo.

An amazing article can be found here!

More information can be found here:

Ghariokwu Lemi at myspace!

Ghariokwu Lemi at wordpress!

Jan 26, 2012

F. Kenya - The Powerhouse Vol. II (get it)

Dr. F. Kenya is probably one of the greatest living highlife guitarists in Ghana. His two Powerhouse LPs, which he performed on and composed, epitomize the seriousness of the guitar band format, up to par with such luminaires as Nana Ampadu or K. Frimpong.


A1. Ewule Ama Mandobe
A2. Benwonyia
A3. Nzema Kotoko
A4. Aya Bomo
B1. Bodeba
B2. Mewu A Bezume
B3. Woahonl
B4. Ada Melangoa

Jan 25, 2012

Interview with Afro-Funk Legend Joni Haastrup

Multi-instrumentalist Joni Haastrup is widely regarded as one of the major figures in post-highlife Nigerian music. Alongside his group MonoMono, Haastrup was quintessential in the innovation and development of Afro-funk in 1970s Lagos. Okayafrica sat down with the legendary musician to talk about his recordings, playing with Ginger Baker, and his close relationship with Fela Kuti.

The Interview

You grew up in a royal household in Nigeria, can you tell us a little about your family’s background and your upbringing?

When I was born, my grandfather was King Owa Ajimoko III of Ijesha land in the then Western region of Nigeria. Since I was the youngest at that time, and because of the king’s special love of my father’s family, I was always on the king’s lap in palace whenever we went there. My family is a large group and each of the king’s sons (including my dad) had their individual family houses in town or the suburbs. The king lived in the palace and our dads were given their own individual lands and houses in the town or villages away from the palace. We visited the palace to visit our grandfather on weekends or during ceremonies.

How did your interest in music begin? Any particular acts, bands or people that you remember steering you towards music?

One day in 1954 after school closed, my older brother Segun came back home and decided to introduce the penny whistle to me and he started teaching me what turned out to be my first music instrument. He was the school bandleader at that time, I naturally became his assistant being the only one he taught the penny-whistle to, as well as the only person who accompanied him during morning and end of day assemblies, parades and shows. I learned everything I know musically from, and was inspired and motivated by, my brother.

How did your relationship with Ginger Baker begin? Can you talk about your role in Ginger’s Airforce and SALT tours?

One night in 1969 when I sang with Clusters International in Lagos, Nigeria, we had just returned from a national tour of the country and I went to Kakadu night club. I was then invited to sit in with the Hykers pop group on a couple of songs — The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and Sly Stone’s “Sing A Simple Song”. As I came off stage-left, a tall looking white guy came off his seat to congratulate and invite me to come sit at his table where he was sitting with some members of the Nigerian media. He then told introduced himself to me as Ginger Baker of Cream and Blind Faith with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce and about this new band he just started in London called Ginger Baker’s Air Force II. He told me about the three ladies who sang back ground vocals in the band. He told me that the way he heard me sang those two songs I did with the band showed him that I could join his band in London and sing background vocals with Aliki Ashman, Diane Stewart and Jeanett Jacobs.

I never went on the Salt tour with Ginger Baker. When I left London and went back to Lagos, my next career goal was set… to start my own band in Lagos and play all original songs composed and arranged by me. That was the beginning of MONOMONO, a five-piece all original combo playing all my songs in the clubs and shows. I labeled my music genre Afro-funk. The first Afro-funk song was “Give The Beggar A Chance” which I produced in 1971, recorded and released by EMI in Lagos in 1972.

How did recording for the Give The Beggar A Chance LP start? You used Paul McCartney’s studio? Can you elaborate on the process?

When I started singing with Ginger Baker’s Air Force II in 1970, Denny Laine left the band to go play with Paul McCartney‘s Wings. I arrived back in Nigeria and started MONOMONO and then we heard that Paul MacCartney and Wings were coming to Lagos to record their debut album. I was informed by the A&R manager of EMI who also hinted that Paul was bringing a 16-track board from EMI London to use for his production.

Since EMI Nigeria only had a 2 track Akai tape deck which I and Fela used for our recordings, I started lobbying EMI for the retention of the 16-track after Wings’ production was finished and they returned to England. I convinced Fela to lobby with me, and with both Fela and myself who were then EMI’s top artists, they had little choice but to please us and keep the 16-track equipment in Lagos.

MONOMONO then became the first band to record on the first 16-track board in EMI Nigeria. Although I had been recorded in several 24-track studios in England, it was the first time I produced a record on a multi-track board. My first independent production Give The Beggar a Chance was on a 16 track gear – the same gear used by Paul MacCartney’s Wings. I squeezed every drop of juice from the board in that production and the result made that album sound as good as it did.

Was it different recording in Nigeria and London (like you did with Wake Up Your Mind)? Did you find one of those cities better for your recording process?

The first time I arrived in England and went into Trident Studios with Ginger Baker and the 10 piece Airforce II, there was definitely a nostalgic difference. This is because the studios that we used in Nigeria were all single-track studios. I really enjoy recording my tracks in Lagos because the environment is the best for Afro-funk music. Every thing is perfect, so your feelings about the music don’t get diluted. Hence, I produced all MONOMONO tracks in Lagos and for The Dawn Of Awareness, we did overdubs and mixing in London. Wake Up Your Mind was from left-over tracks from the London mixes of 1978. All I did in the US was master those tracks at Capitol studio in Hollywood.

People cite a wide range of influences, from Hugh Masekela to The Doors, when talking about your music, What are some artists you truly hold as essential to the formation of your own sound?

Creating my own sound was not patterned after anybody else but my own sounds that I heard and felt in my soul. When I hear a song in my head, my spirit picks up the melody and rhythm and I just start singing all the instrumental parts and so I get the music together first and then write the lyrics. With MONOMONO I was able to rehearse the songs with the band immediately and so everything is always fresh when the band begins to learn the songs. I spell out each instrumental part to each musician and because we were all on the same wavelength, Kenneth learns the bass first and so when I start working with the guitar player and drummers it was easier to communicate the melodic and rhythmic ideas to them.

Finally, I had to ask about you and Fela Kuti. You were both acquaintances, but some reviews name you both as rivals. What was your interaction with Fela like? Were you a fan of his music, and vice-versa, was he a fan of yours?

When Fela came back to Lagos from London where he had been studying music, I was singing rock ‘n roll covers in the early 60s. He worked as a radio producer for NBC in Lagos and performed with his band Koola Lobitos at night in the clubs and on Saturday nights.

I moved to Lagos in 1965 and immediately started going to Sunday afternoon pop shows promoted by young pop music promoters who bought British pop songs and encouraged us to copy them so that we could form pop groups in Lagos just like the English boys did in London and America.

All this time, Fela Ransome Kuti played jazz trumpet with his band Koola Lobitos. And then something happened, show promoters who had been buying rock ‘n roll discs started bringing in soul records from USA and by late 1965/66, we all started singing James Brown (“I Feel Good”, Wilson Picket (“Midnight Hour”), Otis Redding, etc. The soul music era made it possible for us young people to start enjoying recognition from the youth of Nigeria. Simultaneously, the same thing was happening in Ghana and all across West Africa.

Fela and I became friends when I went up to him one night to ask if I could sing one of his songs with his band. At first he wasn’t willing to have me sit in with his band because as he said then, I was a cover soul singer and his music was jazz based. He didn’t think I was up to it (singing his songs with his band) He told me “none of you soul and rock ‘n’ roll singers can sing my songs with my band because the music is too advanced for you all”. I told him “try me”. The next weekend he decided to try me. He announced my name to his audience and invited me to come upstage and sing one of his songs, I went upstage and performed one of his songs with his band Koola Lobitos. When I came off stage, Fela confessed to me that he never thought I could do what I did with his band and that whenever I came to his club I should expect to be called on stage to sing.

From that day Fela and I became good friends and closer than he had ever been with any local musician. I substituted for him in his band in 1969 when he had to come to the US to sign a contract for his band’s US tour. Afro beat music was born during that tour in 1970.

okayafrica.com, written by Kam

Jan 23, 2012

MonoMono - Dawn of Awareness

Soundway Records and Tummy Touch are proud to present "Dawn of Awareness" the second album by Joni Haastrup's band MonoMono. Re-issued on CD, LP and digital, the LP comes with a bonus 12" featuring two extra tracks. Amid the OPEC oil embargo, Watergate and IRA bombs, the sound of MonoMono's follow-up record, 1974's Dawn of Awareness, took on the bluesrock grooves of Santana and Hugh Masekela but with their own unique Yoruban flavor. A deeply spiritual record, Dawn of Awareness was Haastrup's reaction to what was going on in the world around him. One hears echoes of the Allman Brothers' Revival on MonoMono's Awareness is What You Need and after listening to Plain Fighting you could easily imagine the band sharing the stage with the Doobie Brothers at an East Side San Jose street festival.


Nigerian multi-instrumentalist Joni Haastrup may not be the household name Fela Kuti is, but he is as indelible a part of Afro-beat and Nigerian music as the Black President is. Haastrup was the vocalist on O.J. Ekemode and his Modern Aces’ 1966 album, Super Afro Soul, which was one of the early, formative Afro-beat records—an album a then-unknown Kuti played trumpet on (before he picked up his famous saxophone). He also toured with Cream’s Ginger Baker in 1971, replacing some guy named Steve Winwood, and then went on to form his own band MonoMono before moving on to his own solo work.

Soundway Records has now smartly reissued the first two MonoMono records—1971’s Give the Beggar a Chance and 1974’s The Dawn of Awareness—and Haastrup’s 1978 solo album, Wake Up Your Mind. They come on the heels of their reissue of Remi Kabaka’s great Afro-jazz soundtrack Black Goddess, where Haastrup played keys, and these albums further prove that his nickname—they called him the “Number One Soul Brother”—suits him quite well.

These three albums are all brief—each clocks in under 40 minutes—but they show a heavier soul mix in Haastrup’s vision of Afro-funk and rock music. If James Brown was a huge influence on Afro-beat in general, then Haastrup is his closest musical student. These are tighter compositions than Kuti’s, but they still manage a similar dichotomy: they are dynamic and shifting and yet build tension and inertia on insistent repetition.

Give the Beggar a Chance is a sweet and soulful debut that highlights Haastrup’s voice—his honeyed vocals are a far cry from Kuti’s gruff, spare singing and keyboard work. Playing with guitarist Jimmy Adams, bass player Baba Ken Okulolo, and percussionists Candido Obajimi and Friday Jumbo, Haastrup’s work with MonoMono doesn’t always feel much like the sound of a band. His vocals are mixed way high, as are his keyboards, and his larger-than-life charm nearly overwhelms the songs. Still, if you sift through the layers, the band is a tight outfit. They shift carefully, but effectively, tone and tempo throughout the record. “The World Might Fall Over” moves from Haastrup’s keyboard vamps to a bright and sped-up group jam, before settling into a smoldering soul number. “Find Out”, one of many strident calls to action on these albums, has a similar push and pull. The shifts are subtle, but in such relatively short compositions, they catch you off guard and keep you interested.

But if that album was a confident first step for Haastrup as leader of his own band, The Dawn of Awareness is a more cohesive and resonant sound for the band as a whole. The keys mesh with Adams’s careful guitar work and leaves space for the bluesy thump of Okulolo’s bass work. It’s a moodier set—recorded in the wake of the OPEC oil embargo and scandals like Watergate—and Haastrup dials down the Brown-ian showmanship in favor of a genuine and deep anger. “Ipade Aldun”, the longest song on any of these records, is a brilliant turn, insistent in its pounding beat and powerful group singing and, driven by a great solo from Adams, it is the band at its most cut-loose and impressive. It sets up the funkier space of “Make Them Realise” and the feverish shuffle of “Awareness is Wot You Need”. This album takes Haastrup’s raw charisma and his band’s promise from the first record, balances them out and makes them both shine. It is, of these three, the finest example of Afro-funk and Afro-beat Haastrup offered, and acts as a smoother counterpoint to Kuti’s larger musical furies.

Haastrup’s solo record, 1978’s Wake Up Your Mind, is as soulful and funky as its MonoMono predecessors, and in some cases comes off as larger than them. The horn section on “Free My People” delivers expansive, bright hooks, punctuating the drawn-out sweetness of his vocals with immediate punches of sound. As the title implies, Haastrup was still fighting for awareness, trying to bring consciousness to the people to affect change, but there’s a distinctly more hopeful sound to this record. “Champions and Superstars” seems like a guileless, and even goofy, ode to football players (or soccer, if you prefer), but it’s also a very real declaration of national pride. If there’s worry all around these songs—and there is, more than the MonoMono records—Wake Up Your Mind resides in the hope of coming change and not the despair of national repression. Haastrup recorded this record in London, with what seems like more resources, and the resulting album sometimes falls prey to late ‘70s recording sheen. The airy keys and thin drums on the title track, or instance, sand down its fangs a bit. Overall, though, it’s another solid set.

Taken together, these albums represent a musician in Joni Haastrup who distinguished himself from the other greats in Afro-beat while still remaining true to the sound. With MonoMono and by himself, he succeeded on his beautiful voice and innovative keyboard work—think Ray Manzarek, only more playful and, you know, good—and used them to shake the people up. In that way, these albums work as a pretty convincing whole, moving from worry to unrest to burgeoning hope, one thumping song at a time.

popmatters.com, written by Matthew Fiander

The second release by Nigeria's MonoMono was originally released on LP in 1974. Thankfully, the folks at Tummy Touch Records revived the music of MonoMono, which features the work of Joni Haastrup and his friend, Baba Ken Okulolo. The original six songs are presented on this rerelease. The blues, rock, psychedelia, and funk elements are quite pronounced throughout. The instrumental segments are especially intriguing, as they set the stage for a perfect soundtrack to lounge around, dance, or trip-out. The down-tempo elements of 'Make Them Realise,' cnojures up comparisons to the North American group, Action Figure Party. The soul of Yoruban funk emanates from the tracks without causing boredom or sleepy episodes. The Dawn Of Awareness is a little more blues and rock-driven than the previous release. Still, MonoMono knows how to move those feet with rewarding results.

Matthew Forss


The second album in a series of three reissues from Nigerian bandleader Joni Haastrup, Dawn of Awareness was the sophomore effort by his band MonoMono, following their very impressive debut, Give the Beggar a Chance. It's tempting to read more into the two albums' titles than one probably should: while the first album focused on relatively concrete social issues (best song title: "The World Might Fall Over"), the mood on Dawn of Awareness is a bit more introspective. Sonically, this is real Age of Aquarius stuff: the grooves are at times downright spacy (note in particular the acid-drenched "Awareness Is Wot You Need" and the only slightly less discursive "Plain Fighting"), and even by Afro-pop standards they sometimes focus a bit too much on the extended elaboration of a single two-chord idea (note in particular the jazzily pretty but eventually rather tedious "Get Yourself Together"). But those ideas and their elaborations are consistently attractive, and there are moments of genius here; "Tire Loma da Nigbehin" is very lovely, and "Ipade Aladun" surprises with its spoken word intro (a defense of the band's energetic stage presence: they may jump around on-stage as if drunk, Haastrup explains, but it's only because they love the music and want to share its energy) followed by a startlingly slow, almost deliberate groove counterposed by vigorous and heartfelt vocals. This album is more uneven than its predecessor, but very much worth hearing.

Rick Anderson


The Dawn of Awareness sees the MonoMono Band expand on their previously set role as social commentators. Joni Haastrup looks beyond Lagos at the volatile state of the world, as did his American contemporaries at a similar time at Woodstock - war in Vietnam, the OPEC oil crises, Watergate and the IRA bombings.

The psychedelic cover bears a strong resemblance to the artwork of Marti Klarwein - who illustrated Carlos Santana’s Abraxas and Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew - and sets an appropriate tone for the blues-rock grooves of the album. Santana once again shows to have been an influential guitarist in Nigeria. The Latin percussion of Abraxas also surfaces here, imitated well by Candido Obajimi and Friday Jumbo. Their shakes, scrapes and subtle drum hits provide the perfect backdrop for Jimmy Adams to plug in his guitar and let rip, often taking over the second half of the songs with an impenetrable amount of feedback. This makes for a more established formula than on MonoMono’s previous Give The Beggar A Chance: Haastrup’s heartfelt vocals, sometimes in English, sometimes in Yoruba, sometimes a personalised mish-mash of the two, Adams on guitar, Obajimi and Jumbo workmanlike in their simple percussion style.

When you consider the political situation in Nigeria, The Dawn of Awareness is more daring than other protest albums of the 70’s. “Awareness is what you need,” warns Haastrup, clearly not one turn a blind eye in fear of the consequences of the government. “If you see a man cry and don’t ask why, you can’t look yourself inside.”

Clyde Macfarlane


01. Plain Fighting (Your Life Is What You Make Of It)

02. Ipade Aladun

03. Get Yourself Together

04. Awareness Is Wot You Need

05. Make Them Realise (Everybody's Gotta Be Free)

06. Tire Loma Da Nighbehin

Vinyl Bonus Tracks

A: Water Pass Gari (Pts 1 & 2 edited together)

B: Kenimania (7" version)

Jan 19, 2012

The Brighton Beat - The Brighton Beat LP (free download)

Boston's new afrobeat group. Bringing together a wide range of influences and sounds, aimed to bring you joy to your ears and movement to your feet.

The Brighton Beat was formed in 2010 out of a love for afrobeat, old and new. Although it's a new project, the musicians in The Brighton Beat have been playing music together for years. Realizing their common love for jazz and afrobeat, they decided to set forth on an adventurous path, writing their own interpretation of afrobeat-funk in today's modern world. The band takes influence from many styles; everything from Fela Kuti and Antibalas to John Coltrane, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood help spark the creativity of the group. In late 2010, they recorded their first self-titled EP, which has received rave reviews in the jazz-world. Their unique approach translates into an invigorating live performance, combining tight arrangements, fresh grooves, and a very jazz-influenced sound. The Brighton Beat is sure to be a fun, interactive, and memorable show.

The Brighton Beat

1. Pinball
2. Changing Elevators
3. Giraffe
4. Capture The Flag
5. The Paradox
6. Indian Summer

The album can be officially downloaded for free here!!!

Jan 17, 2012

Asiko Rock Group - Asiko Rock Group (get it)


01. Every Body Get Down
02. Let's Marry
03. Shadow Of The Boogie
04. Together Again Never To Part
05. People Talk
06. Solo, Mon, A Ndoan
07. Lagos City

Jan 16, 2012

Fire Tongue - Wayo Bring War

Born in Cameroon in 1971, he plays the guitar, the keyboards and accordion since the age of 6. After growing up in Yaoundé where he learned jazz with his guitar teacher, Fire Tongue leaves for Nigeria where he discovers Fela Kuti, a vaster field of expression that seduces him.

He meets Rex Lossen, Etienne T-Boy, Geraldo Pino and plays the first part of Fela Kuti in 1995. Fire Tongue forms T-Boy with Etienne (Golden Album in Africa) and moves to Paris where he plays in prestigious venues such as New Morning, Divan du Monde, Flèche d’Or …

In 2002 Discograph releases their maxi vinyl “Bring Peace”. At the recording sessions the encounter with the sound engineer was very important and ended up with the sound engineer actively participating in the recording of this work, a very genuine but modern afro beat, that goes from blues to dub, from afro beat to electro the whole of it preserving an original purity in its musical conception.

Fire tongue depth and fluent music has given a new life to afro beat, Fire Tongue is a new sensation that brings together tradition and modernity.

Press release



01. Aié/Commot for Road
02. Wayo Dey Bring War
03. Poéhitiky Madness
04. We Get to Do It Together
05. When Afro Meets Blues
06. Send Some Hope
07. Wayo de Bring War [Dub]
08. Aié/Commot for Road [Instrumental Version]
09. Poéhitiky Madness

Jan 12, 2012

Fela Kuti's Lover and Mentor Sandra Smith Talks ...

At the time of his death in 1997, Fela Anikulapo Kuti was known by many names: Afrobeat pioneer, a political instigator, husband to 27 wives, just to name a few. The Nigerian musician had spread his fiery brand of African party music around the world, serving up biting social commentary sugar-coated with blasting horns, slithering Rhodes keyboards and undulating beats that ignited global dance floors. His incredible life is chronicled in the critically acclaimed Broadway musical Fela! -- opening at the Ahmanson theater this week -- which follows Fela's rise to musical prominence, acerbic political criticism and his deadly clashes with the Nigerian government. But before Fela became an international phenomenon, it was here in Los Angeles that Fela found his sound and vision.

Fela and his band came to Los Angeles in 1969 as just another international act, and left in 1970 ready for revolution. Musician and social activist Sandra Smith (now Izsadore) witnessed it all first hand. She was Fela's guide, teacher and lover while he stayed in the City of Angels. "Sandra gave me the education I wanted to know," Fela told author Micheal Veal. "She was the one who opened my eyes. For the first time I heard things I'd never heard before about Africa! Sandra was my adviser. She talked to me about politics, history. She taught me what she knew and what she knew was enough for me to start on."

LA Weekly recently caught up with Sandra to talk about Fela's L.A. days and his evolution to becoming an African icon.

The interview

Describe that first time you saw Fela Kuti.

It was [jazz musician] Juno Lewis who had insisted that I come with him to see this group form Nigeria. I was somewhat apprehensive, but Juno was so insistent that I see this group that he came and picked me up. We went to the Ambassador hotel for a NAACP event. I looked up on the stage, and Fela was looking down, and there was an immediate connection.

I was sitting at the table, enjoying the party, and Juno came over when the band had an intermission, and Juno said that someone wanted to meet me. So when I went to the bar, Fela was there. Juno was instrumental in making that happen, and might I add, my life has never been the same since.

What was that first conversation like?

It was very raw. The first thing out of his mouth was, "Do you have a car?" And I said yes, and he says, "Good, you're going with me." Just like that. We got together that day and we were together until he left.

I laughed because I was the one with the car, so I thought that he was cocky and somewhat arrogant. He was different than any of the other African student that I had met. So the curiosity set in.

Where was he staying?

Inglewood. There was this man named Morris, and he had extended his home to them. Then the situation changed, so my parents had this back house that no one lived in, so my parents said they wanted to help. So Fela and the band were housed for back there. It was August of '69 when I met him, and they were here since I think maybe March of '69. Then they had to leave because there was a disgruntled Nigerian man who brought them here from Nigeria, and all that he said he was going to do for them fell through. It was Americans who came in to the rescue. The generosity of African Americans here [was] how Fela and the band could stay here. Everyone was trying to help them stay in the country. We saw them as our brethren.

Tell us about the Citadel de Haiti and that series of shows Fela's band played there.

It was the club of Bernie Hamilton, the brother of Chico Hamilton, the jazz musician. Bernie was an actor and he had this club, The Citadel De Haiti. It was at 6666 Sunset. They don't even have that place anymore, the address itself is even gone.

It was great club, just no clientele, so he hired Fela to come in, and he paid him under the table. In a little bit of no time, that club was packed. Everybody knew that there was this great Nigerian band who was just off the chain.

What was Los Angeles like back then?

This was a time that African Americans were becoming aware of ourselves. Everyone was embracing Africa at this time. Everyone was wearing dashiki's and James Brown sang "I'm black and I'm proud, say it loud." That was all going down, so there was this positive energy. And of course, it was the dawning of the age of Aquarius. Hair was playing at a theater across the street from the Palladium, where the Nickelodean studios are today. The cast would come over and hang out at Bernie's place after they did their show. It was such a revolutionary time here in Los Angeles.

What was your relationship like with Fela?

I was in love. From the time we met, we connected on a very strong level. We were together constantly in L.A. And remember, I had a car. I was really good to make sure he made his concerts and stuff.

It was really exciting when he auditioned for Disneyland. I was like, "ooh, a free trip to Disneyland!" I was so excited, but at the end of the day, I was disappointed.

Disneyland told Fela that he wasn't playing African music. They wanted him to play in Adventureland.

They had thought he played just stereotypical African music, like what they have on the Small World ride?

They thought he was going to be something else, and they said that he wasn't playing African music at all. How do you tell an African man, playing African rhythms who had studied African music, that he is not playing African music? Crazy. So that was Disneyland.

He broke down these notions of what Africa is. He represented an urban Africa.

That's what was so impressive about him. He was the real first urban African man I met. Everyone else came from rural areas. He was different.

What were your conversations like?

He would talk about Africa and I'd tell him about America. Meeting him, I was under the impression that I was going to learn everything I needed to know about Africa. Not knowing that I would be teaching him. I didn't know at I was teaching him anything. At that time, this stuff was just common knowledge. I had been attending the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad, and I had attended the Black Panther Party and SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] through school. Through those organizations that I [gained] different knowledge, and I shared that knowledge with Fela. He was learning from me, without me being aware that I was teaching.

At that time, I had learned about all the great African kings and all that. Because I hadn't learned it in school, I hadn't learned it in church, and my parent had hidden the ugly truth of America. When I became aware, I became very angry. I couldn't understand inequality. So I was like, we can change this.

How did this knowledge affect Fela's music?

When I heard Fela's music, after we had been spending time together. I heard them rehearse, and I liked it, but I had no idea what he was saying. So I asked him, "Fela, what are you saying?" He said he was singing about his soup. He was singing about nothing. I laughed and I said, "That doesn't make sense, you should use your music to educate. You should write songs that have meaning." I was looking for African pride, and I looked to my own African King, and he told me that there was no pride in Africa, at that time. I was shocked.

When H.B. Barnum, the music director for [original Rat Pack member] Joey Bishop's TV show, and Duke Lumumba brought him in for the 1969 sessions, Fela started writing music that had some meaning for his people. When he went back [to Nigeria], he was a changed person. It wasn't until 1976 that I learned that it was [because of] the books that I had given him and that knowledge he came into at my mother's home.

All that time I thought that Fela had taught me about the world, but he told me that I, in fact, had taught him.

What happened after Fela left Los Angeles?

It took me ten years for me to get over Fela. I wasn't about to be part of his harem. When I met him he had one wife, but when he left the planet he had 27. He married them in one day! I was very fortunate to say that I had the opportunity to live at [Fela's Nigerian compound] Kalakuta too. It was a party every day. I was there in '76, I lived there for three or four months.

Then I tried to untie myself emotionally from Fela, so then I moved to England, where I got tied up in a new kind of music. Reggae. Back then, it was just the Wailers, so I partied with Bob Marley. By the time I had gone through everything with Fela, I knew that with Bob Marley, it was time to stay back.

written by Drew Tewksbury, L.A. Weekly, December, 13th 2011

Jan 9, 2012

Idrissa Diop & Cheikh Tidiane Tall- Diamonoye Tiopité

The newest of micro-labels rescuing early African popular music, from the "golden age" decades of the 60s and 70s, is Teranga Beat, and its first release is crucial. Diamonoye Tiopité chronicles a transformative period in Senegalese music, when mbalax arose from the shadows of the Afro-Cuban music that had dominated pop culture for many years.

The vehicle for illustrating this music history is the early career of Idrissa Diop and the band SAHEL. This CD collects three selections from Diop's first solo record, 1969's Diouba, including the immensely popular "Yaye Boye" that became essential for every Senegalese band to cover. Four songs from SAHEL's epochal Bamba recording sessions follow, including two songs that did not make the record. These tracks, taken from the rescued master tape, are the highlight of this wonderful Teranga debut. The Cuban rhythms are deep, the sound lush, and the horns bright. The organ solos and guitar of band leader Cheikh Tidiane Tall: Inspired. "Bamba" inserts sabar drums and traditional rhythms, thus innovating the first mbalax hit, with its catchy Touba Touba refrain. "Caridad" is one of the best African salsa recordings I have heard, funky and faithful at the same time.

The remaining five tracks collect two from an Orchestre Cheikh Tall & Idrissa Diop record, plus three previously unpublished recordings Idrissa Diop did with SAHEL in 1976. While the sound quality of these last tracks is more marginal, they do illustrate a completed transition to mbalax, with the tama talking drum taking its important role.

Diamonoye Tiopité is an Idrissa Diop revelation and education for me. I had only known the percussionist and singer from his later European recordings, which invariably leave me ambivalent with glossy, rock-oriented over-production. I'll post one of those albums in the next few days. This new CD of wonderfully fresh, old music gives me much more respect for Idrissa Diop and his important contribution to Senegalese music history.



Idrissa Diop [Idy] grew up in the Guelle Tappé neighborhood of Dakar and began playing music when he was just 8 years old; he formed his first band at 13 and recorded his first solo effort, ‘Dioubo’ [Peace] at 19, a subtle blend of traditional Senegalese and Latin music. Under the wing of the impresario Bass Goumbala the band Sahel was formed, a grouping of talented Senegalese musicians, which included Idy along with producer Moussa Diallo who together recorded the LP Bamba, in which Latin and Senegalese music were fused to create the first strains of Mbalax [pronounced balach], the sounds of which went on to inspire noted talents such as Youssou N’dour, Thione Seck and Omar Pene . Following this accomplishment, Idy went on to record the Orchestre Cheikh Tall & Idrissa Diope , played with the aforementioned Cheikh Tall, one of the most highly respected keys players in Senegal, and which was produced by Ibra Kasse in a further fusion of Mbalax and Latin. The first release on the Teranga Beat imprint is a compilation of tracks from the aforementioned LP's alongside an array of unreleased material recorded by the band Sahel.

Almost all the recordings are either previously unreleased, or published exclusively for the local market. This first release on Teranga Beat is a compilation of music created by one of Senegal's most important and highly respected artists, Idrissa Diop, highlighting his recordings made from 1969 thru 1976, including the last one's he made in Senegal before relocationg to France. Much of it with a great blend of Senegalese and Cuban elements! The rhythms are wonderful, spinning out in these hypnotic ways, and often encouraging a bit of descarga-like jamming from the musicians, especially on the longer tracks'.


01. Dioubo
02. Tioro Baye Thierno
03. Yaye Boye
04. Cintorita
05. Con El Sahel
06. Bamba
07. Caridad
08. Kaële
09. Massani Cissé
10. Fonkale Garape
11. Diamonoye Têye
12. Gueth

Jan 6, 2012

From Ghana: Akwasi Yeboah's Band - Obaatan (get it)

Highlife from Ghana! Unfortunately I cannot find more information ...


01. Obaatan Pa (Good Mother)
02. Obaa Yi Ho Ye Fe (Beautiful Woman)
03. Aboa Abirekyire (The Wisbom Of A Goat)
04. Adam Nana Rekoo (Mother Nature)
05. Ade Akye Asa (The Beginning And End Of A Day)
06. Koose Part 2 (Daily Bread)

Jan 3, 2012

Elvis Yeboah and his Justice 7 Band - Obiara Ne Negyaade

Consistent highlife lp recorded by the former City boys band member.


01. Obiara ne negyaade
02. E'ngu manim ase
03. Enti medofo yi awu ampa
04. Ye saa daa
05. Medofo siaah
06. Anka mewobi