Jan 27, 2020
“It’s a paradox, in a way, like you’d have in a dream – something that’s both light and heavy,” Wayne Shorter muses, speaking to Nat Hentoff for the liner notes of Night Dreamer, his 1964 album and first for Blue Note as a leader.
Night Dreamer takes its name from this album, and retains something of the essence of what he was trying to convey.
Working with Artone Studio, and located above Record Industry pressing plant in Haarlem, Netherlands, Night Dreamer specialises in direct-to-disc recordings – the process by which music is cut onto acetate from single-take live performances, without interference: Neumann microphone to Neumann lathe. From there, it is simply ‘walked downstairs to the pressing plant.
For musicians recording at Artone, the process speaks to Shorter’s paradox. The levity of liberation vs. the weight of expectation; trust in raw musicianship vs. vulnerability of exposure. It is in such alchemical moments of contrast that the essence of expression can emerge.
Every Night Dreamer release is produced using a wide range of vintage mastering and recording equipment assembled and painstakingly restored over seven years. With one of just four remaining RCA 76D mixing desks – the same model used at Sun Studios – alongside Westrex Capitol cutting amps, designed specifically for Capitol studios to record the likes of The Beatles and The Beach Boys, it brings together state-of-the-art, often bespoke gear that has never been bettered.
Shorter captured Night Dreamer in a single day, an art not lost on today’s musicians, who, although afforded a surfeit of choice, are as wedded to the idea of collaboration as those of previous generations. The methods are timeless, and the impulse is as contemporary as ever.
Labels: Seun Kuti
Jan 24, 2020
Segun Bucknor was one of the most important figures in the Nigerian music scene of the 70s, despite having only a brief career with his afrobeat unit which in 1972 released this superb album of which originals usually not turn up at any price. A reissue like this on JET RECORDS therefore is long overdue to enable every woman and man with a fondness for African popular music of the 70s to take a closer listen to this gem and fall in love immediately. What do we get to listen here?
Well, the album consists of four lengthy tracks with long instrumental sections that generate a swallowing atmosphere of sheer simmering heat and awakes the primal desire to dance within each and every listener. The first tune Sorrow sorrow sorrow showcases the talents of the bands brass players with a very prominent lead trumpet and saxophones duelling with each other. In jumps the organ as lead instrument for another long part and despite grooving on repetitive rhythm figures created by bass guitar, drums and percussions with brass instruments and organ adding more intensity to it the solo eruptions and duels in combination with Segun Bucknors commanding soulful vocal delivery really brand their progressions, lines and hooks into the listeners mind.
Gbomojo then combines the dark side of the early 60s post bop jazz with a relaxed, yet fidgety beat that draws influences from both, funk and rocksteady. The brass section creates haunting melodies with a goosebump factor. Then the organ freaks out and embarks on a leading part for a moment. More electric jazz comes to the surface as an important influence for Segun Bucknor, who stated Ray Charles as one of his heroes. Well, one of quite some more as it seems. The ongoing groove of the tune and especially the ticking of a special percussion instrument which is very prominent in the arrangement make this a rather hypnotizing affair. This tune is an all out instrumental but trumpet and saxophone take over the lead vocal duties here. Is this what John Coltrane might have emerged into if he was still alive in 1972? Back to his roots but with more of a groovy approach? Who knows? Segun Bucknor did it.
The title track that centers around the assassination of the popular Nigerian prime minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on January 15th 1966 is again a prime example of haunting afro beat that quite obviously differs from the American funk music of the day. The tune is based on a dense polyrhythmical groove network which builds the fruitful soil for the leading brass section to grow a forest of captivating melodies with more of these commanding vocals thrown in, telling about the political situation in Nigeria around those days and how the people overcame the dark period of time.
Too much darkness and tragedy might spoil the fun in some way so the closing track with nearly eleven minutes of length titled La La La comes as a more enlightened groover with happier lyrics and hot blooded rhythmical base upon which fascinating melodies lead a good life. Again the brass instruments get their solo parts but this is more of a dance track. Again the arrangements are a dense plait of instrumental lines, harmonies, vocals and rhythm figures. It is an utter joy to try to follow each instrument individually in this dense sound.
All in all this album really gets you in case you have an affinity for jazz, for funky grooves, for long tracks and for a simmering atmosphere. A classic that still got lost in time to be rediscovered by a new generation of music lovers nearly 50 years after the initial release. Haunting!
Labels: Segun Bucknor And His Revolution
Jan 23, 2020
Yankari advance the original Afrobeat genre by incorporating contemporary sounds, such as, jazz, funk, dance, rock-and-roll whilst keeping the traditional groove elements of Afrobeat.
This new sound has world-wide appeal and the Yankari fan base stretches from Ireland to Japan, Brazil to Spain, Nigeria to US.
Yankari founding members, brothers Segun and Michael Akano along with Uché Gabriel Akujobi, are originally from Nigeria and came together in Dublin while playing at various gigs around the city. Gradually through the love of music and rhythms from their Yoruba and Igbo cultures they created the groovy and energetic sound that is reminiscent of the Afrobeat greats of the 60's and 70's but with a modern twist. That sound is called Yankari.
Memoirs Of Our Time is infused with freedom, hope and justice and will keep you nodding and grooving while you loose yourself in its authentic sound. Yankari advance the original Afrobeat genre by incorporating contemporary sounds, such as, jazz, funk, dance, rock-and-roll whilst keeping the traditional groove elements of Afrobeat.
Combining rhythms, melodies and lyrics from Yoruba and Igbo tribes Yankari have a sound reminiscent of the Afrobeat greats of the 60's and 70's. Fuji, highlife and funk have been chewed up by the band to create a 21st century heavy groove. This new sound has world-wide appeal and the Yankari fan base stretches from Ireland to Japan, Brazil to Spain, Nigeria to US.
The band was formed by Gabriel Akujobi and brothers Segun and Michael Akano. A trio of multi-instrumentalist who cut their teeth as kids playing in church in Lagos. The brothers used to fight over who got to play the drums, this was before the either had a kit but instead used branches from a nearby tree to play rhythms that they had heard around the neighbourhood. 20 years later they would be known as the Akano Rhythm Brothers. In their late teens and early 20s they made a mint by travelling to parties all around London where they would start playing on Friday night and finish on Sunday afternoon, they’d play drums, keys, bass, guitars and sing. Later they made a living playing together at gigs and festivals all over Ireland and the UK.
They share over fifteen years of stage performance experience. Performing with several bands, theatrical groups, including Arambe Theater Production, The Dublin Afrobeat Ensemble, Rhythm Africana, Oleku, Simi Crowns, Akeeb Kareem and other collaborations. They drew from their cultural and ancestral rhythms, infused with other world music elements and instruments, to give off a vibrant sound with a distinctive message. The trio call on a pool of like minded dublin-based musicians from all over the world to bring the music alive at gigs and festivals.
Yankari aspires to advance the original Afrobeat genre by incorporating contemporary western sounds such as, electro-jazz/funk, rhythmic-dance and african rock-and-roll sounds whilst keeping the traditional groove elements of afrobeat music at core of the music.
The 10-piece band has headlined Bluefire Festival, supported acts such as, the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at the SugarClub, performed at the Dublin Africa Day Festival, The Global Grooves Festival in Drogheda and at many more.
Labels: Yankari Afrobeat Collective
Jan 9, 2020
Liner Notes:This is the first solo album of Alex Kunda, a musician who has faced the ups and downs of what it means to be a musician in this up-coming country. In brief, this is what Alex Kunda has been and is to date. Alex Kunda came into the music world between 1969 and 1970. He tried his luck as a drummer with the then “Cross Town Traffic” while at the same time working with the Zambian Broadcasting Services as a recording engineer. Things didn’t work out. In 1972, he tried again, this time as a promoter. Formed A&B Promotions with a close friend Billy J. Ndlovhu. Promoted bands like “Way Out Impression” and “Dr. Footswitch.” This time things flopped. […] The formation of the new Musi-O-Tunya band in 1972 opened a new chapter in the life of Alex Kunda after he quit the ZBS. M-O-T, which relied heavily on the power of the drums, gave the determined Alex a great chance to improve his percussion. His thunderous and hypnotic drumming earned him the name “Mista Feelings” in Kenya, where together with M-O-T he had played for three years and regarded it as his musical home. Determination and a great love of music have combined to produce Kingdom of Heaven, which ears can describe better than words.
A1. The Kingdom of Heaven (Kunda)
A2. Diya (Kunda)
A3. Think of the Nature (Mvula)
A4. Kulimbandangwe (Kunda)
A5. Changa (Kunda)
B1. Ulesi Uleke (Mbewe)
B2. No More Lie (Kunda)
B3. Zimbabwe (Kunda)
B4. Tendeleka (Kunda)
Jan 7, 2020
The Nigerian icon was harassed, censored and imprisoned for singing truth to power. Today power celebrates him.
Every time I see politicians and statesmen honouring Fela Kuti, I chuckle to myself and wish I could be there to ask with the utmost seriousness: "Are you, sir, recommending Fela to younger generations as a role model?"
I definitely had a good laugh when French President Emmanuel Macron came to Nigeria and, accompanied by Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, visited the New Afrika Shrine to pay tribute to Fela. It is funny because the state authorities Ambode represents now shut down the Shrine nine years ago for "disturbing" public peace.
In October 2017, he also unveiled a monument of Fela to mark 20 years since his death. The famed musician, composer, human rights activist and fierce political critic is now immortalised in central Lagos in a fibreglass statue clad in tight, gold-coloured clothes, reminiscent of the vibrant, eye-catching outfits he used to wear.
It is indeed funny and ironic that Fela is getting so much attention from those in power in Nigeria and elsewhere, given that he spent his whole career dissing their kind. He sang against governments and dictators, against colonialism and injustice, against oppression and censorship.
What he taught young people in Nigeria and beyond was to defy power, rebel and speak out - behaviour that both the Nigerian and French authorities are known to crack down on.
Fela, the one who captured death
Fela was not an ordinary man and he was not an ordinary artist. He accurately called himself "Abami Eda", a Yoruba phrase that roughly translates to "the strange one".
He was born Olu'fela' Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti in 1938 to a father who was both a priest and a teacher, and a mother who was an anti-colonial activist. Fela's family was relatively well-off, and he had a more comfortable childhood than most. He had access to the best education available at the time in Nigeria. He attended Abeokuta Grammar School and was eventually sent to Britain to study medicine, just like his two brothers.
In London, his rebellious and artistic spirit came out, and he decided to study music instead of medicine. He enrolled in the Trinity College of Music and formed a band named the Koola Lobitos. His band played "highlife" - a unique fusion of jazz and native African drums and rhythm popular in 1960s West Africa.
In 1963, Fela moved back to Nigeria. On a tour of the United States in 1969, Fela met Sandra Smith (also known as Sandra Izsadore) a member of the Black Panther Party. Smith's ideas had a significant influence on Fela. After meeting her, his music moved away from the feel-good rhythm and spirit of highlife and evolved into a new, politically conscious and rebellious Afrobeat genre, which he pioneered on his return to Nigeria. As the themes of his lyrics changed from love to social issues, Fela renamed his band The Afrika '70.
Fela soon dropped "Ransome" from his surname and replaced it with "Anikulapo", a Yoruba phrase meaning "one who has captured death and put it in his pouch", to convey a sense of invincibility.
At that moment, the legendary Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was born.
In 1970, he established a commune where his family and band lived and where his recording studio was set up. In 1971, he established a nightclub at the Empire Hotel in the Mainland area of Lagos called the Afro-Spot, where he would hold regular shows.
As the commune grew, he decided to call it the Kalakuta Republic after the Kalakuta cell in which he was kept during one of his many arrests. He made it a "republic" because as he said, "I wanted to identify the ways of myself or someone who didn't agree with that Federal Republic of Nigeria created by Britishman. I was in non-agreement."
In time, the Kalakuta Republic expanded to include neighbouring streets. In that creative space, everyone was permitted to do everything they wanted without harassment from the military regime that was then ruling Nigeria. Fela regularly smoked cannabis and encouraged his followers to do the same. Sex was also freely discussed and casually had among members of the community.
When he abandoned Christianity as a relic of colonialism and embraced local traditional religion, the Afro-Spot started to be known as the Afrika Shrine and him as its chief priest.
Fela performed there three times a week from Friday to Sunday, with the Friday show, dubbed the Yabis Night, drawing the largest crowds. On Yabis nights, Fela opened the show by mocking himself - mostly the shape and size of his head - and then moved on to mocking his band, the audience and finally government officials. Fela would diligently point out the silliness of a new government effort, dismiss it as a failure and then break into his famed free-flowing Afrobeat.
Over time the word "Yabis" came to mean "using light-hearted sarcasm to address serious issues" in the Nigerian lexicon.
His poignant lyrics often focused on the state of Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world, but he would also often throw in some lewdness. He would often break off criticising the government to talk about the beauty of a woman's body in an explicit manner.
His shows gradually became a focal point of the growing opposition to the military regime, which started to perceive Fela as a serious threat and used every opportunity to put him behind bars. He was regularly arrested on a variety of charges, most frequently for possession of marijuana.
The straw that broke the camel's back was his song titled Zombie, in which he sang about soldiers as mindless zombies who had no free will and followed orders without hesitation. The military decided it had had enough of Fela and his music, and sent hundreds of soldiers to raid the Kalakuta Republic under the pretext of an anti-drug operation.
The soldiers burned several houses in the area to the ground and beat up and arrested residents. Fela's mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, was thrown out of the second-floor window of her home.
When she died a few months later because of the injuries she sustained, Fela put her body in a coffin and took it to the gates of Dodan Barracks, which was the seat of power in the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo.
He was beaten by soldiers for his efforts, but his stunt further fuelled the Nigerian public's growing outrage about the incident. Obasanjo was forced to deny that he authorised the invasion and claimed that the act was carried out by an "unknown soldier". Fela later wrote two songs describing the events, named Unknown Soldier and Coffin For Head of State. In the latter, the artist sang frankly about how Obasanjo and his deputy Shehu Musa Yar'Adua killed his mother and how he carried her coffin to the gates of Dodan Barracks.
After the destruction of the Kalakuta Republic, Fela moved his shows to the Crossroads Hotel and made the Ikeja area of Lagos his new home. He continued living his Bohemian lifestyle, famously marrying 27 women in one day. His attitude towards women would be questioned and described as misogynist. Fela's life with his multiple wives was later turned into a musical, titled Fela's Life With His Kalakuta Queens, by Nigerian arts connoisseur, Bolanle Austen-Peters.
In the 1980s, the authorities continued to harass Fela. He resumed writing hit after hit and speaking truth to power. In his songs, he frequently criticised General Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy Tunde Idiagbon. In 1983, Fela was sentenced to five years in jail on trumped-up charges of "currency speculation". When he was released in 1986, he started writing Beast of No Nation in which he mocked Buhari for launching a public "discipline" campaign:
"Make you hear this one
War against indiscipline, ee-oh
Na Nigerian government, ee-oh
Dem dey talk ee-oh
My people are useless, my people are senseless, my people are indiscipline"
His lyrics also attacked then-South African Prime Minister PW Botha, British PM Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan. He also slammed the United Nations for not taking action to end the apartheid in South Africa.
When Fela Anikulapo-Kuti died of AIDS in 1997 at the age of 58, over one million Nigerians attended his funeral at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos Island.
After his death, his children continued his legacy. His son from his first marriage, Femi Kuti, who had started playing in Fela's band in the late 1970s, continued to follow in his father's footsteps and make music. Moreover, together with his sibling Yeni Anikulapo-Kuti he founded the New Afrika Shrine - an open-air entertainment centre in the Ikeja area of Lagos.
Recognised by power, forgotten by the music industry
One of the thousands of people who visited the New Afrika Shrine a few months after it opened in 2002 was a young intern at the French embassy. So captivated was that young Frenchman with what he saw, that he returned to the venue some 16 years later as the president of France.
On July 3, at a special event at the Shrine, Emmanuel Macron bantered with Femi Kuti, whose music and performances he had become familiar with during his time in Nigeria. Femi later told me that he offered to take the president to the upper terrace of the Shrine, and he agreed. He described how they went upstairs, with Macron's security detail and Governor of Lagos State Akinwunmi Ambode tagging along.
After years of persecution and abuse, it seems Fela's legacy is finally receiving the respect it deserves from the authorities he once mercilessly criticised.
But while his music and activism are finally gaining widespread respect, the Nigerian music scene is moving away from his legacy. In recent years, artists from Nigeria have won global acclaim for their songs - conveniently referred to as Afrobeat - but their music lacks Fela's spirit of activism or rebellion.
Conscious music - the type Fela created - is music that wakes people up to the things around them, to the reality in which they live in. It stirs the mind of the listener to reflect on life. Conscious music comes from an artist who is himself conscious of the world he lives in.
But Nigerian artists today seem to be living in a reality of flash and cash: singing about money and the good life while ignoring the daily struggles and misery of many of their fans. Some of them say their music is a reflection of what the fans want - in Fela's time there was also a good market for feel-good music, but he chose a different path.
And this is where the true irony lies. The man who was despised by the authorities is now recognised and celebrated by them in his death, but artists who claim to be inspired by him continue to sing songs about an illusory reality.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own.
Labels: Fela Kuti
Jan 4, 2020
"The past 5 years we have taken our music all over the world: Europe, Asia, Africa besides our homeland Denmark, and even though we cannot speak with many of the people we meet, our music is a universal language that transcends borders. The meetings we have had (and continue to have) all over inspire us to create new music. But of course we are the composers of the music, so this is our representation of those meetings.
Our 3rd album is called AFROTROPISM. Tropism is a biological phenomenon that indicates growth of a plant in response to the environment; so when you see a plant turning for the sunlight, this is tropism. In other words, this is not so much about the plant's roots but more about how it reacts when it touches the air, feels sunlight or rain - in other words the outside world. So AFROTROPISM refers to the fact that we are drawn towards the African traditions, but we are "growing" our own music.
On our first two albums we have recorded extensively with African musicians, and AFROTROPISM is centered around The KutiMangoes (TKM) as a band. We are developing our artistic direction by going more in depth with how we can mix our inspirations with our own musical heritage. Our musical mission is (and has always been) to mix cultures and create our own sound.
With our background in jazz music, TKM counts virtuoso instrumentalists with a heartfelt intent and sound innovators with our horns, effect pedals, synthesizers, drums and percussion from all over the world. AFROTROPISM is a further and deeper development of our trademark bold sound that experiments with synthesizers, soundscapes and a bit of electronic effects without losing it's focus on groove, melody, atmosphere and musicianship."
Labels: The KutiMangoes
Jan 3, 2020
BBE Music unearths ‘Palaver’, a long-lost, previously unreleased 1980 album from Ghanaian guitarist and songwriter Ebo Taylor.
If Fela Kuti was the king of Nigerian Afrobeat, then Ebo Taylor, 83 and still playing hard, is the king of Ghana Funky-Highlife. No doubt whatsoever. Much of Ebo’s beautiful 70s and 80s output has been reissued, as more and more Afro music lovers are being converted to his unique pan-West African sound.
In 1980 while on a club tour of Nigeria with his regular touring band, Ebo bumped into Chief Tabansi of Tabansi Records. They agreed that Taylor would record a one-album session to be released exclusively on Tabansi. Within a few days the deal was signed, the session completed, the tapes signed off, and Ebo and his band went on their way to complete their Nigerian tour.
But for reasons that no-one (including Ebo) can now fully recall, the master tapes got shelved in a dusty backroom in Tabansi’s Onitsha HQ. Where they remained, undisturbed, unreleased, unplayed, for almost forty years.
Last year, Peter Adarkwah of BBE Music signed off on a major multi-album reissue deal with Tabansi and its affiliated labels. ‘What about unissued material, if we find any?’ Joe Tabansi, Chief’s son and current administrator of the label, casually asked.
Yes, replied Peter- but WHAT unissued material?
Upon which, Joe produces these masters. The tapes are rushed to the redoubtable Carvery vinyl remastering and pressing plant in East London, and all at BBE soon realised that they had a masterpiece on their hands. All-new material, all Ebo’s own compositions, all recorded with Ebo’s crème-de-la-crème touring and recording players, including George Amissah. Mat Hammond, George Kennedy and George Abunuah among others.
Here it is, for the first time, anywhere. Ebo Taylor’s Lost Nigeria Sessions.
Labels: Ebo Taylor