More Afro-beat and modern highlife, this time from the label Soundway and focusing on the 1970-76 period in Nigerian music.

‘Nigeria Special: Volume 2 Modern Highlife, Afro Sounds and

Nigerian Blues 1970 -76’ – Compilation Album

Even the cover can’t contain itself

Soundway Recordings 2010

Vinyl (Gatefold x3, with 2 bonus tracks) / MP3 / CD

Side 1 :

1. Fubura Sekibo – Psychedelic Baby     (3:10)

2. Black’s’ Zenith – Shango Oba Onina     (2:58)

3. Twins Seven – Seven and His Golden Cabretas – Totobiroko (Ogbele)     (2:54)

4. The Professional Seagulls Dance Band of Port Harcourt – Ibi Awo Iyi     (4:12)

5. The Otarus – Omohupa     (3:35)

Side 2

1. The Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination – The Lords Prayer     (3:11)

2. James Etamobe & His All Weatther Band – Agboyabakpa    (3:07)

3. The People Star – Onwu Dinjo     (6:53)

4. Bola Johnson & His Easy Life Top Beats – Jeka Dubu     (3:04)

Side 3

1. Emperor Dele Ojo & His Africana Internationals – Jekoyewa  (5:19)

2. Commander in Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe & His Nigerian Sound Makers – Onyebu Chi     (3:39)

3. Paulson Kalu Afrikhanah & His Stars 25 – Ochea Special     (3:18)

4. Fidel Sax Bateke & The Voices of Darkness – Motako     (4:53)

Side 4

1. Opotopo (Easy Kabaka Brown) – Agboho    (8:50)

2. Eric Akaeze – Ajambene     (4:54)

3. Etubom Rex Williams & His Nigerian Artistes – Isip 2     (3:32)

Side 5

1. The Peacocks International Guitar Band – Onye Aghala Nwanneya


2. The Nkengas – Anyi Bundi Igbo     (3:09)

3. Joy Nwoso & Dan Satch – Egwo Umu Agbogho    (4:48)

4. Mary Afi Asuah – Ima Mma Nyem     (5:01)

Side 6

1. Tunji Oyelana & The Benders – Iwo Ko La Dami     (5:30)

2. The Ikenga Super Stars – Aku Nke Uwa     (9:47)

Both the Soundway and Analog Africa labels have spoilt us Afro-beat loving fans of late, with a catalogue of lavishly packaged compilations, which have so far taken in the golden eras of Nigerian, Ghanaian and Benin music.

Soundway in particular have released some spectacular painstakingly and lovingly chronicled volumes, including the recent aficionado favourite Ghana Box Set Special.

With the newly released Nigeria Special Vol. 2, they carry on the good work laid down in the original Volume 1 released in 2007),  side-stepping the many sub genre editions of Nigeria disco, funk, rock and Afro-beat specials to go full circle and return to where it all began.

The well researched and fondly written sleeve notes – booklet in the CD version – rectify that they have aimed to return to the less frantic styles of the countries music scene, digging deeper into Africa’s most populace and culturally diverse region and pulling out classics from the most productive period.

At a time when the west was enjoying the benefits of an openly counter revolution in both culture and society, where an explosion in the musical landscape produced possibly the greatest period in history for making a record, poor old Nigeria was pulling itself out of the mire of its own self styled revolution.

A leftist led toppling of the government in 1966, which ended in a blood bath, led to counter coup and revolt; the Igbo ethnic group of the country suffering the worst of the handed out atrocities and the violence.  The Igbo were one of the largest groups that made up the rich multi-diverse groups in the land; they had a huge hand in the music industry and their absence sent the scene into turmoil for a while.

Unfortunately total civil war broke out when the Igbo people declared an independent state of their own, establishing the Republic of Biafra in the south east of Nigeria.

30,000 plus lives lost in the ensuing war and countless victims of starvation later, the three-year conflict was brought to an end just in time for the start of a new decade. The Igbo people returning back to the cities they’d abandoned now threw themselves back into making music and recording, a new decade of creativity flourished amongst the backdrop of Nigeria suddenly benefiting from an oil boom; they even joined OPEC in the early 70’s.

At least for a while things looked pretty good, with a shared enthusiasm to make a positive change, until the embezzlement, corruption and overcrowding began to cripple the country once again by the end of the decade.

Even now the deeply untrusting split between religious groups is causing problems, tit for tat massacres have escalated, though its possibly more to do with the problems of poverty.

This new optimism of self belief now propelled the music scene into its most heavily dynamic period, taking the heritage and influence of Fela Kuti and local legend extraordinaire Rex Lawson, whose legacy is heard throughout the diverse range of styles on this album, having formed many of the bands and playing with a whole host musicians found throughout this LP before his untimely death in 1971.

Jazz, blues, Latin Cuban rhythms, soul and inspired acts of funk are all absorbed into their own traditional scene.

In short we have here Africa’s very own Nuggets, an untapped source of rarities, album tracks and un-released material from across a clutch of labels, including Afrodisia, EMI Nigeria and the Akpola imprints.

Just like those undiscovered garage bands of North America, we take a glimpse snapshot of the groups posing for grainy photos, like some recently uncovered artifacts, their beaming joyous expressions of unadulterated musical comradeship leap out at you. They are every bit as important in heritage and historical terms as those so-called big names, that these guys never managed to quite excel to.

The music found on this bountiful LP ranges from the opening highlife of Fubura Sekibo, whose conga enthused raw grooves, take a hit of Ghanaian melodic intensity and heavy clattering breaks. To the sensuous trumpet blasts and belts of Latin American boogaloo found on the long windily titled Commander in Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe and his Nigerian Sound Makers.

Those Latin melodies crop up in the cabaret band sound of The Professional Seagulls Dance Band of Port Harcourt; whose slow sweetly laced vocals serenade the listener, all the while ripe Cuban beats clutter away in the background.

Heavy doses of soul are splashed ceremonial style over the Black’s Zenith track – ‘Shango Oba Onina’, a liberal dash of the Bar-kays with funky r’n’b trumpets blurt out the melody. A parading strutting bass line bounces around all over the dance floor as the drums equally get in on the act.

On the Don Issac Ezekiel Combinations funked up rendition of the ‘Lords Prayer’, we are treated to The Temptations ‘Ball Of Confusion’ played by an ecclesiastical Sly Stone, as blistering semi-distorted drums and bass cause a furore.

Bordering Benin infects the sounds of James Etamobe and his Weather Band, who take the jumped up jamboree rhythms synonymous with that regions own unique style.

Real gritty raw break beats are liberally dotted all over the tune, sending some of that Juju magic through every one of your dancing limbs.

Stand out tracks include the r’n’b Hammond stab staccato cheer of Fidel Sax Batke and the Voices of Darkness, which booms out more of those distorted bass drums and foot tapping conga rhythms. The free wheeling back beats all start to go in different directions at the same time, sounding like two opposing bands playing the same song but back to front. Unbelievably amazing.

The only two female led vocal tracks fall to the Rome trained opera sirens Joy Nwosu and Mary Afi Usuah, who are both backed by Nigerian Dan Satch.

They both add a touch of sublime quality and enchanting adoration, delicately mixing the traditional voice of yore with elated aspirations of jubilation.

The first of these tracks ‘Egwo Umu Agbogho’, begins with Joy showing her vocal prowess, while bleating trumpets sing their very own sweet song of despair. Like the Staple Singers finding their roots, part soulful, yet entirely African.

Our second of these tracks – ‘Ima Mma Nyem’, is a more upbeat affair, that leaves plenty of sparse space for Mary to let loose her vocal torrid of skills, her dexterous larynx bellowing out a encapsulating performance.

Finally one of the most outstanding tunes is Opotopo’s ‘Agboho’, a highlife odyssey of seductive silky melody and rattling cowbells and percussion, led by a meandering bass line, that carouses and bobbles its way back and forth. This wandering jam is filled with solos, as each member of the band is allowed to take turns to shine on this ambling peregrination.

The Nigerian Special Volume 2 is a criterion for the more laidback aspects of Afro sounds, an ethnographical account in song of an era that has become slowly pieced together; collecting many fans along the way – me included.

Both influencing past and present music scenes and bands in equal measure, including this blogs featured CAN, Soundway do a sterling job of recounting the almost innocent vibrant exuberance of these many groups at play.

It is easy to see why these compilations are starting to become increasingly popular, the stores I frequent always selling out of their copies, though I’ve yet to find a club night dedicated to it yet.

There’s a real sense of cherished commitment going into these records, so show you care and pick up a copy.

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