The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970s Nigeria (Part 2)



Soundway 2010

LP (x3 Gatefold with 2 bonus tracks)

 Track list – 

Side 1.

1. The Thermometers – ‘Babalawo’ (3:39)
2. Colomach – ‘Ottoto Shamoleda’ (2:39)
3. The Black Mirrors – ‘The World Ends’ (3:47)
4. Reme Izabebo’s Music Research – ‘(Ayamayama) The Same Man’ (3:43)

Side 2.

1. Lawrence Amavi Group – ‘Money That’s What I Want’ (3:37)
2. The Hygrades – ‘Somebody’s Gonna Lose Or Win’ (3:09)
3. Ofege – ‘In Concert’ (4:14)

Side 3.

1. The Elcados – ‘Chokoi & Oreje’ (6:39)
2. Sonny Okosuns & Paperback Ltd. – ‘Ohomi’ (3:10)
3. Chuck Barrister & The Voices Of Darkness – ‘Be Kind, Be Foolish, Be Happy’ (3:30)

Side 4.

1. Action 13 – ‘Active Action’ (3:50)
2. The Actions – ‘Kpokposikposi’ (2:58)
3. The Strangers – ‘Oyne Ije’ (2:53)
4. The Comrades – ‘Bullwalk’ (4:18)

Side 5.
1. Ofo The Black Company – ‘Egwu Aja’ (3:51)
2. T-Fire – ‘You’ve Got To Fly’ (7:45)

Side 6.

1. Tony Grey & His Magnificent Zeinians – ‘Ugbo Ndoma’ (4:44)
2. The Semi Colon – ‘Isi Agboncha’ (5:27)
3. Celestine Nyam & The Voices Of Darkness’ (3:56)

Soundway’s continuous unearthing of rare, and mostly unheard outside their native lands, musical gems, always leads me to question, “just how have I lived for so long without the likes of Ofo The Black Company or Tony Grey & His Magnificent Zeinians?”
There has been a kind of resurgence of interest in all things African, mainly in Afro Beat and Highlife, but now in the many concomitant related off-shots and closely related sub-genres, such as psychedelia, funk, soul and rock.
Mostly this has been down to both the dedicated and assiduous work of labels such as Soundway and the equally altruistic Analog Africa; though bands such as Vampire Weekend do their best to parade a certain epigone pale imitation of the genre.This latest tome of Nigerian rock, heavily inspired by the developments that had taken place in the musical nerve centres of San Francisco, New York, Detroit and London during the mid 60s, is the second part of the World Ends saga – note the original CD version is split over two volumes for the sake of the vinyl enthusiast, with the edition of two extra bonus tracks.

Of course an implosive civil war in Nigeria put an end to merry music making and thoughts of sharing the giant love-in taking place during this epoch.
This former colonial jewel in the British crown turned self-governing independent success story, descended into violence, centred on ethnical lines, namely the sudden outpouring of resentment towards the Igbo people, who were one of the largest groups in the country and notable practitioners of the arts and music – especially Highlife and Afro Beat.
Fed up with the Nigerian governments dismal lack of support and protection they eventually formed their very own state, the Republic of Biafra, in the oil rich south east of the country. This triggered a three-year siege, which left three million casualties and turned neighbour against neighbour; though the besieged folk of Biafra still managed to keep recording and still absorbed the influence of the west, even if a fatalistic air of desperation led guitar player Feladey to quote “It felt like the world was ending”.
Eventually the government forces proved superior in supplies and strength, forcing the Republic to capitulate. Promises were made and the Igbo slowly returned to their old homes and went about their business, finally being able to embrace the last few years that they’d missed in musical development outside Africa.

A certain affinity to the godfather of soul, James Brown, the pumping brass and soul of Stax and the psychedelic guitar licks of Hendrix, led to an explosion in bands and recordings, making the 70s Nigeria’s most prolific decade of music and drawing the attention of labels such as Decca, EMI and HMV. Decca in particular jumped on the abundance of westernised influenced groups, setting up a new imprint called Afrodisia and further pushing these artists away from their traditional based sounds; though it must be said no matter how hard they tried you can still hear those distinctive twangs.

Sub-titled Afro Rock and Psychedelia, most of the fair on offer falls into the funk and soul categories, such as the New Orleans stoking shuffler ‘(Ayamayama) The Same Man’ by Reme Izabebo’s Music Research, and the oozingly cool James Brown yelping Hygrades stonker ‘Somebody’s Gonna Lose Or Win’ – which even has a cheeky “sock it to me” at the end.
There’s also the floor-shaking Lawrence Amavi Group, whose ‘Money That’s What I Want’ sounds like a lost Kent Records organ crazed soul classic. The later, almost sophisticated, disco sounds of 70s Motown are adhered to on the eight-minute extended 12in like mix, of T-Fires infectious slow-building mover ‘You Gotta Try’. This indolent blast of Earth, Wind and Fire crossed with Chic dancefloor filler, begins with a sauntering intro before turning into a pumped-up salsa-esque groover, that wouldn’t sound out of place on the first Daft Punk album.

Ofege’s ‘In Concert’ also picks up on the disco vibrations, with this floating percussive whirlwind of a funk flyer proving a lively belter. The title is a red herring as this track was actually recorded in a studio, and surprisingly has an overdub synthesiser by Curved Air’s Francis Monkman. Psychedelic riffs come courtesy of The Actions ‘Kpokposikposi’, almost tripping up over its own frantic placed timing, bombastic in audacity. It reworks a traditional children’s game into a squealing fronted guitar shamble, bedecked with crazy stumbling rhythms and yelps.

Ofo The Black Company go all-out on their psych number ‘Egwu Aja’, pumping out a rough as hell acid-rock number, that sounds like Santana fronted by James Brown. Whether psychedelic or just bad-ass, this compilation shows-off the many talented guitar players that sprang up in the country, after the instrument of choice swapped from horns to the axe – in the earlier 60s amplification had been at best primitive, making it impossible to be heard above the maelstrom of brass and horn sections beloved of Highlife combos. Now in the 70s the guitar was king, with every aspiring Hendrix getting in on the act, fusing the more traditional various style of African rhythms to the effects pedal and scratchy experimental playing of the psychedelic and acid-rock era.
Plenty of examples of animated and excitable guitar playing run wild throughout this album, The Strangers favouring a gargling wah-wah effect on ‘Onye Ije’, whereas The Comrades go for some sumptuous bouts of noodling intricate jazz riffs on their instrumental ‘Bullwark’. The Colomach’s ‘Ottoto Shamoleda’ lets loose with some cutting effervescent rich scuzzy licks, that probe throughout the track.
There’s also plenty of screaming insane squealing Hammond, pounding backbeats, tribal infectious percussion and heavy rolling wondering bass lines to go around, daring you to not leap off your Ikea sofa and throw down some moves on the axminster.
Once again Soundway come up trumps, forcing me to purchase yet another one of their essential releases, rather then eat this week, yeah thanks you guys.
Lavishly presented and designed, with Uchenna Ikone’s vital sleeve notes, full of exhaustive details from someone who has a fan boy obsession towards these desideratum bands, The World Ends is one of the most complete compilations yet, and will take some beating – essential purchase in other words.

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