Soundway Rec. V.A. : Nigeria Rock Special (NI,1971-1979)*****
It was a long time clear to me that Nigeria was an important centre as a country to spread music around Africa, from which especially certain styles like highlife (originally as an influence in style coming from Ghana since the 40s) spread rapidly and globally, especially through the importance given to Fela Kuty the time of the sixties especially Rolling Stones had their impact on music in Africa.
In Nigeria, the music quickly flourished after the terrible war, which ended in 1970, and quickly evolved with creative force over highlife to rock, funk, disco and more highlife, before the military coup in 1976 changed the positive views towards the future for much too long.
In the early 70s Ginger Baker (Cream) visited Nigeria to recruit some musicians or band, took some musicians over to the West for a tour, who when they returned lead to the formation of BLO, a specific Nigerian rock sound was born.
When producer Odion Iruoje, who was trained in the UK and worked for EMI Nigeria, had made a big sale for EMI with Fela Kuti despite his previous lack of success, he was given free choice to produce whatever he wanted. Therefore he also promoted and formed the strong sound of the new rock scene. (13 of 15 tracks listed on this compilation were produced by him). He also had a few session musicians which he kept at his disposal like bass player Kenneth Okulolo and guitarist Berkley Jones (who played to the Ofege recordings at his proposition).
The scene knew a somewhat short living, but powerful and very successful (psychedelic) rock period, which according to the liner notes consisted of two different strands. On one hand there was BLO, Mono Mone, Ofo The Black Company and Ofege based in Lagos, and the East bands like The Funkies, The Wings, Tony Grey & His Magnificent Einians, The Hygrades, The Actions (Action 13), The Strangers, The Apostles, One World and The Founders 15, with one exception, The Elcados from the North. When the rock groups on EMI gained their successes, Decca formed on their hand the now popular Afrodisia label, signing Ofo The Black Company, and also Blo for their second album, showing a different and a bit more popularized production sound. Philips on the other hand remained releasing highlife. The rock period didn’t last very long, (-to the disappointment of Berkley Jones, again according to the liner notes-), because the bands moved towards disco and funk, while others moved to Europe and the US.
We’re only lucky that a person like Miles Cleret had set up serious local research to make these Nigerian music compilations so that we finally get a better view of the scenes, and especially with this album, also the psychedelic rock scene, which according to narrow and some common interests never was investigated so thoroughly before. The liner notes despite giving a great introduction also provide backgrounds on each group listed. Ofege is one the most known bands listed. Still interesting to know is that their second album features the keyboardist of Curved Air, Francis Monkman. Colomach were the only band coming originally from Mali, but were discovered by Iruoje when they were playing in Lagos. Perhaps also good to know is that several bands sang in English.
What I think was so great about the scene, and the music presented, is the perfectly balanced/produced, often rather warm sound, with great multiple rhythms, some hypnotic sounds of organ, always interesting bass, and good (fuzz) electric guitar solos, and sometimes funky guitar effects, or rather unique hypnotic Afro-funky rhythms, making each track listed on this album a must-have heard. Highly recommended !
Also the more Afro-rock styled groups, like for instance The Wings bring themselves into the psychrock territory by moody organ and fuzz guitar solos, with great varied rhythms. Also Ofo The Black Company’s Afrorock’s sound has such improvised elements and electric fuzz guitars solos making them still fit well into the same scene.
I hope also some of the original LP’s will be re-released on CD/LP soon.
Other info found :
"If the West had Ofege, Tirogo and Blo, the East had Aktion, a hard rock band based in Warri."
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