Various Artists

Nigeria Afrobeat Special: The New Explosive Sound in 1970s Nigeria

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Nigeria Afrobeat Special is U.K.-based Soundway’s fourth volume in a remarkable series that documents the many truly funky records issued in that country between the late '60s and late '70s, most of which have been quite difficult to come by for decades. While Fela Kuti is the undisputed father of Afrobeat, the many other recordings on this 11-track release showcase many interpretations of his creation. Most of these sides were issued by Universal Music Group-owned labels: Philips, Decca, Polydor, etc. A few come from EMI and HMV as well. Still others were on African-owned independents such as Tabansi and Ashiko. The array of artists here is also remarkable. It ranges from the well-known -- Fela, Orlando Julius, Saxon Lee, Segun Lee, Bob Ohiri -- to more obscure ones to Western ears. The titles however, are all killer. Standouts include the 7" version of Fela’s “Who’re You.” This version was recorded in Nigeria and later appeared in a much longer one re-recorded at Abbey Road on his London Scene album. It’s this version -- with its insane tempo and full drum and bass assault, and the folk song played as Fela’s keyboard solo -- that is far preferable. Equally intense is “We Dey Find Money,” a ten-minute burner by Eric Showboy Akaeze & His Royal Ericos. This adheres to the Afro-beat formula but moves into hard Southern funky soul grooves as well; it includes chanted highlife choruses, too. Guitars and keyboards are in full-on distortion mode to make this one narcotic, sweat-inducing track. Lee’s “Mind Your Own Business” is a snaky, winding, hypnotic number that reflects Afrobeat’s trippier side. The jazzy, more North African-sound of Afrobeat is reflected by Andrew “Madman” Jaga's “Hankuri," and features him fronting Sir Victor Uwaifo's Titibitis. (That’s Uwaifo on guitar.) The amazing dub-like reverb effects on Julius' “Afro-Blues” are remarkable for the time period, and the calypso influence on the music on Godwin Omabuwa & His Casanova Dandies' “Do the Afro Shuffle” is undeniable. Compiled, annotated, and sequenced by the irrepressible Miles Cleret, this is arguably the finest volume in the series thus far.

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