Awon Ojise Oloroun: Popular Music in Yorubaland 1931-1952

Various Artists

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Awon Ojise Oloroun: Popular Music in Yorubaland 1931-1952 Review

by Richie Unterberger

Nineteen tracks from the early days of the Nigerian recording industry are assembled in this compilation, all of them falling into one of three styles: sakara, juju, and apala. Sakara is the starkest of these, with droning, chanting vocals, though percussion is used; juju is more rhythmic and danceable, and of course was a precursor of the more polished Afro-pop sounds of the late 20th century; and apala, which didn't emerge until the early '50s, placed more emphasis on rollicking drumming. While, in common with folk music from around the world, the songs commented on various facets of life, they were sometimes quite political or socially conscious in nature, sometimes specifically protesting British occupation. Much of this CD is folkloric in nature, and more a documentation of indigenous styles than a presentation of specific songs with commercial appeal. Nonetheless, some of the material will hold some interest for non-folklorists, particularly some of the juju cuts, which occasionally have exuberant ensemble vocals and beats that distinctly anticipate the danceable modern juju band sound. Akanbi Wright's "Everybody Likes Saturday Night" and "The 5 Nigerian RAF" in particular, with their train-rolling beats, guitar, and merry lyrics, wouldn't need much more than a fuller arrangement and clearer recording quality to sound like modern juju, though they were recorded in the early '40s. Full English translations are provided in the booklet, which also includes some detailed notes on the songs and the performers, and the sound transfers of these aged recordings are quite listenable.

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