Various Artists

The Rough Guide to the Music of Nigeria and Ghana

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The Rough Guide to the Music of Nigeria and Ghana Review

by Chris Nickson

It might be more apt to call this a guide to some of the musical styles of Nigeria and Ghana. While both highlife and juju are well represented, with the less conspicuous, very percussive Fuji genre evident in the track by Adewale Ayuba, something's missing -- Afro-beat. One can only assume the label couldn't license any tracks by Fela Kuti or his son, Femi; instead, the closest they've come is a cut by Fela's former drummer, Tony Allen. It's fabulous stuff, very cutting edge in its approach -- but it's not Afro-beat, which is arguably the most successful music to come out of the area. That said, the rest of the album is great, tracing juju from its pioneer, I.K. Dairo, to the man who brought it to the international stage, King Sunny Ade (and having an early-'80s cut, rather than something more familiar, proves to be an inspired idea, as you can see the succession from Dairo). And the highlife content from Ghana, often difficult to find in the West, is exemplary. The "King of Highlife," E.T. Mensah, offers "Day By Day," a classic cut, followed by the wonderful guitar player Eric Agyeman, who brought a Congolese rhythmic feel to the music, and then Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, whose Nigerian take on this Ghanaian music is much more percussive. So, in what it does cover, this compilation does a generally excellent job, although you have to wonder why modern artists like Lagbaja weren't included. And if you understand from the beginning that this is far from being a complete exercise, you won't be disappointed. But if you want the whole story, well, this just isn't it.

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