07 June 2008

Funky Lagos

various artists: Nigeria 70-Lagos Jump: Original Heavyweight Afrobeat Highlife & Afro-Funk
buy CD/hear samples
I don't know what's going on with Strut Records -- their .uk website is defunct and their new .com site is under construction. But whatever internal machinations are afoot, I can tell you this: I love the music they're dragging out of the archives. Back in 2001 it was the marvelous (now out of print?) box set Nigeria '70 The Definitive Story of 1970's Funky Lagos, a broad compilation of some hot Afrobeat and close musical relations.
Now out is something of a sequel to that release. Subtitled "Original Heavyweight Afrobeat Highlife & Afro-Funk," the CD includes 16 tracks of similar material (though only two artists make a repeat appearance, Peter King and Sir Victor Uwaifo & His Melody Maestroes [video]). Inspired but by no means constrained by the emerging genre called Afrobeat, these artists explore jazz, funk, rock, and R&B while usually retaining some elements of Nigerian music in the form of drums, or the rhythmic and lyrical structures of Highlife or Fuji music.
To my ear, standout tracks include "Igbehin Lalayo Nta" by the obscure Afrobeat band Dynamic Africana, and Bola Johnson & His Easy Life Top Beats' "Ezuku Buzo" with its unusual scratchy rhythm guitar playing tag with the chanted vocals.
It's another solid offering from Strut -- one you may find even educational if you can just sit down for a moment and read John Collins' expansive liner notes the history and context of Nigeria's popular music instead of simply getting caught up in the inviting, nearly timeless grooves.
More info and a free mp3 from the album at www.strut-records.com/nigeria70
(This review originally appeared at Spin The Globe.)

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