Many of the tracks featured on Nigeria Special 2 have been forgotten or out of print for nearly 35 years but have since been tracked down and documented by Miles Cleret the fruits of an arduous labour that has taken over ten years of dedication, research and travel to Nigeria culminating in the final part of Soundway's extensive survey of Nigeria's forgotten musical history. The range of styles vary from highlife to Juju and Nigerian blues in the languages of Yoruba, Igbo, Bini and Ijaw. With a peppering of 'afro' experimentation the same musical stew pervades volume 2 as it's predecessor - some artists appear again alongside some new artists as the emphasis continues to focus on the laid back and mid tempo feel found on Volume 1. It includes, the bluesy guitar band style of the Otarus & the Peacocks sits opposite the more uptempo sound of highlife legends Stephen Osita Osadebe (here bringing his Igbo version of the Cuban standard Peanut Vendor) and Paulson Kalu. Progressive outfits the Black Zenith, The Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination, Tunji Oyelana, The Nkengas Opotopo and Joy Nwoso remind us that these were indeed experimental times with their fusions of jazz, highlife and in the case of Nwoso - opera!
As a new generation of Western music enthusiasts discover Fela Kuti and Afrobeat, there have been a whole spate of CD re-releases covering the Nigerian music scene back in the 1970s, the ‘golden era’ when Fela created much of his best work. Quite right, too, for although Fela was the undisputed king of Afrobeat, he was by no means the only great musician of his time and Afrobeat was not the only popular style.
The music of the era has already been featured in the Honest Jon compilations Lagos Chop Up and Lagos All Routes, in the Strut label’s Nigeria 70 set, and in a series of four Soundway albums including Nigeria Special and the more recent Nigeria Afrobeat Special. Now comes Nigeria Special Volume 2, an album of ‘Modern Highlife, Afro Sounds and Nigerian Blues 1970-6’, which provides a further rousing reminder of the musical revolution that swept across West Africa just as rock was shaking up Britain and the USA.
Miles Cleret, who runs Soundway, has spent a decade putting the series together, travelling and researching in Nigeria, tracking down great but obscure songs. Many of the tracks here have been unavailable since the 1970s, and the musical range is even more extensive than the title suggests, for there are also examples of the Juju style that became massively successful alongside Afrobeat, and reminders that Nigerian artists were influenced by anything from R&B to ska and even gospel.
Much of the music features guitar, percussion and brass, and is performed by bands and musicians with gloriously exotic names. So the Highlife stars include the cool and languid Professional Seagulls Dance Band, and the self-styled Commander In Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, who provides a gloriously lilting re-working of the Cuban favourite, Peanut Vendor, dressed up with some fine saxophone work. Then there’s a sturdy, chanting Juju track from Twins Seven Seven, famed for his work both as a musician and an excellent artist, and a slinky, gospel-edged treatment of The Lord’s Prayer by The Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination, a fine blend of jazz brass work and African percussion from Tunji Oyelana. There’s even a burst of Nigerian rock opera from Joy Nwoso, a classically-trained opera singer. This music deserved to be rediscovered. --Robin Denselow
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