SENI TEJUOSO, FATAI ROLLING DOLLAR, SINA AYINDE BAKARE
LISTEN: (Look at "Listen Tracks")
Jazzhole Records is an independent label based in 168 of Awolowo Road in the residential area of Ikoyi, in Lagos, Nigeria. Created in the beginning of the 90ies together with the Glendora Books library from Kunle Tejuoso (see photo), Jazzhole is also credited like one of the best and important music shops and cultural centres amongst the most meaningful within the Nigerian megalopolis.
The albums produced by Jazzhole Records are quality jewels; for the choice of the artists, of the music, of the graphic and for the information that accompanies the whole. For this they differ from the majority of the 100% African productions, and demonstrate how behind this business lives an idea and cultural project before the commercial one. It is in fact the jazzhole, that snobs the most common commercial genres like the naija-soul, the rap, Christian music and porno-fuji and promotes talents on the Nigerian contemporary jazz scene – and at the same time – finds and brings in the recording studios some of the ancient testimonies of the popular modern Yoruba music evolution.
But to get too excited might be counterproductive, because the Jazzhole catalogue is not available to the world. The only testimony that has crossed the borders of the African giant seems to be the compilation Miliki Music of Mulatta Records, assembled just starting from the Jazzhole records catalogue, thanks to which we managed to listen to some fragments of palm wine highlife played today by old minstrels like Kokoro, Fatai Rolling Dollar and the son of legendary Ayinde Bakare.
But thanks to Sterns, I happened to have some original albums from the jazzhole catalogues, particularly full works by three musician that represent the roots of contemporary Nigerian music. I am talking about Return of Fatai Rolling Dollar, of Inu Mimo of Sina Ayinde Bakare and Easy Motion Tourist from the veteran Seni Tejuoso. To listen to their music is a sweet, sour and melancholic experience.
Olaseni Tejuoso is the oldest brother of the creator of Jazzhole. The fact that during his school carrier he studied with rev. Ramsone Kuti and his wife Funmilayo – respectively mother and father of Fela Kuti – is to be considered like a tasty anecdote. Most important from a point of view of his artistic history and of his role in the Nigerian musical scene, are his eight years as singer of the Afro People of Julius Oredola Araba, one of the pioneers and starters of juju music. One of the great success of the Araba, played by all juju orchestras is Easy Motion Tourist, a song composed by Tejuoso during the 50ies and by him chosen as title of his debut album.
Tejuoso left Araba at the end of the 50ies and set up his own band the Rhythm Blues Band where the veteran Fatai Rolling Dollar was called on the agidigbo - a plain for the thumb of traditional metallic thin plates – and the young guitar player Ebenezer Obey. The bands’ style was called Toy Motion, and it was a mix of palm wine for guitar, highlife, juju and calypso inherited from the music of Ambrose Campbell Lord Kitcheners e Tunde King. The same style that we find in his album, folk simple ballads for vocals, guitar and percussions, with the episodic and delicate help of the trumpet, the saxophone and the flute.
Fatai Rolling Dollar was picked out not more than ten years ago from the oblivion of his house in Mushin, a poor suburb of Lagos, where misfortune had dragged him together with his wife and his children. Returns is probably the second album after Papa Rise Again, a collection of old songs and new recordings. He too during the 50ies has passed through the orchestra of the veteran Julius Araba before collaborating with Tejuoso in their common projects. But what is important about Baba Fatai is his capacity to propose today the sounds, the atmosphere and the tones of many proto musical genres deriving from metropolitan palm wine of the beginning of the past century, a quality defined by Jazzhole as "Highlife Extravaganza".
Return is divided in two. Seven tracks are arranged like one tempo, sung and played on guitars, agidigbo and traditional percussions - Sekere, Gangan, Bata. Sorry Sorry No Dey is a languid palm wine sung together with Tejuoso, Omolere Aiye and Easy Motion comes from the orchestra Araba repertoire, while Omo Oloye recreates the atmospheres of Apala, with the percussions that accompany the calls and replies of the voices. The other five are instead accompanied by the group Duro Ikujenyo, already keyboard player with Egypt ’80 of Fela Kuti, which in the musical contemporary scene represents at the same time the tradition of afro beat and its innovation. Of it’s two faces it is certainly the first, spontaneous and almost naïve to transport the listener into an enchanted world of bars on the banks of the port in Lagos of ages ago, amongst sailors and prostitutes of all races and colours.
Finally there is young Sina Ayinde Bakare, aged a little more than 70, son of the legendary Ayinde Bakar, another who was declared inventor of juju music. Sina learned highlife guitar by his father and by the musicians living in the neighbouring houses of his father with whom he would hold relationships; Theophilus Iwalokun, Salami Balogun and Victor Uwaifo. In 1972, at the death of his father, Sina became leader of the band, which was then named late Ayinde Bakare’s Merenda Band led by Sina Bakare.
Starting from the Owambe, a Yoruba word that means big party and that indicates also a clean style, acoustic and melodic of the first juju. Sina managed during the years to develop an original style called Faaji, within which are incorporated influences from the melodic and rhythmic hausa music from the north, which Sina learned thanks to his transfer to Sokoto during the 60ies and his collaborations with Sunny Lion – ex sax player of Eddy Okonta – and with Stach Ayo, trumpet player with the Sahara All Stars of Jos.
Listening to the three veterans of palm wine from Jazzhole one gets carried away through space and time, and an immediate world, physical and essential where music and poetry are mediated by daily practice. Their music is simple but full of stories, of feelings, of needs and dreams. The gentle chords of the guitars, the cries and the laughs of the old trumpets and of the saxophones, the pulsation of the adgidigbo and the discrete and essential accompaniment of the traditional percussions are the frame for narrating voices, rough and scrappy voices of old storytellers.
Theirs is simple music, like the one that I would like to have close always in those beautiful and light moments of life, music that has no weight but that elevates the mind. Palm wine, highlife, juju, owambe but there are those who don’t want words to distinguish them but simply the sounds that touch them with sweetness.
1. Seni Tejuoso - Easy Motion Tourist
2. Seni Tejuoso - Sure Fun Wa
3. Seni Tejuoso - Africa
4. Fatai Rolling Dollar - Sorry Sorry No Dey
5. Fatai Rolling Dollar - Eko Akete
6. Fatai Rolling Dollar - Feso Jaiye
7. Fatai Rolling Dollar - Omo Oloye
8. Sina Ayinde Bakare - Mo Duro Gedegbe
9. Sina Ayinde Bakare - Joro-Jara-Joro
10. Sina Ayinde Bakare - E Pe Mi So Funmi
Author: Seni Tejuoso
Title: Easy Motion Tourist
Label: Jazzhole Records
Author: Fatai Rolling Dollar
Label: Jazzhole Records
Author: Sina Ayinde Bakare
Title: Inu Mimo
Label: Jazzhole Records
Jazzhole Records - Highlife Extravaganza
Ebo Taylor - Love and Death
The World Ends
27 December 2010
SENI TEJUOSO, FATAI ROLLING DOLLAR, SINA AYINDE BAKARE
20 December 2010
LISTEN: (Look at "Listen Tracks")
When a couple of years ago the academic touch of Quinton Scott of the Strut made the magic of sounds from the old wizard Ethiopian composer of jazz; Mulatu Astatke re-live, we all felt a fresh and frizzy sensation of astonishment, when he was brought back in a recording room together with the Heliocentric, after a long absence from the scene. The miracle has repeated and although it was announced, the astonishment is still today present in the room where I find myself listening to this refined sound of this brand new Ebo Taylor.
Also this story starts many years ago. In 1957 while Ghana was obtaining independence with Kwame Nkrumah and the highlife orchestras were close to the new government for celebrating the birth of a country and of a continent. Ebo Taylor was more or less twenty and participated to the cultural movement playing in orchestras like Stargazers and Broadway Dance Bank of Takoradi. In 1962 the family sent him to study music in London, where he met Fela Kuti with whom he played more than once in nightly improvised jam sessions. Upon his return to Ghana, in 1966, Nkumah was only just knocked over by the military coup d’état while the economic crisis and the new censoring and restrictive politic of the government forced many Ghanaian musicians to abandon their country.
The big orchestras of highlife disappeared and never again reappeared, but during the 70ies many bands arrived which starting from the most home-made and economic highlife guitar, reached a season of experiment. During this period Ebo Taylor was called to work by the producer Dick Essilfie Bonzie, known as Essiebons, who from the beginning inserted him in the super group Apagya Show Band close to Gyedu-Bley Ambolley and Bob Pinado, then once broken apart the Apagya, financed his solo projects.
In a period where musicians were searching for new sounds, Ebo Taylor had many cards to play, amongst which the knowledge of jazz and the closeness to Nigerian afro beat, which during this period represented a great news in the African musical panorama. So the 70ies were for Taylor a fertile and rich in success period, represented by his numerous solo projects and by the collaboration as composer and arranger with big highlife stars like Pat Thomas, Marijata and C.K. Mann.
But during the 80ies the economical conditions in Ghana and in all Africa worsened. Ghanaian music drowned into oblivion and although the Osibisa, the African Brothers and the Sweet Talk, it didn’t manage and it couldn’t manage in any way to take advantage of the birth of world music. Also Ebo Taylor fell into the forgotten crack for many years, until the publication of some old and obscure African music put together in 2007 by Miles Cleret of the Soundway Records, entitled Ghana Soundz which contained some of his compositions. The few songs spread which reached Europe after 30 years from its’ incision prepared the field for his return.
Today Ebo Taylor finds again his voice and his guitar and the surprise is mostly his than ours. After some concerts organized thanks to Sam Ben Rejeb of Analog Africa – which in his last compilation called Afro-beat Airways proposes some Ebo unpublished tracks by Apaya Show – here again in studio together with Afrobeat Academy of Berlin, the orchestra made up by a rhythmic Ghanaian section, by German winds and strings and by both countries’ keyboards, which in his curriculum shows prestigious collaborations with the Africa 70 guitar player Oghene Kologbo and the Nigerian rapper in Germany Ade Bantu.
Love and Death are eight old and new compositions by Ebo Taylor with a flavour that is distant from that of old music from the seventy-year-old master. Afrobeat with stick and shekere, of rhythmic guitars and tenor strong jazzy winds, but read and reinterpreted through the filter of the Ghanaian highlife guitar, with his Latin taste, the melancholic harmonies in minor and the ethereal pace that makes the music atmosphere light and dreamy.
The intense uncertain voice of Ebo Taylor tells his brothers and sister stories about love and death, about immigrants children that return to their fathers’ villages but don’t understand their language, he demands that it is not to blame magic for our failures, he reminds us of Kwame Nkrumah, the greatest leader of modern African history, he talks about ancient wars within small villages fought in the name of humanity. Old nostalgic music that perhaps thanks to his strong but liquid personality has managed through strange paths to conquer spaces of modernity.
1. Love and Death
4. Odofo Nyi Akyiri Biara (from Afro-beat Airways)
5. Come Along (from Afro-beat Airways)
5. Ma Nserew Me - Apagya Show Band (from Afro-beat Airways)
Author: Ebo Taylor
Title: Love and Death
Label: Strut Records
1. Nga Nga
2. African Woman
3. Love And Death
4. Victory (Instrumental)
6. Kwame (Instrumental)
7. Aborekyair Aba
Title: Afro-beat Airways
Label: Analog Africa
1. Dankasa - Uppers International
2. Ma Nserew Me - Apagya Show Band
3. Me Yee Owu Den - K.Frimpong & His Cubano Fiestas
4. Break Through - Marijata
5. Odofo Nyi Akyiri Biara - Ebo Taylor & The Sweet Beans
6. Awula Bo Fee Ene - Orchestre Abass
7. Live in Other World - Itadi
8. Mumunde - Apagya Show Band
9. More - Rob
10. Né Noya - Cos-Ber-Zam
11. Afe Ato Yen Bio - De Frank Professionals
12. Ngyegye No So - African Brothers Band
13. Neriba Lanchina - Uppers International
14. Come Along - Ebo Taylor & The Pelicans
15 December 2010
LISTEN: (Look at "Listen Tracks")
Trapped into a curious and senseless addiction to abundance, I was uncertain about the opportunity of writing also about the lastly born, amongst the many fantastic Nigerian music compilations of the obscure and unpublished 70ies, released again by the magic of Soundway Records of Chief Commander Miles Cleret. Then one day I took the booklet and started reading it.
“The summer of love in Nigeria arrived late. In 1967, while psycadelic music was overflowing beyond the strange cultural underground pop borders by imposing itself always more on the scene thanks to milestones like Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Doors, Disraeli Gears, Surrealistic Pillow, Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love, Piper at the Gates of Down e Their Satanic Majesties Request and while the sons of the age of Aquarius weaved their hair with flowers and let themselves go to cosmic peace vibrations, love and togetherness, the populated African nations seemed to slowly slip in and auto destructive affair.”
Written by Uchenna Ikonne, and if for many this name does not ring a bell, I may add that he is the founder of Comb & Razor, one of the first blogs that opened the door to the room of treasures and started the exploration of a musical garden that up to that moment remained completely hidden; African vinyl produced in Africa for Africans during the 10 years following independence. Once again an incredible puzzle of sounds accompanied by seducing and mysterious stories coming from – thanks to Soundway Records – a blog that is dedicated to make music and culture “out of production” available, and to bring it back to life. An operation that is resulting a deal also for the blunt part of the disco industry that would like to see copyrights inside a strong box and blogs closed.
In The World Ends – Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970s Nigeria – Uchenna Ikonne talks about the story of Nigerian highlife, the music of a whole country that was pushed towards the corner of Biafra by the pitiless power of an internal war, leaving behind a void difficult to fill. After the war Nigeria started looking for sounds that would have newly represented the homelands’ unity and which at the same time responded to the necessity of the new generations to open a new time and a new culture. It was a beautiful coincidence in that same moment rock & roll arrived.
Myriads of musicians and orphan bands of highlife from Cardinal Rex Lawson – great orchestra leader and Biafra resistant, died on 16 January of 1971 – started mixing within music any ingredient – rock, country, blues, soul, funk, traditional music, jazz, highlife itself – motivated by the urgency to create something new. Comb & Razor had assembled two CDs of The World Ends to give an idea of what that “something new” was boiling and fermenting in the highlife territories, in the area that includes Lagos and the eastern cities from Benin City to Worry to Port Harcourt.
Equally to afro beat and afro funk, already met in many occasions, Afro rock of The World Ends is music that provokes happy astonishment. In those years for us the evolving rock seemed a source of everlasting exiting invention and music shops were mines of precious and unknown sounds. Listening today to that same music – but created through the sensitivity and by the different symbols – brings us back to the sensations of those years, although played in new dimension.
Right, because close to the voices and sounds that take us to “our” rock of that time, inside the comrazor afro rock selections we find the minimalism and polyrhythmic that would reach us only many years later, there is a boldness in the harmonic mistreatment, not even ever tried with the most hysteric punk, there is a taste for distortion and dissonances that make our rock heroes turn pale, there are intensity games, of tensions and relax.
Then there is the electric guitar boom. “it is known that they have always had the best wind instrument players – says Stan Plange from the Ghana Broadway Dance Band regarding the Nigerian 50ies and 60ies highlife – but as for the guitar players, they have nothing. No good guitar player in Nigeria.” It was the explosion of the 70ies afro rock generation that definitely changed the situation, and the excited young’s experimentation around the electric guitar - brandished in the cover page by Harry Mosco – representing the sonar domination in the World Ends.
Let’s say good bye to the End of the World with enthusiasm, because it allows us to listen to treasures of this world chosen with new ears. It is fun music and surprising, spontaneous and vital like the hopes of those years. A hope that is needed especially today. “I want to blow your mind, get me chance and let me try”.
1. Tony Grey Super 7 – Yem Efe
2. Eppi Fanio – Ikoko Ti Yio Jata (On Perseverance)
3. Bongos Ikwue – All Night Long
4. Colomach – Ottoto Shamoleda
5. The Elcados – Chokoi & Oreje
Title: The World Ends: Afrorock & Psychedelia in 1970s Nigeria
Label: Soundway Records
Ify Jerry Krusade – Nwantinti / Die Die
The Hygrades – Rough Rider
The Hykkers – Deiyo Deiyo (Akpuwunlobi)
Wrinkar Experience – Soundway
The Funkees – Breakthrough
The Mebusas – Mr. Bull Dog (45 version)
Foundars 15 – Don’t Take Me For A Ride
Ceejebs – Eti Ufok
Tony Grey Super 7 – Yem Efe
The Identicals – Akwa Kayi Ji Bia Nuwa
P.R.O. – Blacky Joe
Cicada – Oli Nkwu
The Lijadu Sisters – Life’s Gone Down Low
Eppi Fanio – Ikoko Ti Yio Jata (On Perseverance)
Bongos Ikwue – All Night Long
The Thermometers – Babalawo
Colomach – Ottoto Shamoleda
The Black Mirrors – The World Ends
The Semi Colon – Isi Agboncha
Lawrence Amavi Group – Money That’s What I Want
The Hygrades – Somebody’s Gonna Lose Or Win
Ofege – In Concert
The Elcados – Chokoi & Oreje
Sonny Okosuns & Paperback Limited – Ohomi
Chuck Barrister & The Voices Of Darkness – Be Kind, Be Foolish, Be Happy Tony Grey & The Black 7 – Ugbo Ndoma
Reme Izabebo’s Music Research – (Ayamayama) The Same Man
Action 13 – Active Action
The Actions – Kpokposikposi
The Strangers – Onye Ije
The Comrades – Bullwalk
Ofo The Black Company – Egwu Aja
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