Duncan Brooker on Nigeria 70: Sweet Times

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duncan brooker

Dr. Victor Olaiya's International All-Stars, “Kinringjingbin”
This track is taken from a hard to find 45, which I was lucky enough to locate on an early digging trip to Africa. It demonstrates perfectly the ability of a highly disciplined bandleader like Olaiya, known for his seminal Highlife recordings of 1960s, to simply update his sound and keep pace with the next generation of bandleaders, such as Orlando Julius. Here, the Highlife master Olaiya creates his own “Stardelic” sound that simmers brilliantly on a slow Afro groove.

The Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination, “Ire”
The Combination comprises Ezekiel Hart, Don Kemoah and long term U.K resident and friend of mine, Isaac Olasugba. Isaac was one of the original members of Koola Lobitos and helped arrange many of Fela’s early recordings. I felt it was about time to make one of his later recordings available. This “Jungle Beat” record from the early ‘70s features amazing flute playing from Isaac, who is still very much involved in music to this day – he can be found in church most Sundays playing Nigerian gospel music on both saxophone and flute.

Eji Oyewole, “Unity in Africa”
My copy of this record had originated from Eji himself; back in 1978 it had been gifted to Bevin Matumbi, lead singer of the British reggae group Matumbi. So, it came complete with signatures, press photos and a biography of an otherwise relatively unknown Nigerian musician. “Unity In Africa” boasts a quite unique and unwavering sound that illustrates well the modern influences of a well-travelled Nigerian musician of this period.

Moneyman and the Super 5 International, “Life”
This was a record that I had been aware of for some time but had never managed to source. It eventually turned up through a hip hop producer I know who felt it was “rubbish apart from the drums at the beginning of this track.” So, I exchanged it with another Afro LP and the album was mine! It’s a typical Tabansi release and a great recording from the Moneyman and Ogogoro master Alex Ringo, another tune that celebrates the rich musical diversity of Nigeria at that time. We were looking to push the sounds featured on the third volume of Nigeria 70 even wider and chose this one as a powerful opener.

Zeal Onyia & His Music, “Idegbani”
There are so many great musicians from Nigeria that needed to feature in the Nigeria 70 series and Zeal Onyia was definitely one of them. He originally broke through as part of the first wave of Nigerian highlife musicians, reaching notoriety in the 1950s. I included “Idegbani” because it echoes the musical lineage of Nigeria, effortlessly updating the old time sound on this superb recording from 1976.