Various Artists
Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Nigerian Blues
Label ©  Soundway
Release Year  2007
Length  1:55:57
Genre  World
Personal Star Rating [1-5]  
  Ref#  V-0164
Bitrate  ~211 Kbps
  Other   Compilation·
    Track Listing:
      Ayamma   - The Anambra Beats  
      Okwukwe Na Nchekwube   - Celestine Ukwu & His Philosophers National  
      Amalinja   - The Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination  
      Akula Owu Onyeara   - The Funkees  
      Oja Omoba   - Dele Ojo & His Star Brothers Band  
      Koma Mosi   - The Harbours Band  
      Nekwaha Semi Colon   - The Semi Colon  
      Osalobua Rekpama   - Sir Victor Uwaifo & His Melody Maestros  
      Onwu Ama Dike   - St. Augustine & His Rovers Dance Band  
      Feso Jaiye   - The Sahara All Stars Of Jos  
      Eme Kowa Iasa Ile Wa   - Mono Mono  
      To Whom It May Concern   - Tunji Oyelana & The Benders  
      Ugali   - The Tony Benson Sextet  
      Asiko Mi Ni   - The Nigerian Police Force Band ("The Force 7")  
      Torri Wowo   - Godwin Ezike & The Ambassadors  
      Belema   - Opotopo (Easy Kabaka Brown)  
      Alabeke   - Dan Satch & His Atomic 8 Dance Band of Aba  
      Arraino   - Popular Cooper & His All Beats Band  
      Simini-Yaya   - Collins Oke Elaiho & His Odoligie Nobles Dance Band  
      Buroda Mase   - Bola Johnson & His Easy Life Top Beats  
      I Want A Break Thru'   - The Hykkers  
      Business Before Pleasure   - George Akaeze & His Augmented Hits  
      Omo Yen Wu Mi   - Shadow Abraham with Mono Mono Friends  
      Blak Sound   - Leo Fadaka & The Heroes  
      Eguae Oba   - Osayomore Joseph & The Creative 7  
      Akpaison   - Etubom Rex Williams & His Nigerian Artistes  
    Additional info: | top
      AMG :
      Info :
      Soundways :
      Reviews : ( Pitchfork )
      : ( PopMatters )

      Various Artists:
      Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Nigerian Blues
      [Soundway ; 2008]
      Rating: 8.0

      Lagos, Nigeria, in a lengthy 2006 New Yorker article, is depicted as a post-industrial wasteland, an environmental, economic, and social disaster, fueled by corruption, crime, and the entropy of over eight million people (and counting) vying for limited space and resources. Lagos is considered a 21st century "megacity" teetering on the brink of total chaos when it's not already embroiled in it. "As a picture of the urban future," wrote author George Packer, "Lagos is fascinating only if you're able to leave it."

      Lagos wasn't always like this, nor was Nigeria as a whole. In fact, just about 40 years ago, following the end of the Biafran War, Nigeria briefly experienced a huge economic and cultural boom, its oil revenues generating billions, the nation thriving, and the country producing an impressive number of artists, writers, and musicians. As far as the musicians go, many still only know Nigeria for Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. Some are also familiar with some combination of juju masters King Sunny Ad and Ebenezer Obey, the perfectly nicknamed highlife star Christogonus Ezebuiro "Sir Warrior" Obinna of the nebulous Oriental Brothers International Band, but they still represent just the tip of a vast West African iceberg.

      Fela's not included on the illuminating 2xCD Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Nigerian Blues, but members of his pre-Afrobeat highlife band the Koola Lobitos are, playing in the Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination. Ebenezer Obey's not here, but the man who allegedly taught him how to play, Easy Kabaka Brown, is. "There are thousands of tracks by popular and not-so-popular bands that are still yet to be issued outside of West Africa," writes curator Miles Cleret in the well-researched liner notes.

      That diversity, those numbers, and those colorful yet almost unknowable names are part of the challenge in compiling any collection of African music, especially drawing from a region as fruitful as the continent's northwest chunk. It's also no doubt what keeps many from diving in and exploring on their own. But if little on Nigeria Special sticks out for the neophyte or casual fan, all the better: The comp is the perfect place to start if you want to move beyond the better known heavy hitters of Nigerian music.

      What makes Nigeria Special doubly useful is that, per its subtitle, it doesn't just rely on funk or dance music. Instead, on Disc One, we get acts like the Funkees, with their soulful, organ-driven "Akula Owu Onyeara", or the trancelike, percussion-heavy "Oja Omoba" from Dele Ojo & His Star Brothers Band. St. Augustine & His Rovers Dance Band offer the unfailingly peppy "Onwu Ama Dike", while "Feso Jaiye" from the Sahara All Stars of Jos, is downright mellow in its sax, guitar and electric piano explorations.

      The Nigerian Police Force Band plays Afrobeat in a more familiar mold on Disc Two, their "Asiko Ni Mi" clearly indebted to Fela. Easy Kabaka Brown's band, Opotopo, plays up the West African-Caribbean connection in "Belema". The Hykkers' "I Want a Break Thru" is wah-wah infused psychedelic instrumental rock. The (again, perfectly named) Dan Satch & His Atomic 8 Dance Band of Aba contribute the tightly syncopated polyrhythms of "Alabeke", featuring a smoking guitar solo. Any one of these tracks may be eye opening on their own. Taken as a whole, the comp itself is as revelatory as it is incessantly enjoyable. Pop history has rarely gone down so painlessly. "Thousands of tracks" yet to be issued, claims Cleret? As long as they're this beautifully packaged and presented, bring 'em on.
      - Joshua Klein, April 7, 2008
    Links/Resources | top