Sunday, September 2, 2018

Shina Williams & His African Percussionists - 1979 - African Dances

Shina Williams & His African Percussionists
African Dances

01. Cunny Jam Wayo
02. Agboju Logun
03. Gboro Mi Ro

Alto Saxophone – Fuzzy Gbagi
Clavinet – Sylvester Degbor
Drums – Prince Bola Agba
Guitar – Biddy Wright, Tutu Shoronmu
Tenor Saxophone – Brother Humphrey
Trumpet – Papa Okokon Udofia, Tunde Williams

Bass Guitar – Tunde Martins
Clavinet – Gboyega Adelaja
Synthesizer – Biddy Wright
Drums – Prince Bola Agba
Tenor Saxophone – Eji Oyewole

Arranged By, Cowbell, Lead Vocals, Written-By – Shina Williams
Backing Vocals – Caroline Adegbite, Funke Moloney, Gloria, Joyland Sammy, Ogoegunamokwuose Iyabo, Ronke Shomade, Shola Akitoye, Tinuke Toriola, Yemisi Odukoya
Bass Guitar – Kenneth Okulolo
Congas – Friday Jumbo
Congas, Cowbell – Friday Pozo
Drum [Gudugudu] – Azeez Olaiya
Organ, Synthesizer – Papa Doe (Gold Finger)
Piano – Frankie Song
Rhythm Guitar – Alli Sheikh
Shekere – Uvoe
Talking Drum – Saliu Alabi
Trombone – Fred Fisher
Trumpet – Big John

Back in 1979 when Shina Williams’ ‘Agboju Logun’ frst appeared on his ‘African Dances’ LP, Williams knew well that the track was breaking new ground. “I want to show the whole wide world that Africa is alive with modern musicians to reckon with anywhere,” he stated. Now an accepted Afro disco classic of its time, ‘Agboju Logun’ did indeed bring together the cream of Nigeria’s players as a oneoff supergroup in one inspired session. As a long-standing and well respected highlife musician and vocalist, Williams called in the ‘A’ list: Tunde Martins from Afro Collective played bass guitar, the brilliant Biddy Wright (player on albums by Lijadu Sisters, Blo and many more) contributed the famous synth lines and handled production, Fred Fisher was on trombone and Saliu Alabi played talking drum. 

Enjoying limited success upon its release in Nigeria, ‘African Dances’ nevertheless gained some international attention when Earthworks’ Jumbo Van Renan licensed two tracks from it for an international 12” single release in 1984, remixing ‘Agboju Logun’ in a more stripped back mix for dancefloors. However, it was the period following Fela Kuti’s death in the late ‘90s that truly ignited interest in archive African grooves for a new internet generation. Strut’s frst ‘Nigeria 70’ compilation featured the track in 2000 and it has been a staple in DJs’ crates ever since.

Monomono - 1974 - Dawn Of Awareness

Dawn Of Awareness

01. Plain Fighting (Your Life Is What You Make Of It)
02. Ipade Aladun
03. Get Yourself Together
04. Awareness Is Wot You Need
05. Make Them (You) Realise (Everybody's Gotta Be Free)
06. Tire Loma Da Nighehin

Bass, Percussion, Vocals – Kenneth Okulolo
Drums – Stephen Kontor
Drums, Percussion, Vocals – Friday Jumbo
Lead Guitar, Vocals – Jimi Adams*
Vocals, Talking Drum – Joni Haastrup

"Thanks to brother Fella for the little hint that did a good job"

The second album in a series of three reissues from Nigerian bandleader Joni Haastrup, Dawn of Awareness was the sophomore effort by his band MonoMono, following their very impressive debut, Give the Beggar a Chance. It's tempting to read more into the two albums' titles than one probably should: while the first album focused on relatively concrete social issues (best song title: "The World Might Fall Over"), the mood on Dawn of Awareness is a bit more introspective. Sonically, this is real Age of Aquarius stuff: the grooves are at times downright spacy (note in particular the acid-drenched "Awareness Is Wot You Need" and the only slightly less discursive "Plain Fighting"), and even by Afro-pop standards they sometimes focus a bit too much on the extended elaboration of a single two-chord idea (note in particular the jazzily pretty but eventually rather tedious "Get Yourself Together"). But those ideas and their elaborations are consistently attractive, and there are moments of genius here; "Tire Loma da Nigbehin" is very lovely, and "Ipade Aladun" surprises with its spoken word intro (a defense of the band's energetic stage presence: they may jump around on-stage as if drunk, Haastrup explains, but it's only because they love the music and want to share its energy) followed by a startlingly slow, almost deliberate groove counterposed by vigorous and heartfelt vocals. This album is more uneven than its predecessor, but very much worth hearing.
The Dawn of Awareness sees the MonoMono Band expand on their previously set role as social commentators. Joni Haastrup looks beyond Lagos at the volatile state of the world, as did his American contemporaries at a similar time at Woodstock - war in Vietnam, the OPEC oil crises, Watergate and the IRA bombings.

The psychedelic cover bears a strong resemblance to the artwork of Marti Klarwein - who illustrated Carlos Santana’s Abraxas and Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew - and sets an appropriate tone for the blues-rock grooves of the album. Santana once again shows to have been an influential guitarist in Nigeria. The Latin percussion of Abraxas also surfaces here, imitated well by Candido Obajimi and Friday Jumbo. Their shakes, scrapes and subtle drum hits provide the perfect backdrop for Jimmy Adams to plug in his guitar and let rip, often taking over the second half of the songs with an impenetrable amount of feedback. This makes for a more established formula than on MonoMono’s previous Give The Beggar A Chance: Haastrup’s heartfelt vocals, sometimes in English, sometimes in Yoruba, sometimes a personalised mish-mash of the two, Adams on guitar, Obajimi and Jumbo workmanlike in their simple percussion style.

When you consider the political situation in Nigeria, The Dawn of Awareness is more daring than other protest albums of the 70’s. “Awareness is what you need,” warns Haastrup, clearly not one turn a blind eye in fear of the consequences of the government. “If you see a man cry and don’t ask why, you can’t look yourself inside.”

The Dawn of Awareness is a more cohesive and resonant sound for the band as a whole. The keys mesh with Adams's careful guitar work and leaves space for the bluesy thump of Okulolo's bass work. It's a moodier set -- recorded in the wake of the OPEC oil embargo and scandals like Watergate -- and Haastrup dials down the Brown-ian showmanship in favor of a genuine and deep anger. "Ipade Aldun", the longest song on any of these records, is a brilliant turn, insistent in its pounding beat and powerful group singing and, driven by a great solo from Adams, it is the band at its most cut-loose and impressive. It sets up the funkier space of "Make Them Realise" and the feverish shuffle of "Awareness is Wot You Need". This album takes Haastrup's raw charisma and his band's promise from the first record, balances them out and makes them both shine. It is, of these three, the finest example of Afro-funk and Afro-beat Haastrup offered, and acts as a smoother counterpoint to Kuti's larger musical furies.

Monomono - 1973 - Give The Beggar A Chance

Give The Beggar A Chance, The Lightning Power Of Awareness

01. Give The Beggar A Chance
02. Ema Kowa Lasa Ile Wa
03. The World Might Fall Over
04. Eje'A Mura Sise
05. Find Out
06. Lida Lou
07. Kenimania

Acoustic Guitar – Kelvin
Organ, Piano, Lead Vocals, Percussion, Synthesizer [Axe] – Joni Haastrup
Backing Vocals – Eppi Josef, Jenny Jackson
Bass Guitar [Fender], Vocals, Percussion – Keni Okulolo
Congas, Vocals – Friday Jumbo
Drums [Trap], Percussion – Candido Obajimi
Electric Guitar – Berkely Ike Jones

Led by keyboardist and singer Joni Haastrup (himself a scion of Nigerian royalty), the band MonoMono was one of the most popular funk-rock acts in West Africa in the early '70s. The music itself is fascinating and sometimes deeply compelling. Of the band's two albums, Give the Beggar a Chance is the most consistently fun and interesting. This was a period when Afro-pop was coming into its maturity, and the endlessly repetitive grooves of Fela Kuti were starting to give way to influences from British and American traditions -- listen closely to the title track and you'll hear more than a hint of Ray Manzarek in Haastrup's organ playing, while "The World Might Fall Over" hints at a Santana-esque blues-rock and "Find Out" segues abruptly from a jaunty, swinging jazz-reggae groove to an even jauntier and sauntering 6/8 feel. It must be said that Haastrup is a good singer but not a great one; he often struggles to hit his high notes, which can distract from what are generally pretty good songs and ferocious grooves. But his arrangements are brilliant, dense, and busy without ever feeling ponderous. Surface noise notwithstanding, this album is a genuine gem that should be welcomed back to the commercial marketplace.

Joni formed MonoMono in 1971 with his friend and bassist Baba Ken Okulolo, guitarist Jimmy Adams and percussionists Candido Obajimi and Friday Jumbo. The band recorded seven original tracks for their debut LP, a drastic departure from the soul covers of the 60’s groups in Nigeria but a logical progression from the jazz-rock fusion saturating the London scene. Joni’s keys on the lush, meandering title track ‘Give the Beggar a Chance’ reminds one of Ray Manzarek (The Doors) while on ‘Kenimania’ he wails like an African counter-point to the Skatalites’ master organist Jackie Mittoo. Written in London and recorded in Lagos, the album was released in 1972.

Nigerian multi-instrumentalist Joni Haastrup may not be the household name Fela Kuti is, but he is as indelible a part of Afro-beat and Nigerian music as the Black President is. Haastrup was the vocalist on O.J. Ekemode and his Modern Aces' 1966 album, Super Afro Soul, which was one of the early, formative Afro-beat records -- an album a then-unknown Kuti played trumpet on (before he picked up his famous saxophone). He also toured with Cream's Ginger Baker in 1971, replacing some guy named Steve Winwood, and then went on to form his own band MonoMono before moving on to his own solo work.

Soundway Records has now smartly reissued the first two MonoMono records -- 1971's Give the Beggar a Chance and 1974's The Dawn of Awareness -- and Haastrup's 1978 solo album, Wake Up Your Mind. They come on the heels of their reissue of Remi Kabaka's great Afro-jazz soundtrack Black Goddess, where Haastrup played keys, and these albums further prove that his nickname -- they called him the "Number One Soul Brother" -- suits him quite well.

These three albums are all brief -- each clocks in under 40 minutes -- but they show a heavier soul mix in Haastrup's vision of Afro-funk and rock music. If James Brown was a huge influence on Afro-beat in general, then Haastrup is his closest musical student. These are tighter compositions than Kuti's, but they still manage a similar dichotomy: they are dynamic and shifting and yet build tension and inertia on insistent repetition.

Give the Beggar a Chance is a sweet and soulful debut that highlights Haastrup's voice -- his honeyed vocals are a far cry from Kuti's gruff, spare singing and keyboard work. Playing with guitarist Jimmy Adams, bass player Baba Ken Okulolo, and percussionists Candido Obajimi and Friday Jumbo, Haastrup's work with MonoMono doesn't always feel much like the sound of a band. His vocals are mixed way high, as are his keyboards, and his larger-than-life charm nearly overwhelms the songs. Still, if you sift through the layers, the band is a tight outfit. They shift carefully, but effectively, tone and tempo throughout the record. "The World Might Fall Over" moves from Haastrup's keyboard vamps to a bright and sped-up group jam, before settling into a smoldering soul number. "Find Out", one of many strident calls to action on these albums, has a similar push and pull. The shifts are subtle, but in such relatively short compositions, they catch you off guard and keep you interested.

Joni Haastrup - 1978 - Wake Up Your Mind

Joni Haastrup 
Wake Up Your Mind

01. Free My People
02. Greetings
03. Wake Up Your Mind
04. Champions And Superstars
05. Do The "Funkro"
06. Watch Out

Lead Vocals – Joni Haastrup
Backing Vocals – Sister Angie
Drum [African Drum] – Gaspar Lawal
Lead Guitar – Stephen Lipson
Rhythm Guitar – Jake Sollo
Bass - Tunde Kuboye

The founder of MonoMono, Nigerian Joni Haastrup took a slightly different turn with his 1978 solo debut, Wake Up Your Mind. Recorded in London, he made a disc that was decidedly more American funk than something African, with deep grooves and some fiery solos (listen to the sax and flute work on "Greetings," for example, both flying over a disco backdrop). It's politically aware ("Free My People"), but above all, it's a gem of ‘70s funk. That means there are strings as part of the overall sound, and the bass is mixed happily to the fore, ready to get dancers out on the dancefloor. Although a very talented keyboard player it's Haastrup's vocals and composing skills that are front and center here, a move away from the jazz-rock that had been his sound earlier in the decade. Africa is still there, underneath everything, but Haastrup made a truly international album, one that deserved more exposure when it was released, and which should find a wider audience now.

Growing up in a royal household in Nigeria, Joni Haastrup began his musical journey performing for his brothers band Sneakers and was quickly snapped up as a vocalist for O.J. Ekemode and his Modern Aces’ ‘Super Afro Soul’ LP, one of Afro-beat’s formative LPs. Soon after, Ginger Baker of Cream fame replaced Steve Winwood with Joni on keys for Airforce’s UK concerts in ’71 and the success of the collaboration led to further shows with Baker as part of the SALT project before he returned to Nigeria to set up MonoMono
Back in London in 1978, Joni recorded his solo gem ‘Wake Up Your Mind’ for the Afrodesia imprint. Laced with funk basslines, swirling keyboards and screaming guitars, this is Joni’s most ‘western’ record but at the same time unmistakably of the African origin. From the slow-motion disco of ‘Greetings’ to the stone cold groove of ‘Watch Out’ to the Rueben Wilson style funk of ‘Free My People’ Joni was soaking up the sounds of the times and blending them with the music of his roots.

Joni Haastrup ‘Soul Brother Number One’ 
Joni Haastrup came of age in a royal household in the waning days of colonial Nigeria; his grandfather was a king in the Yoruba town of Ilesa in Western Nigeria. Joni grew up surrounded by music, local drummers would perform for his grandfather whilst a steady flow of old American 78’s and calypso discs were on rotation at the local record shop.
So it was little surprise Joni chose to become a musician. The burgeoning  jazz tinged high-life scene he walked into was led by bands like the Abalabi Rhythm Dandies and Eddie Okonta & his Top Aces all basking in their country’s newfound independence after years of British colonial rule. It was in the midst of this a young Joni Haastrup made his debut singing in his brother’s band Sneakers at a 1964 New Year’s gig in Ondo
Later in 1966, when James Brown was all the rage, O.J. Ekemode and his Modern Aces’ released their ‘Super Afro Soul’ LP, an album that many see as laying the foundations of Afro-beat. Featuring Joni Haastrup on vocals, an unknown Fela Ransome Kuti sat in on trumpet before taking up sax and forming the Koola Lobitos.
At this point Joni Haastrup tearing up stages across Western Nigeria and soon became known as his country’s “Soul Brother Number One”. Later that year the cover band Clusters International, seeking a dynamic stage presence took Joni as their front man, a role Joni flourished in for the next few years.
In 1971, an invitation from Ginger Baker was extended to Joni Haastrup as part of the Airforce tour and the success of the collaborations was to be a catalyst for Joni’s Nigerian exodus and the forming of MonoMono.

Afrocult Foundation - 1978 - Black Goddess

Afrocult Foundation
Black Goddess

01. Brothers And Sisters
02. The Quest
03. Slave March
04. Black Goddess
05. The Quest (Piano Solo)
06. The Warrior

Drums [African], Keyboards – Remi Kabaka Adenihun
Keyboards, Bass Guitar, Percussion – B. D. Wright
Lead Guitar, Keyboards – Joni Haastrup
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Percussion – Dele Okonkwo

The soundtrack from Ola Balogun's film: Black Goddess. An Afro-Brazilian film. Written and directed by Ola Balogun. Delegate Producer Jece Valadao. Starring: Jorge Coutini, Sonia Santos, Zozimo Bulbul, Lea Garcia

Olá Balógun is not just a pioneer of African cinema, he was the first black film director who shot a movie in Brazil! “A Deusa Negra” (Black Goddess, 1978) is another amazing story - click the video above for a preview. We recently published an article on this blog (see The 19th century Yoruba repatriation) that was shared very often on Social Media. It explains the intense relations between Yorùbáland and Brazil and the returned Aguda slaves from Salvador da Bahia, who became a kind of elite among the early Lagosians. One day a Brazilian businessman appeared in Lagos and asked Balógun, who himself has ancestors among the returned slaves, if he was interested in shooting a movie. Balógun developed a very unique screenplay: A young Nigerian Yorùbá man, called Babátúndé, talks to his dying father, whose last wish is that his son travels to Brazil to search for the lost part of the family. The father speaks to his son about their Aguda ancestors, who returned as freed slaves from South America to Yorùbáland. One of the establishing shots for the scene focuses on an old house in the Brazilian quarter in Lagos, probably demolished today like the Ile´j?` Bar, as the architectural heritage, built by returned slaves in the baroque "Portuguese" style, is not protected by the city of Lagos. The dying father continues to tell his son that it was promised to the rest of the family, left in the diaspora, that one day they would be taken back to Yorùbáland. Unfortunately, this never happened, and now all the hope lies within the young man to fulfill this promise of his ancestors. His name, Babátúndé, literally means “the father has returned again”. Traditional Yorùbá believe in reincarnation, in the sense that a part of the ancestor's multi-dimensional soul - and not the whole individual soul - shapes the newborn child's destiny.

Babátúndé, who thus bears the "Brazilian heritage" in his name, then receives from his dying father a carved statue of Òrìsà Yemaja. Let's better call it in Portuguese spelling Orixá Iemanjá, because the statue has been brought back from Brazil. The father gives it to his son and wishes that the deity may guide him on the way. In Brazil he should look for a similar carving, a replica, and find the lost family members. The carved image is interesting, it is shaped in the form of a typical “ab`b?`”, a ritual fan, used very often in the Brazilian diaspora for Oxúm or Iemanjá. Françoise Balógun describes this statue in her essay as “sea goddess”, which is a Brazilian (Iemanjá) or Cuban (Yemayá) expression and a view that became popular in the West through many academic diasporic publications on the Orisha religions. To the Yorùbá people in Nigeria and Benin Yemoja is a riverine deity, associated with the river Ògùn and not connected to the ocean, where Òrìsà Olókun (Yor. “owner of the ocean”) resides. In the movie itself it is never mentioned that Yemaja was the deity of the sea. I am quite sure that Olá Balógun himself is aware of this story and chose Yemaja as a symbol for both the connection and separation of the Yorùbá people, she is the perfect symbol for this movie. All the actors were Brazilians, but the ones who are playing the Africans pronounce the Òrìsà as Yorùbá "Yemoja", while all the others in the Candomblé temples call her in Portuguese "Orixá Iemanjá". They clearly must have been instructed by the Yorùbá film director.

Babátúndé arrives in Rio, gets into contact with Candomblé practitioners and in a ceremony a mounted priestess of Iemanjá sends him to the city of Salvador da Bahia. It is an interesting image, that this young Yorùbá man gets explanations on Orisha trance by the Brazilian practitioners of the religion. I am sure when the movie was shot in 1978 the Yorùbá traditionalists at home were in an even worse situation than today, discriminated by Christians as idol worshippers, while in the diaspora Yorùbá culture was already officially supported by the state since decades (see Communism and Yorùbá culture). On the other hand Babátúndé answers contemporary questions on African languages or politics to the Brazilians. He enters the mystical and magic world of Òrì?à, abroad from his original Yorùbá home. All the houses Babátúndé enters in Brazil have split palm fronds, Yor. màrìwò, above their entrance doors, a typical Yorùbá sign for sacred Orisha spaces that have certain taboos - while the dying father in Lagos had an image of Jesus Christ next to his bed. It is really funny getting into the movie's details and all the different levels of what is "original" and what "diaspora" Yorùbá culture. Babátúndé gets a reading with cowry shells, Port. "jogo de búzios" or Yor. "`rìndínlógún", and participates in Orixá ceremonies and Afro-Brazilian folkloric dances. At the end of his journey his ancestors appear to him in trance. The story goes back to colonial times and the cruel life of the plantation slaves. Like in every good movie, Babátúndé also falls in love and at the end - no, I do not tell the whole story here... What a great movie! It addresses many topics of the diasporic dimension of Yorùbá culture, from the point of view of a Yorùbá filmmaker. As far as I know this is absolutely unique. The Portuguese version is on Youtube now. Many of Balógun’s original movie soundtracks were released on vinyl, the records are highly sought after by collectors and DJs. ?lá Balógun had to face some difficulties in the organization of “A Deusa Negra”, but at the end he got a professional film crew and actors and all the production facilities he needed. It is “Ola’s best film, the one which comes closest to a successful work” (Françoise Balógun). Highly recommended for all the people interested in Yorùbá transatlantic culture!

A Deusa Negra is a love story that spans two centuries. In 18th century Yorubaland, Prince Oluyole is taken prisoner in the course of internecine warfare fanned by overseas slave traders. He is sold into slavery in Brazil. In present day Nigeria, at his father’s deathbed, the young Babatunde promises to go to Brazil and search for traces of their once-enslaved ancestors. Beginning with a Candomblé ritual, his journey takes him ever deeper into this culture and, in a dream-like sequence, affords him a deeper understanding of his ancestors’ suffering and powers of resistance. Balogun effortlessly links present with past, real with magical worlds and discourse with trance. The hypnotic atmosphere is also heightened by the music of the Nigerian drummer Remi Kabaka, which plays with repetitive patterns and distortions.