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V/A - Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump

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Artist: V/A

Album: Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump

Label: Strut

Review date: May. 12, 2008

In 2001, Strut released the three-disc, impeccably packaged compilation Nigeria '70, which documented and celebrated the diversity of funky music surrounding the Nigerian metropolis of Lagos in the 1970s. Post-independence Nigeria was a sweltering hot spot of hybrid sounds (highlife, jùjú, fuji, plamwine, Afrobeat, Afro-rock, Afro-jazz, Afro-pop, Afro-fusion, Afro-soul, Afro-funk, Afro-jùjú, jungle-rock, sedico system, adawa system, and the list goes on and on), and the compilers looked to give as over-arching a look as possible at the significant players in the scene. They mingled world-renown names like Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade and Orlando Julius with lesser known, but no less intriguing acts like Blo and The Funkees making for an informative, entertaining and eye-opening listen. Despite the wide gap between release dates, Strut continues the series with Nigeria '70: Lagos Jump.

With the overview of the scene now established, Lagos Jump digs further, unearthing lesser known artists and hybrids of Nigerian music. Of the musicians included, Sir Shina Peters – who provides the opening track – is probably the most well known to international audiences. Backed by His International Stars, "Yabis" is a perfect example of why the Afro-jùjú inventor caused the country to delve into "Shinamania" in the '80s and '90s. Jùjú's foundation is interlocking guitar melodies led by an array of Yoruba talking drums that creates a groove that is nearly trance-like. This framework was experimented upon endlessly throughout the 20th century by Nigerian musicians, but by upping the tempo and amplification, incorporating the call-and-response chants and freestyle jazz of Fela's Afrobeat, and utilizing the intensity of fuji-style percussion, Shina became an international star. "Yabis"'s mix of sub-genres and distinctly more modern-sounding production make for a good introduction of what's to come.

While Shina was made famous by his fusion of local styles, a lot of what's included on Lagos Jump mixes international genres. For example, Ify Jerry Crusade's "Everybody Likes Something Good" and Peter King's "African Dialects" both have distinct soul influences. King's take is defiantly slicker, coming off with almost an Isaac Hayes-like smoove groove and polished tone. Only the poorly mic’d horn section keeps the track from completely falling into a proto-disco trap. "Everybody Likes Something Good," on the other hand, sounds like it was plucked from an entry of Numero Group's Eccentric Soul series. With a soul-rock organ, surf guitar, tambourine beat, English lyrics and DIY feel, this could just as easily be a lost 45 from the Capsoul or Big Mack label.

Along the same lines, the Faces' "Tug of War" and Eric (Showboy) Akaeze & His Royal Ericos' "Wetin De Watch Goat, Goat Dey Watcham" both draw heavily from instrumental funk. Choppy electric guitars, rousing horn melodies, devastating drum breaks and singeing organ solos join Yoruba drums and – in the case of Akaeze – extended ranting workouts to form the truest definition of Afro-funk. And just in case you'd rather call it Afro-rock, the Immortals' "Hot Tears" all but claims that description as solely its own. Comparisons to a band like the Sonics would not be that far off.

The most intriguing fusion of genres comes care of Chief Checker. His "Ire Africa" begins with reggae's tight electric guitar upstrokes, a deep grooving bass-line and syncopated rhythm. In fact, with the well-produced, dubby feel of the track and the meandering synth noodles, it sounds like a late-'70s Lee Perry production. Checker rants over that foundation in short bursts of his own dialect while a chorus of angelic ladies calmly sings "Afr-i-caaaa." Top that off with a jazz flute and a multi-tracked Afrobeat horn bridge, and you have a song that exceeds easy definition.

When the original Nigeria '70 was released in 2001, few such compilations existed. Lagos Jump now has to compete in a market that has seen an influx of similar releases – hardly a complaint, but still a pertinent reality. Can it stand above and beyond the crowd as its predecessor did? Not really, but its imprecise variation remains endlessly entertaining.

By Michael Ardaiolo

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