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Lijadu Sisters - Mother Africa

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Artist: Lijadu Sisters

Album: Mother Africa

Label: Knitting Factory

Review date: Jul. 6, 2012

The Lijadu Sisters are Nigerian twins who experienced a heyday singing harmony-laden pop songs during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their 1977 album, Mother Africa, collects six memorable songs set to dynamic acoustic and electric guitar and inventive syncopated percussion. Mother Africa is just one of several Lijadu Sisters albums that recently have been or soon will be put out on CD, MP3 and vinyl by the Knitting Factory label. Danger and Sunshine are now also available and Horizon Unlimited is set for an August release date. By most accounts these are important additions to the revival of Afrobeat music in the digital era.

Opener “Osupa I” begins with a multi-timbered hand-drummed beat that is quickly joined by the Sisters, who sing addictive, loopy melodies over a bright and bouncy acoustic guitar pattern. By contrast, “Iya Mi Jowo” leads with a pick-and-slide guitar intro that evokes Ry Cooder. On “Bayi L’ense,” the Sisters riff over a funky electric guitar groove; midway through, a distorted guitar solo joins the session. Closer “Osupa II” reprises “Osupa I,” this time with the backing of a meandering, fuzzy electric guitar line.

The repetitiveness and small quantity of material give Mother Africa the somewhat scanty feel of an EP. Yet, brevity and consistency are also virtues, and the recordings here are unified by the front-and-center status accorded to the Sisters’ voices, which hop about the vocal register effervescently. The songs and instrumentation are fresh and inviting, but it’s the Sisters’ tenor — joyous, slightly gritty, entirely uninhibited — that makes Mother Africa fresh and fun 35 years after its initial release.

By Benjamin Ewing

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