Fricke's Picks: Nigeria Special

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African Diamonds The twenty-six rare and exciting singles and LP tracks on Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Nigerian Blues (1970-6) (Soundway) were made during a brief window of party and prosperity for that nation — between the Biafran War, which ended in 1970 at a cost of an estimated 1 million lives, and a military coup in 1976 that triggered decades of political instability and corruption. But in the small time they had, in a scene already dominated by Nigeria's firebrand star Fela Anikulapo Kuti, singers and showmen such as Celestine Ukwu, Collins Oke Elaiho and Sir Victor Uwaifo, and groups as disparate as the Funkees (former Biafran fighters who dressed and rocked like Funkadelic) and the Nigerian Police Force Band (a jamming combo of actual cops) invented rich, hypnotic funk, at once primal and modern, in diverse blends of the older regional pop (highlife), tribal vocal and drumming traditions, and the amplified impact of Western rock and soul. "Nekwaha Semi Colon," from a 1973 LP by the Semi Colon, has a long solo by an unnamed guitarist who must have heard and loved Santana's Abraxas. With its trance-guitar licks and watery electric piano, "Feso Jaiye," a 1974 track by the Sahara All Stars of Jos, is as psychedelic as the Youngbloods' 1969 album, Elephant Mountain. But the propulsion, fusions and often coded politics here are all local. Some of the artists here remain mysteries to compiler Miles Cleret, who admits in his liner notes that he couldn't dig up anything on Leo Fadaka and the Heroes other than their lone single, 1973's "Blak Sound" — but it's enough. With its chattering wah-wah guitar and sturdy, loping beat, the record sounds like Bo Diddley coming home, bringing the future with him.