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Review: ‘Nigeria 70’ is a Treasure Trove of Vintage African Grooves

The latest in the cratedigging series finds a world of beats beyond Fela Kuti and WizKid.

nigeria 70

Strut Records*

The first Nigeria 70 compilation was an ear-opener for fans of Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade, cultural ambassadors whose Nigerian exports blew the minds of funky post-punks and disco connoisseurs in the U.S. and U.K. in the 1980s. Nigeria 70 version 1.0 laid out a banquet of tracks by those men and lesser-known peers: The Lijadu Sisters, Sir Victor Uwaifo, and the mysterious William Onyeabor, subject of a major revival project decades later.

The fourth volume of Nigeria 70 expands the franchise without diluting it. Nearly half the tracks date to the ‘80s, with production gestures to match. Idowu Odeyemi’s “Oni Suru” echoes Onyeabor’s deliciously rinky-dink synth melodies alongside chuckling brass, waterfall soukous guitar riffs, and a talking drum undertow. “Black Precious Color,” a 1980 jam by Felixson Ngasia & The Survivals, harnesses ‘70s black power sentiment to an accelerated disco groove and jazzy soloing; Sina Bakare’s lean 1977 “Africa” calls for pan-African unity over the set’s hottest guitars (which is really saying something).

A few of the acts here made some impact abroad, among them Prince Nico Mbarga, whose 1979 “Sickness” here is harder-edged than his sublime signature “Sweet Mother”, but no less danceable. Most of these acts didn’t broadcast beyond their homeground, but it evidently wasn’t for lack of chops or charm. This is a cratedigger mixtape to rock virtually any party, and spur digging of your own.

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