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Nigeria 70: The Definitive Story of 1970s Funky Lagos

8 April 2009

This two-CD set is the music discs from a 2001 box set that also included a third disc containing an audio documentary with interviews; that’s not here, but a note in the booklet shows where it’s available for free online. This reissue thus has all the stuff that the average fan would play more than once.

There are a few familiar names sprinkled through the tracklist. FELA KUTI (the only artist with two tracks here), TONY ALLEN, and KING SUNNY ADE have been famous for decades. In recent years, interest in this music has also brought compilations devoted to ORLANDO JULIUS and SIR VICTOR UWAIFO. But what’s great about the Nigeria 70 compilations (there’s also a single CD that came out last year) is that they give us a fuller context in which to view the stars by also providing many lesser-known gems.

Neophytes need to know that the Nigerian idea of funk is quite different from American funk. Nigerian funk is more polyrhythmic, more elliptical in its grooves, more complex. The booklet notes, which are both informative and entertaining, include a tidbit about earlier generation highlife pioneer E.T. MENSAH, who after a 1956 LOUIS ARMSTRONG concert complained, “we wanted more rhythm.” Nobody listening to this set could complain about that!