Monday, May 12, 2008

Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump

When it comes to my knowledge of Nigerian music, it can be summed up in three words: Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat. I’ll surmise that the same can be said of most Western listeners. That being said, listening to Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump was a refreshing dose of new music for me. It’s the newest title from Strut Records that I’ve been listening to lately. Instead of me going on and on with my love of the label, just keep reading.

Like I said above, I know next to nothing about the development of music in Nigeria in the last 50 years, and won’t pretend otherwise here. I did however learn quite a bit from reading the extensive and informative (as typical for Strut’s releases) liner notes that accompanied this compilation. Not surprisingly, the only musician’s name I recognized in the track list or in the notes was Fela Kuti, but his is a name, and contribution, that only builds on preceding artists. As I always do, I’d suggest picking up a physical copy of the album when it comes out for the liner notes alone. From reading the notes, I learned much of the following information.

Without getting into the history and development of the music too much, I’ll say that the tracks here represent many musical movements that took place within Nigeria. The basis for much of the music on the album comes from two contrasting musical styles: Highlife dance band music which revolved around big bands that initially mimicked and then built off of American Swing music, and Juju music which was more of an organic traditional music.

The popularity and prominence of these two very unlike styles waxed and waned as the country went through political strife, but with the infusion of western pop music in the 60’s, things would change - permanently. Rock and Roll, ska, soul, and funk made inroads with young musicians who started incorporating these western styles into their own music, beginning the development of Afro-pop, then Afro-jazz, and of course Afrobeat (which Fela Kuti is celebrated for pioneering and why his name is indelibly branded in musical history). The sixteen tracks on this disc are an audible expression of how African musicians took in outside music, played with it, adopted parts of it, and created a fusion of styles of their own.

This disc is in some ways a follow-up to another release that Strut put out in 2001 their first time around titled simply Nigeria 70 (a 3 CD set that goes for insane prices now - if you can find it that is). Whereas the previous release included many established names such as Kuti and others, Lagos Jump focuses on other relatively unknown artists. It's coming out later this month on the 27th, but in the meantime, enjoy the opening track by Sir Shina Peters below.

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Fela Kuti - No Agreement : No Agreement

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