03.05.2009, 22:55   #3
: 06.03.2009
: 8,237

The Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination - Amalinja (Ibo)
Three veterans of Fela Kutis 1960s highlife-jazz band, the Koola Lobitos, namely Isaac Olasugba, Don Kemoah and Ezekiel Hart, were extremely accomplished musicians who formed their DIE combination band just at the same time when their former boss was beginning to revolutionise the music scene in Lagos, with his new, improved Afro-beat sound. After three singles for Polydor, they left the country looking for work overseas. Isaac and Ezekiel turned up with an album in Italy in 1974 entitled Soul-Rock, on the Ri-Fi label, but they were never again a part of the music scene.

The Harbours Band - Koma Mosi(Yoruba)
The Harbours Band were based in Port Harcourtand are one of the more 60s-style of highlife bands who were still active in the early seventies. Not a particularly prolific outfit in the recording arena, they were, however, a fairly well-known name on the circuit. This illustrates one of the big problems for bands who didnt visit Lagos or Onitsha too often: they didnt have the chance to record the same number of records as did bands who were based in the bigger towns with recording studios. When they did record they had to make sure they got it right, as they were only in town for a short time. Luckily for us, they nailed this one: a fantastic up-tempo, rolling, highlife track that features some swinging saxophone lines and a very tight rhythm section, with shades of merengue.

The Semi Colon (Igbo) - Look at them (Nekwaha)
Semi Colon - Singing, dancing everywhere they go - Come and see for yourself This is a self-praising song by the ever-eccentric Lasbrey Colon, front man for the unfortunately inconsistent pop-rock band Semi Colon, from the Ibo region of eastern Nigeria. This is one of those Nigerian records that skips between genres. While obviously sitting in the Afro camp, it doesnt sound much like anything else from the time, with its Fela-influenced vocals, a 4/4 beat, and infectious African hoedown guitar work. They recorded a number of albums, and stayed faithful to the EMI label, their most interesting LP being Ndia Egbo Ndia (Afro-Jigida) (NEMI0128).

Sir Victor Uwaifo & His Melody Maestros - Osalobua Rekpama (Edo)

Sir Victor Uwaifo has to be one of Nigerias and also Africas most interesting and unique stars. An ex-wrestler from ancient Benin City in Edo State, he built his first guitar at the age of twelve. As a young man, he moved to Lagos to study and quickly became immersed in the music scene. His first musical engagement was as a member of Victor Olaiyas Cool Cats, before he formed his own band, the Melody Maestros. In 1965 he scored Africas biggest hit to date with the famous number, Joromi. It achieved the first gold disc in Nigeria. In the late 60s after formulating Akwete highlife he made a couple of LPs in his Mutaba/Shadow style, which was basically highlife with a touch of American soul. In 1970 he returned to his hometown of Benin City to embark on the next stage of his career, the Ekassa period as he calls it. He made three Ekassa LPs for Philips, all of which were modernised versions of ancient Ekassa rhythms and folksongs. Ekassa was the music of the Benin court, which stretched back for centuries. Victor fused it with highlife and with his unique way of playing his self-customised guitar, which gave it an almost Hendrix-like, psychedelic feel. This track comes from 1970 and catches Victor in transition. Its a traditional ode to God and was written for his performance at Expo 70 in Japan. Watch out for a coming Soundway retrospective album.

The Sahara All Stars of Jos - Feso Jaiye (Yoruba)
The Sahara All Stars were based in the town of Jos, in Plateau State in the centre of Nigeria. One of the only bands playing highlife music this far north, they were made up of a mixture of musicians, some of whom had moved north from Yorubaland. According to many of the musicians who Ive spoken to, there was a feeling that the band had some kind of witchcraft on their side, and that playing at their open-air club was, for visiting bands, usually fraught with difficulties, which had been created to make the house band look better. They recorded two albums and a few 45s before disappearing. Feso Jaiye means take life slowly (or easy), and its message is just that: nobody likes people who rush around being brash. This is an extremely accomplished track that manages to convey musically its lyrical message perfectly. Kicking off with muted trumpet, in a nod to the highlife of the 60s, which is how the band originally started out playing, the mood of the track then goes in a beautiful, deep Afro-jazz direction, complete with Fender Rhodes and tenor saxophone.

The Nigerian Police Force Band (The Force 7) - Asiko Mi Ni (Yoruba)
Many highlife musicians learned their trade in one of the army or police force bands, especially during the war. It was a good way of being taught music, which otherwise may not have been open to many young men; and of course instruments were provided. This was a tradition that stretched back to the colonial days. When the brass bands that came to West Africa with the colonising nations mingled their music with local rhythms, it gave birth to the highlife style of music on the coast of Ghana. The Force 7 were one of the best of these institutional bands and they released a slew of records in many styles. Some of their highlights include the amazing Highlife-Blues 10 LP from the late 60s, and the Afro-beat 45s on HMV, Eko Ndun and Mori Keke Kan b/w Agbere Olomolanke.

Opotopo (Easy Kabaka Brown) - Belema (Kalabari)
Easy Kabaka Brown was another Nigerian enigma. Originally from Cross Rivers State, he was based in Lagos for a while and recorded his first LP for Philips in 1976. It features one of the big names of Nigerian highlife and Juju music, Fatai Rolling Dollar. Fatai was an old-timer whod been playing since the 50s. He played with J.O. Araba in the Afro Skittles before featuring with a number of other musicians. He also taught the esteemed Juju musician Ebenezer Obey to play the guitar. Easy Kabaka Brown would play many different styles of music, from bouncing highlife with a strong rhythmic element, to Afro-beat and funk. His later album on Polydor, in 1979, was an experimental record using a mix of synthesizers and traditional styles. He also cut one Afro-funk 45 on Afrodisia.

The Hykkers - I Want a Break Thru (Instrumental).
The Hykkers were a precursor to the Funkees, and were led by Jake Sollo. Along with the Hygrades, they released a few 45s in the early 70s on HMV Nigeria, most of which had instrumental jams or alternative versions on the B-side. This track is an instrumental B-side to the heavy Afro-rock track Deiyo Dayo. With bluesy, rock guitar from Sollo, it ambles along on a loose, wobbly rhythm.
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Masta (06.08.2011),  (10.12.2009)