Nigeria 70 (various artists) – Sweet Times: Afro-Funk, Highlife & Juju from 1970s Lagos

January 01, 1970

(Strut)

 

www.strut-records.com

 

The Nigeria 70 series damn near defies criticism.
Unless you’re a complete troglodyte when it comes to African music (or music
from other cultures in general), you can’t really argue with the work the
series is doing in introducing a rich musical resource to Western ears. But
that’s the crux – Sweet Times: Afro-Funk,
Highlife & Juju from 1970s Lagos
is an album, after all, and it needs
to work as music, no matter its
cultural importance. No problem, as it happens – as the compilers have finely
tuned ears as to what tracks to pick, Sweet
Time
is nothing but sugar and gold.

 

The setlist focuses mainly on highlife and juju, both of
which borrow liberally from American black music – a fair trade, considering
the influence of African rhythms on American music in general. Thus we get
“Viva Disco,” Tunde Mabudu’s tribute to the prototypical 70s genre, and a track
that underscores the disco beat’s debt to other cultures’ rhythms. Another
highlight is “Bisi’s Beat,” a cut by Soki Ohale’s Uzzi that folds the kind of
psyched-out soul proffered by the Temptations and Sly Stone into its undulating
melodies. “It’s Time For Juju Music,” from Admiral Dele Abiodun and His Top
Hitters International, indulges (to the point of tedium, it must be said) in
the kind of electronic percussion frippery that became the backbone for early
80s hip-hop.

 

All this isn’t to say that the artists herein planned for
some kind of international crossover move. There are plenty of tunes that
cleave closer to the heart of highlife and juju, weaving the American
influences into the African core so subtly that any familiarity comes from
feel, rather than sound. “Ajoyio,” by Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & His
International Brothers (probably the best-known name here), is as good an
example of the hypnotic juju style as anything by genre star King Sunny Ade. “Henrietta,”
from Ali Chukwumah & His Peace Makers International, is a brilliant piece
of highlife that’s practically a treatise on the genre’s distinctive guitar
style. “Unity in Africa,” by Eji Oyewole, is
the ultimate African anthem – a horn-heavy groovefest worthy of Fela Kuti, with
a message to all Africans and anyone else with a soul.

 

Sweet Times:
Afro-Funk, Highlife & Juju from 1970s Lagos
is such an entertaining
collection of pure music that your hips will shaking so furiously you may not
notice the lesson in culture going down at the same time. Sweet indeed.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Viva
Disco,” “Henrietta,” “Unity in Africa” MICHAEL
TOLAND

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