A choice introduction to a world of rock and funk hidden to many.
Noel Gardner 2010-07-19
While it’s pretty indisputable that Britain and the USA were, during the 1960s, the global leaders of rock music, there were countless nations across the world reacting to these innovations and mutations, often with terrific results. Nigeria, ravaged by civil war in the late 60s, was nevertheless a particularly glowing example of this as the next decade unfurled. While highlife – the jittery, up-tempo West African genre – had long been the dominant Nigerian music style, the influx of rock and funk from the West took root, and resulted in the hybrid fashioned on this two-CD compilation’s 32 songs.
Although it might at least in part be attributable to rough, sometimes imprecise recording techniques, there’s a genuinely thrilling rawness to numbers like Deiyo Deiyo by The Hykkers, who appear to be channelling the earthiest psychedelia on offer at the time. Other examples of this compilation’s more psychedelic leanings are less abrasive – The Black Mirrors’ The World Ends, from which the album takes its title, is perhaps helped (to Western ears) by an English-language (and English-sounding) vocal as well as some catchy, Doors-y organ. More prominent still is the influence of James Brown and his primary characteristics – the urgent, repeated commands and catchphrases on the mic; the elasticated groove heaven laid down by the musicians. Not that the Nigerian pioneers were slavish imitators – something like The Mebusas’ Mr Bull Dog bears the hallmarks of the Godfather of Soul, but filtered through a grounding in highlife.
Recent years have seen a marked upswing in the unearthing and repackaging of old African records. It’s something to be grateful for – while some of these cuts were smash hits back at home, most of us are unlikely to stumble upon copies today. There is, one supposes, a danger of overly fetishising the ‘otherness’ of African rock and funk combos, who after all just wanted to make a thrilling racket like any other aspiring band (and, in some cases here, entertain the Nigerian army, who sponsored their activity). The thrillingness of their racket transcends borders and continents, however, and provides a choice introduction to a world of rock and funk hidden to many.