'There's far more to Nigerian music than Afro-beat, as Yunju proves..'
John Armstrong 2004-12-02
There's far more to Nigerian music than Afro-beat, as Yoruba master percussionist Yunju (Iwa's founder) proves on this under-the-radar, 10-tune set of what I'm loathe to call Afro-House (the tag means nothing to me) but would be happy with, say, 'juju, fuji and apala spirits fused with London clubland production ideas' or something equally cumbersome.
The compositions are in Yoruba and English, though I'm bound to say that I find the extremely able vocalists sounding more comfortable and dynamic in Yoruba.
Iwa signifies a good and powerful spirit (often an ancestor) that watches over its charges, and this title track is the obvious pick of the disc, full of instant-hook key changes.Memorable vocal chorus lines and Yunju's driving percussion figures an instant Afro-House classic (doh, and I promised not to say Afro-House!)
"Koseru" has that turbo juju talking-drum style patented by Sir Shina Peters some years back, but then develops into a Tribal House mover, replete with (soundwash) vocals and flange effects. "Eyo", taken at a more leisurely pace, reminds one of that savings TV commercial where the young boy dives for a pearl: fresh, maritime. "Sunkino" brings promising newcomer Sandy Saffone to the fore with a ballad underpinned bya computerized thumb-piano sound, whilst "Iro", a cautionary lyric warning against the evils of stereotyping people no matter where they come from, carries its message on an arresting mid-tempo dance beat.
Playing time is a tad stingy for a modern CD (under 44 minutes), but the quality of the strongest three tracks, "Iwo", "Eyo" and"Iro" makes up for this.