In The Wire 365, Billy Bao's Mattin and Xabier Erzikia explored Lagos with sound artist Emeka Ogboh. Here, Mattin and Erzikia compile 15 annotated tracks of music and sound recordings.
1. Salami Balogun & His Sakara group
"Latifu a Obayhomi"
from Plays Sakara
(Babalele music, 2013)
Salamo Alabi Balogun (1913–1981), better known as "Lefty" is one of the leading exponents of sakara music. This yoruba musical style tradition is based on the mix of West African percussion traditions and Islamic chants. During the 1930s and 40s, this music served as entertainment for the elite of Lagos, with Abibu Oluwa as its maximum exponent. Balogun, originally the percussionist from Oluwa's band, began his solo career in the '50s and became one of the most prominent musicians in Nigeria. Currently, these forms of traditional music are unknown to the vast majority of Nigerian new generations. However, there are several Nigerian record labels re-releasing (most of them in fragile formats, from bad vinyl transfers and with almost no information or credits) the complete works of some legends of Sakara music.
2. Jazzhole Generator
Life in Lagos is driven by generators. People get at best three hours of electricity per day. The rest must be driven by personal generators which often means that every day and a half one must find petrol to refill the generator. This is a recording of the sound of the generator in Jazzhole records, a meeting point for any musician or music lover in Lagos.
3. Emeka Ogboh
There are probably over a thousand identical yellow painted Danfos scurrying around the city at any given moment, each one constantly struggling within the course of sameness to sculpt a unique identity. Danfo is the local name given to the yellow Volkswagen minibuses of Lagos that transport the masses to different parts of the city. Drivers and conductors attempt to express a sense of individuality, usually in the form of bumper stickers bearing religious and philosophical quotes, logos of favorite football teams (especially English ones), or pictures of icons, stenciled proverbs/words/poetry, some of which speak of personal experiences, or extra side mirrors, extended antenna, and other superfluous forms of decoration. This quest for a unique identity also extends audibly to the installation of melodious car horns, which have heads turning when the Danfo is in the vicinity.
4. Batile Alake and Her Waka Group
"Bo Se Eni Sun Ki O Dide"
from Batile Alake and Her Waka Group Vol 2
(Femco, circa 1960)
Along with sakara, waka is another musical genre strongly influenced by both African and Islamic traditions. Batile Alake (1935-2013), also known as "Waka Queen" was one of the first public and widely recognized female artists in the country. During the 50s, Alake became a pioneer, being the first woman to record a solo album in Nigeria. During her career, she recorded dozens of great albums and singles that unfortunately are quite hard to find at present, as her work has not been properly reissued. However, her splendid voice and the vitality of her music still sound like fresh air within the Nigerian popular music discography.
5. Tafawa Balewa Speakers
1 October 1960: Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912– 1966) announced Nigeria's independence in a speech held at the main square that actually holds his name. Tafawa Balewa square is a iconic very big construction full of symbolism located in Lagos Island, not far from the Old Lagos Prison, now called Freedom Park. Nowadays, this stadium sized square helds a very wide range of events, not only political, but mainly commercial or cultural events (including the yearly Eyo or Adamu Orisha carnivalesque festival dedicated to Yoruba cultural traditions). This recording was made during a gastronomic fair. Naija Pop reigns in Lagos.
6. Sina Ayinde Bakare
from Inu Mimo
Jazzhole records (2010)
Ayinde Bakare (1912-1972) was one of the pioneers of juju and highlife music in Nigeria. After World War II this music styles became very popular in Nigeria, with Bakare as the main innovator of the genre and consequently a juju music Star. His son, Sine Ayinde Bakare followed the work of his predecessor participating in projects like Faaji Agba, along with other almost forgotten stars like Fatai Rolling Dollar, Alaba Pedro or Seni Tejuoso. After several decades of silence, in 2010 Jazzhole records, a record label run by Kunle Tejuoso, published Inu Mimo, an album where other remarkable musicians of the Lagosian scene like Duro Ikujenyo or Prince Eji Oyewole collaborate.
7. Fuji Party
Fuji is a musical style close to the musical traditions related to Islamic culture in Nigeria. While other traditions like sakara or waka are progressively disappearing from the daily Nigerian cultural life, fuji music has continued to attract younger generations thanks to musicians like Wasiu Ayinde Marshall or Sule Alao Malaika. Fuji music's main feature is a non-stop long and intense rhythm-based trance that is combined with improvised singing sessions. The singer usually comments the situation and the people involved of the ceremony where the music is being played. During the shows, audience is constantly donating money to the singer(s), who has several assistants taking care of the collection. This binaural recording was made during a big birthday party in Ikoyi, from the middle of the audience.
8. Mark Ido
Mark Ido or Fugar Boy moved from Nigeria to Spain when he was 15 years old and he is the only musician making naija pop in Bilbao. Mark Ido has played all over Europe and goes regularly to Nigeria to play and record. Mark gave us this new track to give to Chris Tha Razor who works at Beat FM in order to promote his music. Tha Razor is an on-air personality on the main radio station for naija pop and we met him thanks to Emeka Ogboh in April. The title of this track is a personal use of pidgin and the chorus says: “I cannot control it”. This track contains many of the motives of niaja pop: eletronic high beat energy, auto-tune saturation, sexy ladies, a repetitive chorus and self promotion through the lyrics.
9. Diana Bada
"Walls and Ways"
Diana Bada (2014)
Diana’s music is contemporary with a fusion of poetry, jazz, hip hop, and Afro soul. She has just released her second record Be. Diana is half Nigerian and half Russian and has lived in many places including Britain and Hungary. She is very active in the Lagos scene and she has recently performed at Adé Bantu´s Afropolitan Vibes concert series at Freedom Park. She often collaborates with other musicians and artists such as Mc Busa Pista, Mc Kemon, Wura Samba and Emeka Ogboh. Diana worked with Dj Polaak for this track.
10. Oduyomi Isaiah Oluseye
"Talking Drum Improvisation"
The talking drum is a traditional drumming instrument, very common, not only in Nigeria but in almost all West Africa. The instrument is designed to be played with a stick while the arm holding the main drum tensions the strings to modulate the pitch of the resulting sound. The combination of this two techniques offers the possibility to mimmic the tone and prosody of the human speech. Based on this feature, most players believe that they are able to communicate any idea or thought just using drums. Extract taken from the Billy Bao's Lagos Sessions, recorded in Eko Reel Mix Studio, Lagos.
11. Lagos Street Ambience
Like all big megalopolis in the world, the estimated 21 million citizens in Lagos use sound as a communication tool creating an incredibly loud and noisy but at the same time amazingly rich sonic environment. A great variety of calling voices, other sonic calls like the scissor sounds of the hairdressers, loudspeakers located in every corner, non-stop traffic and klaxon sounds… This is Lagos.
12. Wura Samba
Wura Samba, a seven member band led by Abiodun Abraham Oke, uses traditional percussion instruments in a modernized way. Abiodun Abraham Oke, a versatile, talented and experienced drummer and percussionist, plays his instruments with such dexterity and passion that lends the band its uniqueness. Abiodun describes his music as fresh orchestration of traditional folklore specially yoruba. His influences are afrobeat, jazz and funk and he incorporates them into traditional percussion instruments. Abiodun Abraham Oke is very active in the Lagos music scene, collaborating with everybody from to Nneka to Tony Allen.
(from a YouTube clip, 2012)
Ed Emeka Keazor explains: "The track is "Ikeazor Oboli" dedicated to my great grandfather Uzowulu Ikeazor, a Warrior Chief in Igbo-land, who fought in the war of liberation against the British in 1901. The original song was recorded by Osaji and Arah, a traditional music duo in 1939 as a memorial song, when Ikeazor died. The video was of my band rehearsing the song at Bogobiri in 2012."
14. Ivori (BeatCircuit Mix)
(from a YouTube clip, 2012)
Ivori, a spoken word artist from Lagos, Nigeria, speaks about the turmoil in his country and the ongoing struggle for peace and unity in this ever-maddening world.
"The Men of the Iron Gang"
(Destiny of Coal, 2011)
Mendo is a multi-dimensional artist, producer and composer from Nigeria specialising in the genre of hip hop spoken word cabaret. An avid storyteller he plays haunting melodies that add emotion to his subliminally angst ridden lyrics which are either sung or spoken. He is also one half of the spoken word duo Caste Of A Lead Dynasty. With a penchant for experimentation he is affiliated with the Nigerian underground hip hop movement where he has collaborated with artistes like Jahza, Elajoe, Obiwon, Venomous of Micworx, XO and appeared on the mixtape Untold Stories. He produced, recorded and mixed the spoken world albums by the Caste Of A Lead Dynasty titled Destiny of Coal and Live Or Leave. He is currently working on a new album. The track "The Men of the Iron Gang" is inspired by a song with the same name from the 1979 cartoon movie The Little Convict set in an Australian prison colony. The song is a social commentary on the Nigerian situation which has generated different reactions from different perspectives and individuals. Some have decided to relocate while some have decided to stay and salvage the situation, others however have decided to get ahead by any means possible even if they
have to join the looters. Most of the song is delivered in a first person narrative.
*Field recordings made in Lagos by Xabier Erkizia, April 2014.
More tracks by the Nigerian artists and field recorders discussed in Mattin’s feature (and in the piece above) are included in this month’s Below The Radar download, free for digital and print subscribers. More details on subscriptions to The Wire here.