Artist Profiles: I. K. Dairo

I. K. Dairo

For many years, I.K. Dairo was an influential Juju musician and made a lasting impression on musicians in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

The son of an itinerant carpenter, Isaiah Kehinde Dairo was born on January 6th, 1931 in Kwara State, Nigeria. The death of his twin brother Taiwo, according to Dairo, was caused by his mother’s refusal to heed the oracle’s revelation that the twins wished her to take them along the street with song and dance (a Yoruba tradition for the birth of twins).

Because his father did not believe much in formal education, Isaiah Kehinde attended school for only three years. When his father left his carpentry job with the Nigerian National Railway in 1937, he took all of his 12 children back to his farm in the Ijebu-Ijesa area of Oyo state. Shortly before they left, the father, drawing on his carpentry skills, made a drum for his son. I.K. was so fond of his drum that he wouldn’t part with it. Whether at mealtime, while going to fetch water or any other activity, his drum was always with him.

As a youth, I.K. apprenticed and trained as a barber, but used all of his free time to play drums. He spent evenings watching his predecessors of Juju music (Orioke, Oladele Oro and others) in action. Using knowledge he gained from his father, I.K. began to make his own drums. Not long after (in 1946) he gathered up enough young friends to form his first band. For the next fifteen years I.K. sojourned through many professions including cloth peddler, road worker, cocoa farm laborer, construction worker (carrying cinder blocks on his head) and even a carpenter. I.K., however, never left his drum far behind. During the day he labored, and at night he played with early Juju masters like Ojoge Daniel based at Ibadan.

Weary of all his wandering, financial success having eluded him, I.K. returned home in 1954 with only a sixpence, a guitar and his carpentry tools. In 1954, with no more than sheer confidence, I.K. formed the ten member Morning Star Orchestra. I.K. Dairo and the Morning Star Orchestra began to play at the usual range of available venues, weddings, naming ceremonies, burials and so forth, and their reputation grew. In 1961 they were invited to compete with 15 other Juju bands at a WNBS/TV contest. I.K. Dairo and the Morning Star Orchestra took first place and so began their rise to international fame. It was during this period that the name was changed from Morning Star Orchestra to I.K. Dairo and his Blue Spot Band.

When Nigeria became a republic in 1963, I.K. Dairo became a knight of Imperial Britain. Queen Elizabeth, on her tour of Nigeria bestowed upon him the title Member of the British Empire (M.B.E.) and he became the first African musician to receive such an honor.

I.K.’s star continued to shine as that decade brought him success after success. The band traveled all over the world, representing Nigeria in the Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar in 1965 (where I.K. and the Blue Spots stole the show from O.K. Jazz), and in the World Music Festival in Tokyo in 1972. They performed widely in Europe and recorded in London where I.K. dazzled the studio engineers at Decca Records by recording two full LPs and two singles in one day (DWAPS #33 &34).

In 1958 I.K. amicably parted ways with the original Blue Spots (who went on to form their own group) and gathered up a new band, even sharper than the original Blue Spots. It was during this era (1957-75) that I.K. Dairo had an immeasurable influence on Juju music and the Nigerian music industry. He introduced numerous instruments to Juju music, including “talking drum” and accordion and he made guitar its staple instrument. He pioneered the use of the “hook” (short memorable refrains) in his songs as well as singing in regional dialects. his clarion voice and a knack for eloquent lyrics, coupled with his deep involvement in the church earned him the title Baba Aladura (Father of Blessings).

In 1975 his career took a sudden downturn. In his own works, “Record dealers who used to sleep at my doorstep refused to sell my records. I built two hotels. One at Ondo (town) was called Parkland Hotel…If I walked into the hotel and noticed that there were many people around, I might decide to play for them. But once I’d pick up the guitar, they’d all leave in anger. If (Ebenezer) Obey, Sunny (Ade) or any other artist come, the whole place would be filled up. So I just stopped playing” A deeply religious man, I.K. Dairo increasingly devoted his time to the Cherubim and Seraphim church movement in which he was already a prominent figure. He preached regularly in the church built at his primary residence on Kehinde Dairo street, one of several streets named after him in Lagos, and integrated Juju music into his services. When the Lord revealed to him that his hotels and nightclubs were dens for thieves and prostitution he closed them down (including Kakadu nightclub, one of Lagos best known hot spots). After a stormy decade of preaching and several unsuccessful forays into the business world, I.K. Dairo MBE came back to what he knew best, music.

I. K. Dairo, died February 7, 1996 in Efon-Alaiye, near Akure, Nigeria. He was 65.

Discography:

I Remember My Darling (Berachah Music, 1980)
Mo Fara Mi Fun O (Berachah Music, 1980)
Ere Omo Moji F’owuromi Sa (Berachah Music, 1980)
Juju Master (Original Music, 1990)
I Remember (Music of the World, 1991)
Ashiko (Xenophile Music, 1992)
Definitive Dairo (Xenophile Music, 1996)

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Artist Profiles: I.M. Harjito

I.M. Harjito

I.M. Harjito, the Gamelan Kusuma Laras (“Flowering Harmony”) artistic director, is one of the finest Javanese musicians practicing today. He is a graduate of Indonesia’s state conservatory for the traditional performing arts, where he worked closely with one of the major figures of 20th-century Javanese music, R. Ng. Martopangrawit.

Harjito has directed gamelan ensembles in Indonesia, the United States, Canada, and Australia. He is also a composer of traditional and innovative works for gamelan and other instruments.

For the past three decades he has been a faculty member at Wesleyan University. Although he is a master of all the Javanese gamelan instruments, he is most famous for his superb rebab and gendèr playing.

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Artist Profiles: Midiyanto

Midiyanto

Midiyanto is a musician and puppet master (dhalang) from Wonogiri, Central Java, coming from a family of artists. Over the last 30 years he has taught and performed extensively in Java, the US, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, including 10 years in Portland as the gamelan director at Lewis & Clark College.

He directed the gamelan on the Shadow Music of Java CD, recorded at the Smithsonian, and has been featured in several documentaries. He has taught and directed gamelan at UC Berkeley since 2004, after an earlier stint there from 1988 to 1992.

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Artist Profiles: Heni Savitri

Heni Savitri

Heni Savitri began to study sindhènan (Javanese singing with gamelan) in 2002. In 2003, she won the competition for best singer in her native district of Wonogiri, Central Java. She entered the Performing Arts Conservatory in Surakarta in 2004, and began representing the institution in competitions the following year as well as performing in shadow plays.

Upon enrolling in Indonesia’s state conservatory for the traditional performing arts in Surakarta, she was selected as the singer for many recordings of new faculty compositions and traditional works, representing the academy in the 2008 international vocal competition in Jakarta.

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Artist Profiles: Lagbaja

Lagbaja

Lagbaja is widely considered to be one of Africa’s most exciting and interesting contemporary artists. Combining sophisticated compositions with a dynamic stage show and enigmatic personality, he was a popular in Nigeria, in constant demand for live performance and ubiquitous on the airwaves. His monthly shows at his own Motherlan’ Niteclub, in the heart of Ikeja – the capital of Lagos state, sold-out well in advance.

Lagbaja – which in the Yoruba language has a simultaneous multiple-translation meaning of “somebody”, “nobody”, “anybody” and “everybody” – has always performed masked. On one level, by never revealing his human identity, Lagbaja represents the common man and the faceless voice of the masses. On yet another level, his elaborate masks and stage costumes link him to the ancient tradition of Egungun: Africa’s ancestral masqueraded spirits, who come out in times of crisis helping to guide the people towards truth and resolution.

Musically speaking, Lagbaja’s sound is unique, incorporating a range of influences from Afrobeat to Highlife, Juju, Pop, Funk and Hip-Hop. Generally his music is identified under the umbrella of Afrobeat, which is one of his major influences. Incorporating contemporary elements such as horns, guitars and keyboards alongside the most traditional of Nigerian instruments (such as Bata and Dundun drums), Lagbaja?’s music spans the generations of African expression.

He has a U.S. CD, We Before Me, on the IndigeDisc/Ryko label.

Discography:

Ikira (1993)
Lagbaja (1993)
C’est Un African Thing ‎(Motherlan’ Music, 1986)
Me (2000)
We ‎(Motherlan’ Music, 2000)
We and Me Part II (2000)
Abami – A Tribute To Fela ‎(Motherlan’ Music, 2000)
Africano ….. the mother of groove ‎(Motherlan’ Music, 2005)
Paradise (2009)
Sharp Sharp (2009)
200 Million Mumu – The Bitter Truth (2012)

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The New Pulse of World Fusion

ShapeShifters – The New Pulse of World Fusion

ShapeShifters – The New Pulse of World Fusion (WorldWide Records/Soundings of the Planet, 2000)

This is a largely instrumental album of world fusion music, featuring multi-instrumentalist Alain Eskinasi (of Brainscapes) on bass and guitar, Richard Hardy on wind instruments, and husband-wife team Aziz Paige on sitar and guitar and Khabira Paige on tanpura.

The album is smooth and well-textured, and the 11 tracks are a jazzy but mellow listen. We would recommend the tracks Equinox (upbeat, with fine sitar texture) and the joyful Pipers of Beltane. In sum, the album delivers what it promises: healing and ecstatic music in an East-West blend.

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Malian Sensation Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba to Release Miri in 2019

Bassekou Kouyate – Photo by Robin Chanda

 

Malian ngoni trailblazer Bassekou Kouyate has announced the release of a new album in 2019 titled ‘Miri’. The new recording, on Out Here Records, is scheduled for release on January 25, 2019.
Together with his band Ngoni Ba, Miri features his wife, vocalists Amy Sacko. Guests include Abdoulaye Diabate, Habib Koite and Afel Bocoum.

To celebrate the release of the new album, a series of UK dates has been booked, starting with the monumental Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow on January25, 2019, followed by London, Liverpool, Leeds and other locations.

Bassekou Kouyate’s earlier recordings include Segu Blue (Out Here Records), I Speak Fula (Out Here Records), Afrocubism (World Circuit Records), Jama Ko (Out Here Records) and Ba Power‘ (Glitterbeat Records),

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Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen to Release You Can’t Stand The Heat in 2019

Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen

Virtuoso newgrass mandolinist Frank Solivan and his band Dirty Kitchen have announced the release of a new album titled You Can’t Stand The Heat. The album is set for release on February 8, 2019 on Compass Records. This new project is being co-produced by Alison Brown, Compass co-founder and Grammy winner, and will feature guest vocal appearances from Danny Paisley, Dudley Connell. Michael Cleveland also appears on fiddle.

Frank Solivan left Alaska and moved to Washington, D.C., where he’s built a great reputation as a formidable mandolinist. The band includes award-winning banjoist Mike Munford, award-winning guitarist Chris Luquette and bassist Jeremy Middleton.

Frank Solivan’s discography includes I Am A Rambler ‎(2009), On The Edge ‎(2013), Cold Spell (2014) and Family, Friends & Heroes ‎(2016).

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Anoushka Shankar to Perform in Miami in March 2019

Anoushka Shankar

Acclaimed Indian music composer and sitarist Anoushka Shankar is set to perform on Sunday, March 17, 2019 at South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center.

Anoushka is the daughter of Ravi Shankar and sister of Norah Jones. Anoushka Shankar studied sitar under her father from a very young age and has gone on to master the instrument and also expand her musical horizons.

She has collaborated with leading classical orchestras and pop artists as diverse as Sting, M.I.A., Herbie Hancock, and her sister Norah Jones.

Anoushka Shankar’s discography includes: Anoushka, Anourag, Rise, Breathing Under Water, Traveller, Traces of You, Home, and Land of Gold.

Accompanied by a stellar quintet for this concert, Anoushka Shankar returns to her roots with a concert of meditative Indian classical ragas.

Doors 6:00 p.m., Show 7:00 p.m.
Tickets

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Secrets of Seduction

Enigmatic Obsession – Secrets of Seduction

Enigmatic Obsession – Secrets of Seduction (FreeSpirit, 2008)

Listeners familiar with Enigma’s fusion of Gregorian chants and electronica will also appreciate this album by Enigmatic Obsession. The band features Jens Gad from Enigma (which also included Michael Cretu).

The 13 tracks of this album will appeal to fans of chillout and ambient music. The bonus track ‘Lifesign’ is superb, and we also recommend The Delta of The Red River, and Northern Horizon. Organs, guitar, flute, piano and basslines create a smooth foundation, blended with trademark soft whisperings in Spanish.

On headphones or turned up full blast on a good stereo, this is a perfect album for a late evening chill.

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