Toby Foyeh and his Orchestra – Pirates of Africa (Kameleon Afrika Music, 2019)
Nigerian world traveler Toby Foyeh is an excellent guitarist, charismatic vocalist and band leader. After living in Nigeria and the UK, he is currently based in the United States where he put together a formidable band that performs irresistible Nigerian-rooted music.
Pirates of Africa is the new album from Toby Foyeh and his orchestra. It is a superb set of Nigerian styles such as Afrobeat, traditional Yoruba rhythms and call and response vocals, highlife, and palm wine combined with funk, jazz, rock, pop and Latin American music. Additionally, he treats the listener to memorable electric guitar work.
The lineup on Pirates of Africa includes Tony Foyeh on male lead vocals, backing vocals, lead guitars, flute and percussion; Frank Martins on rhythm guitars; Samuel Ebidighi on bass and backing vocals; Koby Adopoku Maxwell on bass; Femi Sanya on bass and percussion; Oscar Debe on drums and percussion; Tosin Aribisala on drums; Jojo Kuo on drums and percussion; Jerrol Pennerman on keyboards; JB Gnonlonfoun on keyboards; Dennis Ayandiran on talking drums and percussiin; Samuel Salawu on talking drums; Michael Baiyewu on percussion, batá drums, sakara, wood block; and Tari Nosika, Tolumide Yeboah, Gloria Osaghae, Lola Okusanmi, Feyi Okusanmi, Ronke Coker, Shafi Bello, Dele Odunaiya and Amaka Igbonezim on vocals.
Osibisa exploded onto the music world in 1971 with a pulsating and vibrant sound. Translated from Ghanaian, Osibisa means “criss-cross rhythms that explode with happiness”. Their innovative music style matched the exciting progressive rock scene of the era. Osibisa’s albums featured fantasy artwork by Roger Dean, an artist connected to some of the most iconic progressive rock album covers.
The band’s percussive influence began to manifest itself within the music of their contemporaries. The Osibisa poly-rhythms and percussive breaks were to be an integral feature of the disco boom that was to follow in the late 1970s. Their unique fusion of Africa, Caribbean, rock, jazz, Latin and R&B paved the way for other potent music force such as Bob Marley and the emergence of African music in the 80’s. Indeed, Osibisa are seen by many as the Godfathers of World Music.
One of the important reasons for Osibisa’s enduring success has been their highly energetic and extravagant stage show. However their music is still an influential factor in dance music of today with no fewer than a dozen covers of “Sunshine Day”, which was also used for the Euro 2000 football tournament.
For many years now, they toured tirelessly, headlining numerous festivals and performing in every far-flung comer of the globe. Highlights have included a major tour of India, which resulted in a No 1 Gold Album – an unprecedented achievement for a Western band. The mid 90′ s saw a re-emergence of Osibisa in North America where African and Reggae music are gaining in popularity. The band also had a cameo in the Ken Russell TV film about Cropready Festival in Oxford during this time.
Former President Jerry J Rawlings honored Osibisa in Ghana, where they played a series of concerts celebrating their homecoming. “The enthusiasm shown by the Ghanaian people, especially the youth was quite amazing” recalled Teddy Osei, Osibisa’s bandleader. United Kingdom Europe
Baba Commandant and The Mandingo Band – Siri Ba Kele (Sublime Frequencies, 2018)
Siri Ba Kele
is the second album by Baba Commandant and The Mandingo Band, a formidable band
from Burkina Faso. Baba Commandant (Mamadou Sanou) and his colleagues play
music rooted in Manding traditions with a modern edge, incorporating Afrobeat,
rock guitars and funk.
Siri Ba Kele contains a set of powerful songs with charismatic vocals, irresistible rhythms, hypnotic balaphone, outstanding electric guitar work, and equally good doso ngoni performances.
The lineup on Siri Ba Kele includes Baba Commandant on vocals and doso ngoni; Issouf Diabate on guitar; Massibo Taragna on bass; Mohamed Sana on drums; and Sami Kimpe on balaphone.
The album is available on CD, vinyl and digital formats.
Dele Sosimi is a British-Nigerian musician born February 22, 1963 in London, England.
Dele Sosimi stands out as one of the most active musicians currently on the Afrobeat scene worldwide. Dele’s career began when he joined Fela’s Anikulapo-Kuti’s Egypt 80 (1979-1986) and then subsequently with Fela’s son Femi Anikulapo-Kuti’s Positive Force (1986-1994). In both bands he was musical director and keyboard player.
Since Fela created Afrobeat, Dele’s Afrobeat pedigreee is therefore impeccable. The music is a blend of complex but highly danceable funk grooves, Nigerian traditional music (including hi-life), African percussion, underpinning the jazz horns and solos from other instruments, as well as rhythmical singing.
Dele toured extensively around the world with Fela and Femi, re-orchestrating and arranging music and also handling the recruiting and training of new musicians. His keyboard work can be heard on Fela’s Power Show, Original Sufferhead, MOP 1 (Movement of the People), Authority Stealing, Army Arrangeement, ITT (International Thief Thief), and Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense, and on Femi’s albums No Cause for Alarm and Mind Your Own Business.
Dele has also performed often with Tony Allen, the king of Afrobeat drumming. Following his first solo album “Turbulent Times” (Eko Star 2002), he was invited to select the tracks for the 3-CD compilation titled “Essential Afrobeat” (Universals Family Recordings, 2004).
He was producer and co-writer of “Calabash Volume 1: Afrobeat Poems” by Ikwunga, the Afrobeat Poet (2004). He is a central member of the Wahala Project, whose single Wahala appears on Puma’s 2006 Soccer World Cup Compilation CD. He has also featured on British rapper TY’s recent album Closer (on the track Sweating for your Salary), and his Turbulent Times is featured on The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project (2006).
Currently based in London, Dele is an educator and instructor in Afrobeat (via his Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Foundation, and as a Visiting Lecturer in Music and Media, London Metropolitan University). Sosimi is abetted by a group of musicians, most of whom have either played with him on previous records or have gigged with him on the live circuit.
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.
C’est Un African Thing (Motherlan’ Music, 1986)
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)
Sharp Sharp (2009)
200 Million Mumu – The Bitter Truth (2012)
Aftobeat saxophonist and vocalist Seun Anikulapo Kuti has kept the grace, energy and strength of his father Fela Kuti. With Egypt 80’s musicians, Fela’s legendary group, Seun plays live again the most original incarnation of Afrobeat: using the phrases, the solid brass section, the incomparable groove of African percussion and voices.
With an astonishing maturity, Seun leads with tremendous energy his band on stage, playing his father’s repertory as well as his own compositions.
Ayetoro was formed in 1996 by Nigerian Composer and piano player Funsho Ogundipe. This band defines the sound of modern afrobeat.
Ogundipe is a jazz influenced musicians and his compositions and sounds have twice changed peoples perceptions of afrobeat in Nigeria. In 1996, his album Naija Blues was the first to experiment with Afro jazz and Hip hop when he featured Nigerian Film star and former rapper J T West on “J T’s Tale.”
Another defining moment was the critically acclaimed ‘Something Dey,’ a blues based afrobeat tune whose video -apart from being voted among the top 50 Nigerian videos in 1998- featured simple African backgrounds. It set a trend for outside shoots for Nigerian African flavored songs. The video, directed by Ogundipe himself, has clearly set the template for Ayetoro music and visual productions, one of understated posturing, offkey songs and allusive lyrics.
His love of poetry and prose comes out in the lyrics of the band’s single “Naija Blues Part 2,” from the 6000 Miles and a Minute album released in Nigeria in 2004 on his own Ebutte Metta record label. His interesting wordplay sets down visions of modern Nigeria, a place beset by its own challenges and inherent contradictions.
Ogundipe is also a jazz composer of some weight. His harmonies are modern and take afrobeat into uncharted areas. Melodic minor scales are featured on “Becklow Gardens,” a tune he wrote in honor of the block of flats he lived when in West London.
Ayetoro has been able to attract serious musicians in its two incarnations. There are presently two versions of the band. One in London the other in Lagos. Byron Wallen, the Belize / British born trumpet player and composer, is a collaborator in the London ensemble, alongside others like Nick Cohen (bass), Robert Fordjour (drums); while in Lagos, the Cameroonian guitar legend Oscar Ellimbi has played on every Ayetoro release except one.
The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol. 1 (The Jazz Side Of Afrobeat) (2002)
6000 Miles and a Minute (2004) The Afrobeat Chronicles Vol 2 (Flying Monkey Productions, 2006)
Asoju Oba (Flying Monkey Productions, 2014)
Irúnmolè (Funsho, 2016)
The Sao Paulo instrumental group Bixiga 70 is where Brazil and Africa meet. Their layered sound is explosive and energetic and all you have to do is hold on while the music takes over. With the recordings Ocupai, Bixiga 70 and III already under their belts, Bixiga 70 is ready to ride the airwaves again with their latest Quebra Cabeça set for release on October 19th on the Glitterbeat label.
The groups baritone saxophone player and flautist Cuca Ferreira explains, “From the very beginning, what we have always had in common is African-Brazilian music. Some of us come from candomblé (the African-Caribbean religion), others from jazz, reggae, dub, and everything. The whole idea of the band has been to take all these different elements that form us, from Africa and Brazil, and create a hybrid from them.”
Combining the talents of guitarist Chris Scabello, baritone saxophonist and flutist Cuca Ferreira, trumpeter Daniel Gralha, drummer Deicio 7, tenor saxophonist Daniel Nogueira, trombonist Douglas Antunes, bassist Marcelo Dworecki, keyboardist and guitarist Mauricio Fleury and percussionist Romulo Nardes, Bixiga 70 summons up an impossibly rich mix that finds space for Africa’s meaty percussive riches, Brazil’s infectious dance scene all the while sticking fingers into dub, jazz and reggae. So good luck sitting still with a dose of Quebra Cabeca.
Mr. Ferreira notes that the group’s influences often evolve out of collaboration and says, “We’ve been exposed to so much. So many of the people we’ve played with have had an impact on us, like Pat Thomas, the Ghanaian highlife singer or (Nigerian saxophonist) Orlando Julius. And then we toured and recorded with João Donato. He’s over 80 now and still playing piano, one of the icons of Brazilian music. We’ve learned from them all, they’ve made us think about what we can do with our music. Those new ideas have found their way into this album.”
The music of Quebra Cabeca is delicious from the percussion and sizzling guitar opening of title track “Quebra Cabeca” through to high energy dance track “Ilha Vizinha” through to the revolving musical theme of the Brazil soaked bold brass of “Pedra de Raio.”
“We want people to relate to our melodies, to take the line a vocalist might use and play it on the horns,” says Mr. Ferreira. “Sometimes in instrumental music, the players are so good it ends up putting the listener at a distance. We make music as a celebration, a way to connect and bring some joy. We want to draw them in. We try to write something very memorable.”
The melange of sound on Quebra Cabeca is enticing and thrilling. Fans won’t want to miss out on the keyboard or trumpet sections of “Cantos” or the jazzy lushness of “Ladeira” or the dreamy mysteries conjured up on “Levante.” The quick paced “Torre” is just as delicious as the percussion and bass rich “Camelo” and as good as closing track “Portal.”
The layers of sound on Quebra Cabeca isn’t just electrifying it’s evocative and interesting. Too often listeners get hung up on the vocals, but with Bixiga 70 the nuances of turns of phrase are taken not by vocals but by instruments and it’s thrilling. Bixiga 70 adds meat to the bones and it’s all delicious.
Rocky Dawuni was born January 22, 1969 in Ghana. He burst onto the African reggae scene in the early 1990s as the lead singer of the Ghanaian reggae group Local Crisis at the Pan African Music Festival held in Accra. In their debut performance, Dawuni’s mesmerizing stage presence and powerful songs secured the group hero status.
Although Dawuni soon developed a following in his beloved native Ghana, he decided to leave for the United States and pursue his musical horizons. Over the next few years, Rocky spent time writing and recording, while being exposed to the many diverse forms of music abroad as well as under-studying the music business itself.
In 1996, Rocky Dawuni released his debut recording The Movement, one of the most anticipated reggae albums in West Africa. The artists’ introspective journey into social and spiritual consciousness garnered rave reviews in the Ghanaian press and spawned two hit singles, with both “Sugar” and “What Goes Around” obtaining massive Ghanaian airplay.
In the U.S., The Movement received critical acclaim and glowing praise. Mesa/Bluemoon Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, licensed “What Goes Around” and its video for release throughout the U.S. on Strictly Underground: Reggae’s Next Generation, propelling the video to climb to #3 on the Reggae Video Charts in January 1997 and introducing Rocky’s music to U.S. reggae radio.
In spring 1998, Aquarian Records / Who Dun It Records released Rocky’s second recording, Crusade, written, arranged and produced by Rocky Dawuni. The album is a sprawling philosophical journey into rhythm and soul with songs of pain, spirituality, love, revolution and redemption. From the nyabinghi tinged tropical jam, “Sweet Bright Day,” which Dawuni describes as “an invocation of the perfect day when all elements fall into place in our lives,” to a hauntingly powerful piece entitled, “Conqueror,” which highlights a traditional African kora player, Crusade is Dawuni’s musical and spiritual war promoting love, justice and righteousness. “It’s about hope in the human spirit and allowing God to empower us to attain the unattainable.”
Crusade’s first single, “In Ghana,” achieved international hit status on both radio and TV with the tune’s arresting video. Inspired by Ghana’s 40th Anniversary Celebrations, Dawuni describes the song “as a celebration of 40 years of independence…as the first black African country to attain independence, it’s a personal ode to the individual’s continuing search for freedom.” Putumayo World Music subsequently licensed “In Ghana” for their Reggae Around the World compilation CD that also includes tracks from Lucky Dube, Burning Spear and Majek Fashek. “In Ghana” was recently voted “Reggae Song of the Year” at the Ghana Music Awards 2000.
The July 1998 release of Crusade was, and continues to be, enormously successful, with tremendous media coverage throughout the African continent. In the spring of 1999, Rocky began a summer festival tour of the U.S., which culminated with a knockout live performance at the Vermont Reggae Festival to a capacity crowd of 35,000. Rocky also put in extraordinary performances at the UCLA Jazz/Reggae Festival and Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, establishing himself as one of the premier live reggae artists. Crusade firmly established Rocky Dawuni as a crucial addition to the Roots Reggae revitalization.
Rocky Dawuni, appeared live in concert at the La Pleasure Beach in Accra on Ghana’s Independence Day, March 6th, 2001. Under the auspices of Aquarian Productions and Ghana Tourist Development Co Ltd., the first annual “Rockys Dawuni’s Independence Splash” was a smash hit by all standards with an estimated crowd of over 20,000. Rocky opened the show with the ever popular “Inside Your Head” with the crowd singing along to every word. The stage was a virtual war-zone with fans fighting with security personnel to get to Rocky during his two-hour plus set.
“Rocky Dawuni’s Independence Splash” ended with a stunning rendition of Rocky’s “In Ghana,” which has become the unofficial national anthem of the country. As the sun set, Ghanaians and foreigners alike sang in unison to celebrate Ghana’s 44th year of independence from colonial rule.
“Rocky Dawuni’s Independence Splash” was planned to become an annual event to celebrate the anniversary of Africa’s first independent nation and serve as a festival to showcase music from Africa and the Diaspora.
In November of 2004 Stevie Wonder made a surprise appearance onstage at Rocky Dawuni’s concert performance at Zanzibar in Santa Monica, California. Wonder wailed on harmonica and dug into the crowd-inspired call & response vocal gymnastics on Dawuni’s Afro groove track, “Wake the Town,” from his album Book of Changes.
Rocky was featured on the highly successful Instant Karma: Amnesty International Campaign To Save Darfur Deluxe Edition release (Warner Bros Records) which features covers of John Lennon songs by global stars including Black Eyed Peas, U2, Christina Aguilera, Green Day, Ben Harper and Jack Johnson. In addition, Dawuni’s afrobeat “Wake the Town”was featured on video giant EA’s FIFA 2008 video game which has been released world-wide to millions of consoles.
In June 2007 Rocky and supermodel Elle MacPherson completed a June 13 -15 humanitarian tour of Ghana as spokespersons for (RED) and the Global Fund to announce the grant of 6.4 million dollars to provide HIV / AIDS treatment. (RED) was founded by U2 front man Bono and Bobby Shriver to harness the power of some of the world’s most iconic brands in the fight against HIV / AIDS.
In 2019, Rocky released Beats of Zion . “Beats of Zion was born out of my desire to use my diverse global musical influences and exposure to various traditions to paint a multi-cultural musical vision of the world that I perceive,: said Rocky. “The beginning of the year saw me visit Ethiopia and India. In Ethiopia, I visited Lalibela, witnessing ancient Christian rites and my journeys in India also exposed me to its diverse spiritual culture and the shared similarities I saw to Africa…The title Beats of Zion is inspired by a vision of the drumbeat of awareness and elevation of consciousness; a musical call to arms for my audience to be proactive in this day and age as to each person’s responsibility to be an active instrument for positive change.”
Beats of Zion was recorded throughout 2 years in various studios in Accra, Nairobi and Los Angeles. The title track and lead single “Beats of Zion” came out well from the Village Studios session, but was missing something on the drum tracking. Rocky clarifies, “We traveled to Zanzibar for a concert shortly after the recording session. At the time, I was still wanting the full African tribal effect that I had imagined. On the eve of my concert at the amazing Sauti za Busara Festival, we saw Batimbo Percussion Magique of Burundi mount the stage and blow the minds of everyone in the audience. I turned to my manager; Cary Sullivan who was also watching and we thought the same – ‘these are the guys for Beats of Zion’ and so the story unfolded.”
Acclaimed Nigerian musician Femi Kuti and his band Positive Force are set to release their new album One People, One World in February 2018 on Knitting Factory Records. Femi talked to us about his music and upcoming album.
Angel Romero – Tell us about your musical background, and how your father influenced your choice of music as a career.
Femi Kuti – Musical background is I practically taught myself everything I know by just reading and listening. And by playing in my father’s band. My father advised if I wanted to be a musician then it was best I listened to a lot of jazz music. This was difficult for me as I didn’t like jazz, he then introduced me to Moody’s mood for love by James Moody. This was really my introduction into jazz.
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
My father’s influence for sure, these days my music comes from my heart and soul.
Who can you cite as your main musical influences?
My father and all great jazz musicians from Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and for sure most of them great jazz musicians of that era.
How is your Afrobeat different from your father’s Afrobeat?
Hard for me to describe. And if I did, most people would think I’m being critical of my father. One easy way is my music is shorter 😊.
Afrobeat has spread to many corners of the world and is still popular with many fans. How is the Afrobeat scene in Nigeria currently?
Still very relevant. Especially as things are still bad economically for majority of the people. And most young artists or bands are influenced by my father or me in a way.
What’s the concept behind your new album One People, One World?
That we are all one living on one planet basically. And we have to urgently understand this before we destroy our planet.
Your son Omorinmade Anikulapo – Kuti participated in One People, One World. What was his role and what did he bring to the table?
For me, he brought beauty and love; I have no words to describe. To see my son play on my album and contribute was …. true love.
What are the challenges you face as a musician, composer and father?
Being on the road missing my children, always trying to make my band understand what we are doing is a fight against injustice and corruption. Finding great melodies to keep people that love what we are doing happy and inspired and making sure my music stands the test of time.
What is your vision of what music can bring to our complex world?
Peace, love, understanding to complex issues that politicians are too afraid to talk about.
What countries will you visit on your next tour?
Hopefully everywhere. Europe, the USA, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Asia.
If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?
I keep an open mind. I could really work with anyone or any band if time permits.
What advice do you have for aspiring musicians out there?
To pick up at least one musical instrument. And music isn’t about just the fame and money. Music is as important as studying medicine, law etc.
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion