Tag Archives: juju

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: JuJu

JuJu

JuJu is Justin Adams (electric guitar, bendir, backing vocals), Juldeh Camara (lead vocals ritti talking drum),Billy Fuller (bass) and Dave Smith (drums percussion).

JuJu’s successful hybrid sound was evident on their acclaimed 2007 debut ‘Soul Science’ and its equally praised follow up ‘Tell No Lies’. ‘In Trance’ came out in 2011, combining rock, African music, dub reggae and avant-garde jazz.

Justin’s playing gets inside my body and I can hear the music in his head,” said Camara. “Justin plays African style.”

The In Trance recording took place at Real World Studios featuring new band members Dave Smith and Billy Fuller.

Juldeh Camara is a Gambian singer and ritti maestro who was taught to play the single-string West African fiddle by his blind father who himself was taught directly by the jinn. Having lived and worked in traditional Fula society as a griot, the hereditary poets praise singers and musicians who carry the cultural knowledge of their people.

Justin Adams is widely regarded as one of England’s most innovative and original guitarists and a child of punk whose long and varied resume includes producing albums by Saharan desert bluesmen Tinariwen and collaborating with the iconic Robert Plant, Peter Gabriel and Jah Wobble.

Bassist Billy Fuller has collaborated with Massive Attack, triphoppers Malachai and Robert Plant and The Strange Sensation (in which Adams plays lead guitar.

Dave Smith is one of the finest and most versatile young drummers in Britain. He’s influenced by West African percussion and classic jazz drumming.

The whole album evolved in a very fast and spontaneous manner,” says Adams. “We just went into the studio and did five live takes without headphones or overdubbing. We set out to make swing music dance music trance music; we got all those things.”

Discography:

Soul Science (World Village 2007)

Tell No Lies (Real World Records 2009)

In Trance (Real World Records 2011)

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Artist Profiles: King Sunny Ade

King Sunny Ade

 

King Sunny Ade was born Sunday Adeniyi in the Ondo State of western Nigeria in 1946, the son of a Methodist minister. Although his father was a church organist and his mother sang in the church choir, his parents rejected his musical aspirations. He was, after all, Nigerian royalty — a prince in fact — and a career in law seemed more appropriate. Sunny Ade started with percussion. At the age of seven, he would follow his mother to church and he liked to be in between those people playing percussion. From there, he started touching the drums.

Sunny Ade began his musical career when he dropped out of school, at the age of 17, first joining the band of a traveling musical comedy troupe. Ade later moved to Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, where he joined a highlife (Nigerian dance music) band. Inspired by the music of Nigerian musician I.K. Dairo and American artists like James Brown, Brook Benton and Jim Reeves, Sunny Ade joined the Rhythm Dandies, led by Moses Olaiya (later known as Baba Sala). As his interest in his own Yoruban culture grew, however, Sunny Ade joined Juju bands. King Sunny was influenced by the legendary Tunde Nightingale (early Juju pioneer) and borrowed stylistic elements from Nightingale’s ‘So wa mbe’ style of Juju.

Until civil war broke out in Nigeria in the 1960s, highlife was king, but as the band leaders, many of whom were from eastern Nigeria, headed home to join their Ibo compatriots, many stages were left to be filled. Juju ascended and Sunny Ade along with it.

In 1966, Ade created his own group called the Green Spots Band and from then on refused to take orders. His first big hit, in 1967, was in honor of the local soccer team, the Stationery Stores Football Club. “Challenge Cup” sold over half a million copies, more than any Juju record had done before. Two and three best-selling albums have followed every year since, until, by 1976, Ade was chosen as best musician in Nigeria and called the King of Juju by his fans. It is a name he has held on to ever since.

After eight years in which the the Green Spots Band recorded 12 LPs for the Nigerian Africa Song label, Ade decided to form his own record company in 1974. At that time he changed the name of his band to the African Beats.

King Sunny Ade and The African Beats tour with a line-up of 20-30 members. They play a spacey, jamming sort of Juju, characterized by tight vocal harmonies, intricate guitar work, backed by traditional talking drums, percussion instruments, and even adding the unusual pedal steel guitar and accordion.

Even though he has released more than 100 records in Nigeria, the King first became known in the United States after a critically acclaimed three-record run on Island Records in the 1980s. Since then, he and his African Beats have become perhaps the leading lights in bringing African pop to the West.

 

King Sunny Ade

 

Sunny Ade is known to many Nigerians as the Chairman, a title he earned due to his leading in numerous and diverse businesses. King Sunny has invested the revenues earned as a music superstar into participation in a multitude of companies, including an oil firm, a mining company, a nightclub, a film and video production house, record labels for African artists and a few other enterprises.

About 70% of Sunny Ade’s business is about music. The Chairman estimates that over 700 people work for him in one way or another, with 200 of them directly employed in music. Sunny Ade also chairs the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria, an organization whose mandate is to halt the uncontrolled record piracy that plagues Africa, as well as to protect the intellectual property and international copyrights of his fellow musicians.

In his continuing efforts to support African music, Sunny has also established the King Sunny Ade Foundation, which the Chairman founded with Nigerian civic and business leaders. The Foundation is situated on a large parcel of land donated by the Lagos State Government. It includes a performing arts center, a fully equipped recording studio and housing for young performers and musicians, and offers financial assistance to both the children of dead musicians as well to elderly musicians who can no longer perform.

 

 

Selected Discography

* Juju Music (Mango, 1982)

* Live at Montreux (PolyGram, 1982)

* Synchro System (Mango, 1983)

* Vintage (King Sunny Ade Nigeria, 1984)

* Aura (Mango, 1984)

* Explosion (Sar, 1985)

* Togetherness (Sar, 1985)

* Gratitude (Sar, 1985)

* The Truth (Sar, 1985)

* The Return of the Juju King (Mercury, 1988)

* Live Live Ju Ju (Rykodisc, 1988)

* Live at the Hollywood Palace (Sound Wave, 1992)

* E Dide (Get Up) (Mesa, 1995)

* Odu (Mesa/Atlantic, 1998)

* Seven Degrees North (Mesa/Bluemoon, 2000)

* Synchro Series (IndigeDisc, 2003)

Anthologies and compilations

* Best of the Classic Years (Shanachie)
* Gems from the Classic Years 1967-1974 (Shanachie)

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Artist Profiles: Gnonnas Pedro

Gnonnas Pedro
Gnonnas Pedro

Gnonnan Sossou Pierre Kouassivi, better known as Gnonnas Pedro, was a singer-songwriter, salsero and musician born in Lokossa, Benin.

Gnonnas Pedro had always excelled in many styles of music but if one had to associate him with a particular genre it would be Agbadja. Agbadja is a rhythm hugely popular in Togo, Benin and Ghana, and is used mainly during burial ceremonies. It is based on three percussions, each one of them with a different tone.

Agbadja was born in and dominates a region called Le Mono in the center of Benin and also the birthplace of Gnonnas Pedro. Gnonnas adopted and modernized the rhythm in the mid-1960s calling it “Agbadja Moderne”. It became his trademark and he was soon dubbed “Le Roi du Rhythme Agbadja.” In addition to Agbadja, he also played highlife and juju.

Pedro led his own bands Pedro y sus Panchos, later reforming as Gnonnas Pedro and his Dadjes Band, before joining the long-lived Orchestre Poly-rythmo de Cotonou. He sang in many different languages, including Minad, Adja, Yoruba, French, English, and Spanish.

Gnonnas Pedro became well-known internationally as the lead singer of Africando between 1995 and 2004.

Gnonnas Pedro died August 12, 2004 in a hospital in Cotonu, Benin.

Discography

Dadjes: The Band Of Africa (1975)
Gnonnas Pedro (Disco Stock, 1979)
El Cochechivo (Ledoux, 1981)
Gombo Salsa, with Africando (Stern’s Africa STCD1071, 1996)
Baloba, with Africando (Stern’s Africa STCD1082, 1998)
Agbadja (Syllart, 1999)
Irma koi (Syllart, 1999)
Mandali, with Africando (Stern’s Africa STCD1092, 2000)
Live!, with Africando (Sono CDS8907, double CD, 2001)
Martina, with Africando (Stern’s Africa STCD1096, 2003)
The best of Gnonnas Pedro (2003)
Ketukuba, with Africando (Stern’s Africa STCD1103, 2006)

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Nigeria’s King Sunny Ade to headline New York’s Great African Ball

King Sunny Ade

New York City, USA – Graviton African Arts Network and African Hypertext, by special arrangement with Yoruba juju icon King Sunny Ade & His African Beats – one of Africa’s most storied dance bands – have announced the return of New York’s Great African Ball on Friday, April 29 at Roseland Ballroom. Doors will open at 9 p.m., with the performance to run – in the style to which patrons of this unique New York event have become accustomed in the six previous editions of the Ball – from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.The Great African Ball is a sister event – and a capstone – to the renowned New York African Film Festival, whose screenings will run from April 20 through April 28 this year, and whose year-round mission is to share the vision of African media-makers with audiences in the United States and throughout the world. For schedules and information, call 212-352-1720 or visit www.africanfilmny.org or www.filmlinc.com (The Film Society of Lincoln Center).

On the foundation of his personal sound and charismatic aura, King Sunny Ade remains a towering figure in his country and in the Nigerian diaspora. After decades of steady success in Africa, Europe and the Far East, his rootedness in the storytelling, moralizing and praise-singing of juju remains the bedrock of his artistic personality, and his long-awaited return to New York for his first appearance at The Great African Ball promises to be special. (King Sunny Ade’s
last New York performance had been scheduled for September 12, 2001, at S.O.B.’s nightclub in SoHo, a short walk from the World Trade Center towers, but obviously that appearance could not have taken place. So Ade has not played in New York since 1999.)

The first Great African Ball, conceived by Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour, was held at the Hammerstein Ballroom on April 17, 1999 to a packed house of 3,500 patrons drawn from the ranks of New York City’s ever-growing African immigrant communities, “world music” fans and A-list showbiz personalities. (Stevie Wonder made a surprise appearance in the crowd and insisted on joining N’Dour onstage. He was but one of many dignitaries in the audience.) The event was a six-hour celebration and a first. Not merely a “concert”, this was a full Senegalese “ball” – or “soirée dansante” – aimed to reflect the kind of unhinged performances N’Dour and his band give in their own club in Dakar, the Senegalese capital. (Needless to say, the performances that King Sunny Ade gives in Nigeria reflect a kindred spirit of enjoyment and wholesome abandon.) In the ensuing five years (four times at Hammerstein and once at Roseland), The Great African Ball has fulfilled the promise N’Dour made to his New York fans to make The Great African Ball an annual event.

With Youssou N’Dour passing the baton this year to his peer and good friend King Sunny Ade, once again an unmistakable “African feeling” promises to envelope the house for another marathon night of some serious social dancing.

King Sunny Ade will share the stage of this year’s Ball with his Igbo countryman, highlife luminary Prince Obi Osadebe, in a truly historic meeting of Yoruba and Igbo musical legends never before seen – not only in America but even in Nigeria.

The women, men, fashions, food, fragrances and verve of Lagos – and of Africa – will all be on offer, mingling with New York’s own homegrown African vibes in a genuinely special “Naija-style” evening, with the crowd as Ade’s co-star.

Tickets for The Great African Ball ($40 in advance, $50 on the day of the show) are available at all TicketMaster outlets (www.ticketmaster.com), at the Irving Plaza box office (17 Irving Place – 212-777-6800), and from selected merchants
in New York City’s several main African immigrant neighborhoods.

Roseland Ballroom is located at 239 West 52nd St., (West of Broadway, between Broadway & 8th Ave.) .

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