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Segun Bucknor
Who Say I Tire
Vampisoul ( www.vampisoul.com)

While he didn’t have the same longstanding career or notoriety as Fela Kuti, Nigerian singer, pianist, guitarist and composer Segun Bucknor was just as much of a trailblazer in what came to be known as Afrobeat. Like Fela, Bucknor started out playing in the popular highlife style. And like Fela, it was a visit to the United States (Bucknor studied arts and music at New York’s Columbia University from 1965 to 1968) that opened his eyes and ears to American soul music. Upon returning to Nigeria, Bucknor formed The Soul Assembly, a band whose sound closely echoed what he’d heard in the States. After that short-lived group ceased to be, Bucknor sought to combine the swing and drive of soul with a musical foundation that was more specifically African and a viewpoint that likewise reflected the growing radicalism of post-colonial Nigeria. He dubbed his new band The Assembly (later The Revolution) and the most complete compiling of his work with them is found on the double CD set Who Say I Tire.

Cues taken from the sweeter side of soul can be heard on tracks like “Only In My Sleep,” “That’s The Time” and “Love And Affection,” but it’s when tackling more prickly subject matter with “Adebo,” “Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow,” “Poor Man No Get Brother” and “Son Of January 15th” (which laments the day in 1966 when Nigeria’s prime minister was killed in a military coup) that things really sizzle. The music is raw, funky and consistently fine, and Bucknor’s is usually the only voice testifying above the chug of drums, percussion, guitar, bass, keys and horns. The nearest thing you’ll find to Fela-style rambling is on the song that gives the album its title, where Bucknor makes it clear that adversity will not hold him back. Despite such an assertion, he pretty much called it quits by 1975 and switched his focus to journalism. But he still performs occasionally in his home base of Lagos, and if the release of Who Say I Tire does anything to steer him towards more of a full-on comeback, that would be very good indeed. - Tom Orr

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