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Various Artists
Nigeria 70: The Definitive Story of 1970's Funky Lagos
Afrostrut UK (Available as both CD and LP -

Started by the UK club and funk label Strut, the Afrostrut imprint declares itself to be dedicated to "the funky beat of Africa." Part of the small industry that has cropped up since the death of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Afrostrut began by releasing four albums from ex-Fela drummer and Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen. They have since expanded their repertoire to encompass other outstanding artists from Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa. Nigeria 70 is a musical exploration of a decade of wealth (and excess?) in Lagos and other urban centers.

While the two music CDs on this three CD set include tunes by ubiquitous leaders Fela and King Sunny Ade, they are rare ones. There are also tunes by obscure artists like The Funkees, and Bala Miller and the Great Music Pyrameeds of Afrika. Some of the music is what you might expect, knowing Fela and the pop fusion of Ghanaian/Caribbean Osibisa, but there are some surprises. Bongos Ikwue takes a stab at both kinds of music (country & western) on "Woman Made the Devil." It's a curious song, and the unappealing reminder of the Biblical order of creation of humans isn't everyone's cup of tea: ("God made a man/ and man made a woman/ but a woman made the Devil/ and we'll throw her out through the window"). But who can resist Nigerian C&W? And who would ever expect Ofo The Black Company's searing acid rock jam with Hendrix-like solos, steaming Hammond organ, and a chorous of "Love is me/Love is you" to bear the title "Allah Wakbarr" ("Allah Is Great")? These are the kinds of gems to be mined on Nigeria 70.

In addition, the presentation is superb, from the cover photo of a schoolboy in puffed sleeves and monster go-go boots, to the wonderful booklet with plenty of information on the bands and the scene at the time. Best of all is the third CD, a sound documentary on the clubs and the artists with lots of interview material. Nigeria 70 would be a value without the documentary and other materials, but the added touch gives the impression that the project was not a recycling effort or an advertisement for something else the label was peddling, but a labor of love. - Craig Tower

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