Jun 2, 2008 - 9:52 PM
When it comes to music, Nigeria is best known for Afro Beat, Highlife, and Fela Kuti. Psychedelic rock usually isn’t on that list. However, Soundway Records has brought Nigeria’s burgeoning Rock scene to the forefront with the release of Nigeria Rock Special: Psychedelic Afro-Rock & Fuzz Funk in 1970s Nigeria. The disc is the fourth installment of the Nigeria Special series.
Heavily influenced by Cream drummer Ginger Baker’s time in Lagos and his band Airforce, which featured several Nigerian musicians, the album’s artists mix fuzz guitars and Hammond organs with African Rhythms and percussion. The end result is a cross cultural hodgepodge of tone, textures and genres.
The compilation opens with Ofege’s “Adieu,” an instrumental track with an infectious groove characteristic of the entire album. “Odenigbo” by The Wings features one of the best percussion sections on the disc coupled with some pretty sick riffs. The title literally means “one who writes in Igbo” so the dialect fits perfectly with the harmonized chanted lyrics. Colomach’s “Cotocun Gba Gounke” provides a brief intermission from the rest of Nigeria Rock Special’s upbeat tempo. It’s 2:55 of somber screeching guitars and monotone lyrics.
There are a few songs that are in English, although much is lost in translation. I have no idea what Tabukah X is talking about in “Finger Toe.” The track is still dope nonetheless. It’s kind of like how Reggeaton sounds much better in Spanish, rather than the English versions. “Another Man’s Thing” by Joe King Kolobo & His Black Sound is arguably the catchiest song on the album thanks to the chorus: “Another man’s thing/Don’t put your eye.” Apparently the vocalist does not appreciate anyone eyeing his woman or his food.
While the sound is unmistakably Nigerian, there’s no denying the influence of American acts such as Santana, Led Zeppelin, James Brown, and Sly & the Family Stone. Nigeria Rock Special captures 15 remarkable sonic snapshots of a nation recovering from war and at its height of creativity and experimentation.
Kimberly Turner is a 23-year-old graduate of San Francisco State University. When she’s not writing, she enjoys traveling, going to concerts and digging through the used CD bins at Rasputin Music. If she wasn't a journalist she'd be a pastry chef.