Genre: Roots Reggae / Psychedelic / Afrobeat
Region: Benin City, Nigeria
Artists’ Website: -
Label: Secret Stash Records
Release Date: 4 September 2012 reissue (or.1978)
Unearthing an album from Nigeria’s 1970s which is blending afrobeat with reggae music is a dream come true for any music lover. Apart from the quality of ‘Wa Ho Ha’, it really captures the spirit of that age – just take a look at the cult cover.
Back in 1978 reggae music was still enjoying its heyday and Bob Marley was becoming a universal figure while at the same time Fela Kuti had just released his smash hit ‘Zombie’ (1977) and his sound was already extremely popular in Nigeria and beyond. As the ‘developing world’ was certainly living its own musical revolution, punk was already at peak and British bands were increasingly looking at Jamaica for new sounds (not to forget Bad Brains in the US). The common denominator of all these musical movements was a youthful spirit of rebellion and in some cases a serious contestation of social norms and political elites.
Afrobeat and highlife (as imported from Ghana in the 1920s) shaped much of the cultural identity of Nigeria – Fela Kuti is still considered a musical and activist luminary of his time and his sons Seun and Femi still carry the torch. What is lesser known is that reggae had also its prominence in Nigerian 1970s. Edire “Pazy” Etinagbedia and his band ‘The Black Hippies’ hailing from Benin City of South Nigeria managed to combine rock steady beats which point directly back to 1960s Jamaica with Nigerian afrobeat drizzled with hints of psychedelic rock.
The album starts in a rock steady fashion with ‘Comfort Me JahoJa’ and ‘My Home’ but then it slowly drifts towards the afrobeat territory with the funky soul/pop of ‘Come Back Again’ and the afro-centric funk rock of ‘Elizabeth’ which closes the A side of the album. The second side is more upbeat with afrobeat being centre stage thus the songs are slightly longer. Both ‘Wa Ho Ha’ and ‘Lahila’ are memorable afrobeat anthems with ‘Papa’s Black Dog’ in the middle having a strong early-Funkadelic flavour.
Pazy’s ‘unkempt’ falsetto dominates the music in the first songs while the instruments take over progressively (the last three songs are almost instrumental). You can expect a quality recording in the legendary studios of EMI Nigeria, top-notch musicianship and a punch of attitude typical of that times as described above. I must admit that Pazy’s out-of-tune vocal leanings might turn some people off but those interested in the music of the 1970s will definitely embrace this reissue. More than anything ‘Wa Ho Ha’ is a cult album.
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