Yes and Yes Sunday Jammers peace and salutations. Hope the mini reset has restored any parts of you that might have melted in the heat and revived you in time for the next stop on the Sunday Jams tour. If you are a regular reader of the monthly Deep Cuts strand, the topic of this month’s edition prompted today’s choice. Check it out upon publishing next Saturday.
The label is Afrodisia home to the musical Titan, Fela Ransom Kuti, and many many other legends; King Sunny Ade, Christine Essien and Commander Ebenezer Obey. These bands were foundation stones on which modern music from West Africa, and beyond, were built on. Those forms include Afrobeat, Afrofunk, Highlife and more recently Hiplife. The label, like many other indies, was born out of a larger entity (in this case Decca Records). Decca created an outpoint for the growing voice of West African music that was in turn responding to musical turnings in Europe and American, reinterpreted through local perspectives and traditions. The forms were various, the bangers were immense.
In homage to that, I nominate ‘Inter-Reformers A Tunde’ by the Commander; Ebenezer Obey. Not as provocative or rowdy as Kuti and to some degree lesser known, but equally important in terms of creating a foundation and also just being a musical Boss. Obey’s musical genre is called Juju, not to be confused with the magical belief system. Juju is a Yoruba word (the Yoruba are an ethnic group found in Nigeria along with the Igbo and Fulani peoples), it means something is being thrown. Juju comes from a traditional Yoruba percussion style which, post World War II, incorporated electronic elements along with fusing reggae, jazz, funk and so on.
Ebenezer Obey’s music is an example of this modern style. This track in particular is a favourite, reminds of me elegantly dressed women, rolling their hips in their Asoke fabric and sharply tied igele (a traditional headwrap) matched by equally dapper men donned in agbadas (wide sleeved robes suits) who were stepping in time. The sound is layered, driven and held by the percussion, the guitar provides a rhythm inside the rhythm, sharp and so so sweet, feels almost rock inspired. The vocals are laid back but incredibly intricate, following a choral structure characteristic of the big band outfits of this genre, it takes its time so take the time. The track pays homage to the Moon for lighting up the night, calling out that they have come to play and giving thanks to God for the blessings of being able to play, so so joyful and stirring.
If you are a lover of Carnival and are sad at missing it this year, I suggest searching out some carnival inspired punch recipes, add a bit of West African afro flavour to your playlist and wile out with the Commander.