Crucial Afrobeat Albums Reissued
- Words: Tomas Palermo
Spanish imprint Vampi Soul has reissued three new Afrobeat and Highlife music collections, available in the U.S. through Light in the Attic distribution. These three releases add to the label’s growing catalog of Latin, African, and South American classic soul, rock, and psychedelic pop titles.
Their first offering is a stunner: Fela Kuti’s Lagos Baby: 1963 – 1969, issued as both a double-CD or three-LP set, plus a bonus 10” single. The collection features early recordings by Fela Ransome-Kuti and the Koola Lobitos (his band before he formed Egypt 70) that blend Highlife, jazz, soul, and other influences to form the sound he later popularized as Afrobeat. These recordings are licensed from The Fela Kuti Estate and Premier Records, with liner notes by African specialist Max Reinhardt and artwork by Victor Aparicio. The bonus vinyl 10" captures Fela’s "Afro Beat On Stage, recorded Live at the Afro Spot" performance, with original artwork and liner notes.
Vampi Soul’s Highlife Time! collection recounts the formation of West Africa’s signature jazz-pop dance music during an era of rapid post-colonial change. The hybrid style is as celebratory as the historical time itself, featuring rollicking guitars, blazing horns, and intricate vocal harmonies. The two-disc or three-LP set features Highlife legends like Accra, Roy Chicago, Rex Lawson, and Dr. Victor Olaiya. If Fela’s Afrobeat is all you know about West African music, this is a natural next step. To quote the Vampi Soul crew: “Highlife became the soundtrack for a [continent] freeing itself from the shackles of an empire.”
The third Vampi Soul reissue, Afrobeat Nirvana, is a collection of late '50s to late '80s West African sounds, featuring established names like Tony Allen, Orlando Julius, and Fela himself, as well as more obscure West African musicians like Fred Fisher and Opotopo.
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