Various Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife
- Words: Tomas Palermo
- Label: Sound Way
- XLR8R Rating: 9/10
For many, Nigerian music starts and ends with Afrobeat emperor Fela Kuti. Nothing wrong with that, but placing Kuti in the context of Nigeria’s thriving 1970s musical renaissance reveals a universe of similarly regal artists. The double-disc set Nigeria Special is an ideal telescope through which to view the fabulous 1970-76 highlife, Afrofunk, and grassroots sound galaxy. Groups like The Funkees, Mono Mono, or Popular Cooper and His All Beats Band show Nigerians tuned in to the era’s politically inspired youth-culture explosion, and producing soulfully rocking music. Elsewhere, The Hykkers ride a psych groove and The Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination’s sublime, blues-sax take, “Amalinja,” sounds like a Nigerian Pharaoh Sanders. Likewise, The Semi Colon’s funky makossa number “Nekwaha,” and Tony Benson’s organ-driven soul on “Ugali” are both stellar. Five years and tons of dusty master tapes in the making, Nigeria Special’s music feels as fresh, funky, and liberated as ever.
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