If there’s something both extremely thrilling and defeating about being a music writer, it’s the overwhelming thought that no matter how much music you hear, there’s going to be exponentially more out there that you haven’t heard, and in some cases, never will. Sometimes, it’s not really a big deal; I could go without hearing Fergie’s deep album cuts, for instance. And yet, there’s so much music that I feel I need to hear that’s well outside the familiar comfort zone of blog-approved indie rock, hip-hop or electronic. From a historical perspective, the list is seemingly limitless—Appalachian folk, Brazilian post-punk, chance music, etc.
To my, and certainly many others’ delight, there are people out there compiling primers on genres that, to many in Western realms, have gone undiscovered for decades. Case in point, Sound Way Records’ Nigeria Special series. Earlier this year, Sound Way released Nigeria Special Part 1 and 2, documenting highlife, Afrobeat and blues from Nigeria, while Nigeria Disco Funk Special followed, with, what else, Nigerian disco. The latest in the series is Nigeria Rock Special, a primer on rock `n’ roll from Nigeria in the 1970s, a genre scene that was touched upon in Ginger Baker’s Airforce touched upon this vibrant movement (and played some part in its expansion), though the depth of this incredible sound is much farther reaching.
Nigeria Rock Special features 15 tracks, hand picked from countless obscure gems released throughout the decade, which are collected in a stunning compilation. Ofege’s “Adieu” starts off with an instrumental groove, oddly similar in tone to Stereolab, but distinctly Nigerian. The Action 13 follows, with blazing psychedelic organ, and group chants in the excellent “More Bread (To the People)”. “In The Jungle,” by The Hygrades, kicks up a hot and dirty funk; in fact, this must be what the `fuzz funk’ refers to in the album’s title. Ofo The Black Company’s “Eniaro” mines an expansive territory, deep and fuzzy, psychedelic and vibrant. Apparently, this particular band became reasonably popular in Germany—who knew?
Mono Mono kicks out a solid funk-psych affair that’s somewhere between James Brown and Tropicalia, which is a hell of a thing, really. Tabuka “X” offers the highlight “Finger Toe,” which is a great title, whatever it means. Tabuka “X” actually was half-Nigerian, with the other half of the band being Ghanaian, and the band sang only in Engligh, though they released only one album. And might I add, it’s extremely fun to discover little nuggets of info like this while letting the grooves wash over my eager ears. And The Funkees, who probably have the best name here, also offer a fantastic wah-wah laden trip out with “Acid Rock.”
Considering this is the fourth volume of the Nigeria Special series, there’s plenty of evidence to show just how fertile Nigeria’s music scene was in the 1970s, spanning many genres, though much of it never made its way across the Atlantic in its day. Having a compilation such as this deliver these undiscovered gems to American and U.K. shores is an incredible gift. While there may be millions of songs out there that I’ll never have the fortune of hearing, I feel just a little bit richer for having experienced the 15 highlights here.
Various Artists – Nigeria Special Part 1 and 2
Various Artists – Money Be No Sand
Various Artists – Ghana Soundz
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.