The British label Soundway Records is best known for its samplers of rare musical gems, mostly from Ghana and Nigeria. But this time, by digging up old and forgotten vinyl records, it obviously found more than enough material to dedicate this double (!) CD to one single artist: the multi-talented Tunji Oyelana from Nigeria.
At the time of Oyelana’s musical heyday, the driving force in Nigerian music was free experimentation, as different styles such as highlife, afro-beat, funk, juju and reggae were merged. And as it was the time of psychedelia in the West and East, such influences were incorporated into the new, vibrant sounds as well.
Tunji Oyelana, a key player in Nigerian music during the 1960s and 1970s, was particularly popular for taking up the fashionable brassy sounds and nagging repetitive rhythms of the time and infusing Yoruba storytelling into the texts. You can enjoy all that on this album.
There is the lively opener Ojo, the psychedelic Osekere with its hypnotic organ, and the highlife tracks Fiya Jemi, Aiye Nla and Agba Lode. While most tracks are highly danceable, there are also slower numbers that reveal Oyelana’s limited vocal abilities. But, as a whole, this CD is a welcome compilation of Nigeria’s golden musical past. And it is certainly gratifying to learn that Tunji Oyelana is still active, performing in his and his wife’s London restaurant and cultural centre Emukay. // Frank Stenner
Tunji Oyelana: A Nigerian Retrospective 1966-79
[Soundway Records SNDWCD 043P]