During the 1960s and 1970s Nigeria, and more specifically Lagos, its creative hub, was producing some of the greatest West African bands. Groups such as Blo and MonoMono were creating heavy psych-rock music, in the vein of Santana and Hendrix, but putting a distinctive African stamp on it that made it dance floor friendly. With the arrival of The Funkees, hailing from Aba, in South East Nigeria, Lagos’s dominance was no longer a given.
The band was formed in the early 70s, towards the end on the Nigerian Civil War and after a few changes in line up, they settled with Jake Solo (Guitar), Harry Mosco (Guitar), Chyke Madu (Drums), Danny Heibs (Bass), Mohammed Ahidjo (Vocals) and Sonny Akpan (Congas). In 1973 the band’s popularity sky-rocketed and they were invited to London to record and perform. They played in several clubs in London, notably Ronnie Scott’s, and recorded their first LP, Point of No Return, for Amba Records.
Things started to turn sour and after a few years Jake Solo left the band to join Afro super-group, Osibisa. The Funkees recorded a final LP, Now I’m a Man, in London and returned to release it in Nigeria on EMI in 1976.
Today’s selections are two tracks from the first album, that were re-released a year later by Black Magic records on a 7inch single. Abraka is a highly charged instrumental featuring Sollo’s wah-wah guitar licks and great percussion. My personal favourite is Ole, one of the great songs by the band. Everything comes together perfectly; it’s smooth, the guitar is to die for, the drum break is out of this world and its so Funkee!
The Funkees – Abraka / Ole (1975) – Black Magic (BM 114)
Soundway Records have released a lovely retrospective on the band, collecting the best tracks from their two LPs and 45s, that I highly recommend picking up.