Play That Funkee Music

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’sand recorded their first LP, Point of No Return, for Amba Records.

Point of no Return LP

Point of no Return LP

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.

Now I'm a Man LP

Now I’m a Man LP

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!

Abraka

Ole

Record details:
The Funkees – Abraka / Ole (1975) – Black Magic (BM 114)

funkees-abraka-black-magic funkees-ole-black-magic
Thanks to 45cat for the label scan – it is a far better quality than my photo of the label

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.

Dance With Me

jupiter8vscreenshot

Continuing our trip into Nigeria and synth laden funk, today’s selection comes from Melvin Ukachi. The LP was released twice, originally as I Am OK, in Nigeria and subsequently the French press renamed it as I’m Okay I’m Alright, but the track listings are identical.

The album is produced by a legend of Nigerian music, Jake Sollo, a member of huge Nigerian bands such as The Hykkers and The Funkees. Sollo moved towards production is the 80s and also recorded several solo records before tragically being killed in a car crash in 1985 – the second motor vehicle fatality we have encountered. He is credited with playing lead guitar and Jupiter synth (pictured above), showing how heavily involved he was in the whole LP.

I love the interplay of the keys and drum machine on Come and Dance. I have been getting heavily into the 80s Boogie scene in Nigeria and in my opinion it is easily the equal of the stuff coming out of the US. It sounds fresher and less formulaic.

Dance with me!

Record Details:

Melvin Ukachi – I’m OK I’m Alright (1985) – Tamwo Records (Tam 15)

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