First posted on November 19, 2007
The African music scene began changing rapidly in the ‘50s-‘60s with the arrival of highlife and other local urban styles. Highlife combined Afro-Latin feels and sounds with African roots and American-European pop, r & b, and jazz, using electric guitar and basses, drums, hand percussion and horn sections. There were many regional variants and musics that developed wherever the local scene had creative musicians to forge their own unique combination of traditional styles and new juxtapositions.
By 1970 there was a further innovation from one of the geniuses of the times, Nigerian singer-leader-composer-instrumentalist Fela Kuti. Funk of a distinctive blend was what he developed, using rather large bands of guitars, horns, percussion, drums, etc. He passed away a number of years ago, but he left his mark on African music in a big way. An album of his from 1970 currently tops my playlist: Fela Ransome-Kuti and The Africa ’70 with Ginger Baker Live (Terrascape CD). Four fairly long tunes/jams take the music into a very hip place, and Ginger Baker fits right in. It is a riff-based music with incredibly enticing grooves set up by guitar, bass and percussion and punctuated by the horns and keyboards.