Monomono: Give a Beggar a Chance
Ofege: Whizzy Ilabo
Both from EMI Super Hits 2 (EMI, 197?)
Like many, I know about Fela Kuti but beyond that, my Nigerian music knowledge is wafer-thin. As I’ve been introduced to other material, I can easily see why Afro-rock/funk music has such a cult following. To make a completely obvious observation, they blend up the familiar with “the exotic” insofar as it’s clear that many Afro-pop groups took their inspiration from American R&B and rock traveling across the Atlantic back in the ’60s and ’70s. At the same time, their approach, borrowing from traditions within the African musical aesthetic, sounds like very little within the American canon, especially in their differences in keys and scales.
These two cuts come off a fantastic 1970s compilation that EMI – home to many important Nigerian groups of this era – put out. As it turns out, Josh Bea aka DJ B.Cause already put two songs off this comp onto his “summer songs” post back in June: I learned about the album from him (via the Groove Merchant, as it were) and had spent months trying to track down a copy of my own. This whole comp makes for a great sampler of the Nigerian sound of the early ’70s and I’m very curious to know what Vol 1 sounds like.
Monomono’s roots trace back to Fela Kuti’s band: the leader of Monomono (which means “dawn of awareness” in Yoruba), Friday Jumbo, was originally a congeuro for Fela and left the band to join forces with vocalist Joni Haastrup (who would blossom into a legend) and bassist Kenneth Okulolo. From best I can tell, they put out several albums in the early/mid-1970s and this track was almost certainly taken from their EMI Nigeria LP Give a Beggar a Chance.
Ofege seems to be a grand story: they were a high school band who followed in the footsteps of groups like Monomono, BLO as well as Santana and Robert Plant. For a bunch of teenagers, they certainly had solid musical chops as heard on this song and other cuts off their debut, Try and Love. You can hear on “Whizzy Illabo” that fusion between psych, funk, soul, and rock, filtered through an Afro-pop sound that’s able to embrace these various styles without sounding forced or contrived.
By the way, our respected comrades over at Captain’s Crates has up another one of our Top 10 favorite Latin dance tunes. Get with the “Royal Marcha” while the gettin’s good.