Pickle's Picks, Vol. 7: Afro-Pick  

Posted by Wayne Bretski in

So my idea of focusing posts in long form on one musical artist really fell by the wayside. I am also spending far too much time working on these long posts with entire mixes, complete with all the uploads, etc. It's taking up a lot of my online storage resources as well. So I'm going to transition to shorter mixes, mix up the format a bit etc. But I'll try to keep the Pickle mixes coming as well.

This week we venture over to Africa, specifically Nigeria. I wrote once before in a long post about Fela Kuti, check that post out for some more recommended sites and a few downloads. I believe all the music links still work. I spoke a bit about Afro beat there, so I won't get too windy again, but he pioneered and popularized the genre, fusing jazz, R & B/funk, and African rhythms into one heavy style. Today we got what I like to call "Afro-Pick: Pickle's Afro-beat Favorites".

Lagos, Nigeria. Home of Fela Kuti and Afro beat. (The genre is called Afro beat, Afrobeat, Afro rock, Afro funk, etc. etc.)

I'm going to pull a shocker and start the mix with a Fela tune. This one's appropriately titled "Let's Start" and features rock drummer Ginger Baker (of Cream fame). Live in 1970:

Fela sitting in his home, called the Kalakuta Republic. At one time, Fela declared his compound to be outside the jurisdiction of the Nigerian government. Needless to say, they didn't get along very well.

Up next is King Sunny Ade. While not an Afro beat musician, he was the face of juju music, a direct precursor to Afro beat, along with Nigerian highlife music, which we'll cover a bit of.

Check this instrumental from King Sunny Ade: Ja Fun Mi

King Sunny Ade, rocking his traditionally garish clothing hard

Track 3 is again not Afro beat, but a contemporary and another major player in African pop music, mbalax in this case. Mbalax was a Senegalese creation, very similar in style to Highlife, but I could find a picture of Youssou N'Dour. Just know that highlife is quite similar, if not usually this insistent. Neither is mbalax, I chose a very Afro beat-y jam to showcase.

Ndakaru, by Youssou N'Dour

Youssou N'Dour, looking chilled as always

Next up is some down and dirty Afro beat from a songwriter named Jingo. Little is known of the band, and I can't determine the origins. I imagine this would be Nigerian. It's just about a perfect example of original style Afro beat so I've posted this one for streaming as well.


Here's some true Highlife music. The Funkees, from Nigeria, with Akula Owu Onyeara:

Next up are the Lafayette Afro Rock band, known for their song "Darkest Light" which was sampled by Public Enemy among others, and another track from the compilation where I obtained "Fever". Download the mix to check them for yourself.

Sir Shina Peters has an interesting reputation as a crowd-pleaser but also a bit of a joke. In 1989 he was the crunkness coming out of Lagos, Nigeria, fusing Afro beat with cousins juju and highlife to much popular success. He was roundly criticized for his use of synthesizers and other modern touches. See for yourself: Yabis

Clearly a charismatic gentleman. Sir Shina Peters on stage.

Tracks 9-11 are absolute bangers. All three are majorly heavy African funk bangers, the dirtiest of the dirt. Please do yourself a favor and download the mix to check these swingers out.

"Afro-Pick" finishes up with another Fela jam, the first song from the "'69 Los Angeles Sessions" collection of pre-debut album songs. Great look at early Fela Kuti, and relatively short too. Listen up to "My Lady Frustration".

Tony Allen, drummer for most of Fela Kuti's bands. Now a bandleader and elder statesman of sorts for the neo-Afro beat scenes.

There is an absolute ton of information available about Fela and his legacy. Please check out some of the sites I posted in my original post (link available at the top of this post). Also, a favorite blog, Diddy Wah, just posted a few Felas on his blog. Check them out here.

This is part one, looking at the origins and early/golden years of afro beat. Look out sometime next week for part two, focusing on the bands that have internalized the afro rock stylings, mostly modern.

Download the mix here.


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