Sunday, 18 May 2014

REWIND: Bola Johnson - 'Lagos Sisi'

I've been an admirer of the excellent "contemplative" music blog Monolith Cocktail for a while now, and recently I have started making my own occasional contributions to the site. Every Sunday afternoon, Dominic Valvona from the site takes over the music selections at the Attibassi cafe in Chichester, spinning tracks "covering a myriad of musical styles from spiritual jazz, Krautrock, psych, soundtracks, Afrobeat, Highlife, soul, R&B, golden age of Hip Hop…the list is endless."

Each week, the site hosts a five-song taster of the weekend DJ sessions, and a while ago in March THIS selection of tracks was published, featuring a superb afrobeat funk number from the Nigerian Bola Johnson. Coincidentally, and rather sadly, Johnson died recently, as I learned from THIS article on Tosinger's Blog. There, I also learned more about this superb artist who remained unknown to me until now. "He was born in 1947, and inn 1962 dropped out of school to follow his musical destiny. In 1964, while still only 17 years old, Bola had been signed to the Philips West African record label, and he recorded many of the rootsier tracks you can hear on this album as 7-inch singles. In 1968, in Lagos, he recorded the funkier material on his “Papa Rebecca Special” LP and later a rootsier album entitled “Ashewo Ajegunle Yakare”. Given how great he sounds, you’ve just got to ask exactly why more material wasn’t recorded. According to Bola, the A&R people at Philips in those days allowed sentiment for the past to override their judgment in promoting new artists, because they had highlife giants on their label such as Osita Osadebe, Rex Lawson, Victor Olaiya and Bobby Benson, and so it was hard for younger artists to get their attention, backing and consequent exposure." A 2 record (or CD) compilation entitled 'Man No Die' was released in 2010, providing an overview of Johnson's recorded output.

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