Nigeria 70 Sweet Times & African 1970's Mix
Posted at 11:00am, 5/9/2011
There's something uniquely palpable about the energy and excitement on African albums from the 1970's. Afro-funk, Highlife, and Juju recordings from this era teem with sounds ranging from traditional African drumbeats and rhythms, to James Brown funk and other Western influences coming through their airwaves at the time. No stylistic boundaries here, no staid roles for various instruments--you can literally hear the experimentation unfold through the speakers. A big part of the sound on these recordings is the electric guitars, which were typically substandard or even homemade instruments with bad intonation and setups. As a result, the guitars often sound out-of-tune to our Westernized ears, which have been culturally "trained" to the equal temperament tuning system established over 300 years ago in Europe. Much of sub-Saharan African people's folk music uses a tuning system most similar to the just intonation system, which can sound great if all instruments in an ensemble are just intonated, but clashes with instruments tuned using the equal temperament system. As a result, 70's African recordings often contained a clash between the equal tempered instruments (keyboards, guitars, basses) that have fixed intervals, and non-tempered instruments such as brass, woodwinds, and vocals, where players developed a sense of intonation that was culturally-based (i.e. just intonation).
This combination of low-quality stringed instruments and culturally clashing tuning systems is forgivable, even endearing for African music of this era. These musicians created some of the most joyful and exuberant music out of dire poverty. Few even had cases for their instruments to protect them from the sun and heat, and would use anything they could find as strings, even tying broken strings together to extend their life. Despite these circumstances, where tuning was a relative venture, the music is captivating because they were in "tune" with their instruments and their fellow musicians. There is sheer passion and inventiveness dripping from every note, regardless of relative pitch--it's part of the "sound" of this music. Hear it for yourself--better Propaganda brings you the third edition of Strut's Nigeria 70 series of compilations, consisting of songs that have never been issued outside of Nigeria. From the haunting minor key melodies and rhythmic stabs of the guitars on Ajoyio, to the funky wah licks on Bisi's Beat, there's something here for everyone to enjoy.
We have a collection of Nigerian and Ethio tunes plus underground South African soul, jazz and funk from the late 60's and 70's. Take a listen to our mix below and explore genres rich in history (including tracks from Afrobeat pioneer, Fela's drummer - Tony Allen, Ethio jazz creator, Mulatu Astatke and the Nigeria 70 series from Strut Records.) Enjoy the stream or download the individual songs on the right side of the page.
1970's African Playlist
[ play ]
You can also download a new track from the Nigeria 70 album out tomorrow, May 10th on Strut Records.