Monday, August 18, 2008

SIR VICTOR UWAIFO - Guitar-Boy Superstar 1970-76 (Soundway)

The wallet-busting flood of diligently researched and expertly packaged compilations of top-class West African music continues.
The subject of Soundway's admirably focused dig into the archives is Nigerian polymath Sir Victor Uwaifo’s self-styled ekassa music of the early ‘70s. Sculptor, inventor, poet and – as the title of this collection suggests – super-charged guitarist and band leader, Uwaifo is best known for mid ’60s hits with his band the Melody Maestros, such as Joromi and Guitar Boy. A few years on from those records, we find Sir Victor integrating the relaxed, shuffling folkloric music of his native Benin region into a rhythmic, funky dance sound centred round deep, dirty bass and busy rhythm guitar chops that parallel much of the American soul recordings of the period - think Betty Wright session guitarist Little Beaver’s clipped style or those hugely influential early James Brown records, the influence of the latter partially extending to the use of horns (in the form of judicious use of saxophone fills here and there). Over the top of all that, Uwaifo calls and responds with his band in his local Edo language whilst firing out some wild borderline-psychedelic wah-wah lead guitar. The result is a slightly weird, occasionally manic, always funky Nigerian dance genre to file right between your Afrobeat and highlife albums.

Soundway Records website

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