The plethora of reissues of classic African funk recently has focused on the hot and heavy, but Nigeria Afrobeat Special adds another dimension to the scene. Its focus is the laidback grooves coming from early-’70s Lagos, a town that deserves to be considered alongside Detroit and Philly as a seedbed of soul.
Overseen, as usual, by Soundway’s master archeologist, Miles Cleret, Afrobeat Special focuses on the inspired fusion of styles lead by Fela Kuti, one the 20th century’s most essential artists. His blend of soul, funk, and jazz with local beats like Highlife and political savvy and bravery paved the way for a spate of large bands that weren’t afraid to speak their minds and loot other genres. While Kuti-level inspiration is scant — the inclusion of his rare 45 “Who’re you?” kicks things off — such acts as Eric Showboy Akaeze & His Royal Ericos (“We Dey Find Money”), Mad Man Jaga, the Black Santiagos, and the Anansa Professionals all reach their own peaks of heat and glory.
In addition to the CD release, there is also a mammoth three-disc vinyl set, complete with extra tunes and meticulous liner notes. Nigeria Afrobeat Special is another essential gem that fills in the gaps for Westerners regarding the quality and power of contemporary African music.