Some music just exudes the energy, blood, sweat and tears of those who created it; You can feel them in it. This is the case with Brand New Wayo (Comb & Razor Sound), a new comp of the deepest funk, Nigerian boogie and raw synth badness compiled by Uchenna Ikonne (Comb & Razor blog). Uchenna is a one-man encyclopedia of Nigerian popular music and culture, and he was nice enough to share his story with us…
So, Uchenna, tell us about yourself. You grew up in Nigeria but now reside in Boston?
Yeah, I was actually born in the US in the 1970s, moved to Nigeria at the beginning of the eighties and then back to the States in the nineties. I spent most of the noughties in transit between the two places and now that we’re in the… uh, what do we call this new decade we just entered? The teens? Well, whatever… We’ll see where the next ten years finds me situated!
You’ve been writing the Comb & Razor blog since 2006. There’s some seriously crazy shit on there–amazing videos of live shows, photos, etc. Where do you find all this music? Are you in touch with any of the artists?
Thanks! I am a pathological packrat, so a lot of it is stuff I’ve picked up and held on to over the years. And since I started the blog I’ve put a lot of work into tracking down and befriending many of the original artists, who have been generous enough to share their memories—and memorabilia—with me.
“Brand New Wayo: Funk, Fast Times & Nigerian Boogie Badness 1979 – 1983″ is the first release on your Comb & Razor Sound label. What made you decide to make the leap from blog to full fledge label?
A commitment to a masochistic lifestyle perhaps? No, really… It just seemed like a natural progression. I had long expressed a certain sense of uneasiness with the kind of music blogging I was doing. I felt like it was little more than new wave bootlegging, but my readers would often reassure me that it was all fair game since the records I was posting were very rare and long out of print I might as well just share them online since it didn’t look like they would be coming back into print anytime soon, right? Or maybe I should just get them back in print myself so that they can generate some much-deserved income for the artists? Hmmmm…!
The music is pretty diverse–jazz-funk, synth pop, disco, etc—but it all fits in the genre known as “Nigerian Boogie”.
Yeah, you know we didn’t actually call it “Nigerian boogie” back then. “Boogie” is largely a retroactive genre that encapsulates a range of R&B-based, post-disco dance music. I believe the term first came into use among UK fans in the early 80s, after the rock fascists had symbolically demolished disco at Comiskey Park. They still wanted to dance to disco records, but conventional wisdom held that disco sucked, so they had to find a new codeword for the music they loved.
But the music we call “boogie” was really more than just the same old disco under a new name: there were changes that took place in the music. The tempo was dialed down a notch, and for the rhythm, rather than disco’s four-on-the-four, you got a one-and-two shuffle–which is why boogie’s also sometimes called “two-step” among older UK heads. And there was a lot more emphasis on musicianship and songcraft than you usually found in disco’s robotic servitude to the beat.
But yeah, “boogie” is everything from Vaughn Mason & Crew’s “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll” to Newcleus’s “Jam On It” to parts of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Prince’s first two albums to just about everything that was released on Solar Records in the early eighties.
Solar Records, by the way, was huge in Nigeria… The label even had a branch in Lagos. All those acts from Solar and Salsoul Records—Shalamar, Skyy, Rafael Cameron, Lakeside—they all came and played in Nigeria to enthusiastic crowds. That boogie sound was just so big in Nigeria, and we had our own local version of it, incorporating more African and neo-African sounds like makossa, soukous, highlife and calypso… That’s what has since come to be known as “Nigerian boogie.” We still just called it disco, though.
Are these tracks largely pulled from singles or albums?
All from albums. Apart from the occasional 12-inch mix, the single format was pretty much completely pulled from the Nigerian market by 1978. I think that move actually contributed to the crisis in the music industry in the later eighties, just as the phasing out of the single has done in the US over the past decade or so.
What are your favorites from the comps? How about your favorite Nigerian artists? I LOVE that Dizzy K. Falola – Excuse Me Baby” cut…
Dizzy K. Falola was certainly one of my favorite artists growing up in the 1980s being that I was a super-zealous Michael Jackson fan and Dizzy K. was the greatest of our many local MJ imitators. Emma Baloka’s “Let’s Love Each Other” is a really nice heavy dance-funker, and “Boys and Girls” by Joe Moks is an infectious and eccentric synth-disco number that I think a lot of folks will dig.
I also really like “Pleasure” by Honey Machine and “Big Race” by Segun Robert. There are a lot of great artists and records from that period that I really love and but couldn’t make the compilation de to space constraints. But we’ll see what happens in volume two…
And on this side of the pond, what music are you digging here in the states?
Oh, a lot of stuff! I have to admit that most of the “new” releases I’ve been into lately have been reissues of some sort, like that Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends collection of Kris Kristofferson demos Light in the Attic put out. But in terms of actual new studio recordings, I really liked Cool Million’s Back For More… That was a really great boogie throwback album featuring some of the finest singers from that era like Me’lisa Morgan, Leroy Burgess and Eugene Wilde.
I’m also digging Debo Band, they’re a big band here in Boston, specializing in Ethiopian jazz. They’ve put out some singles but I’m really looking forward to a full-length album from them. And then there’s Mahon, which is a cool, coed electronic soul duo from London. I’m also into a lot of soulful house, like Blaze productions.
There’s a duo in Chicago called Windimoto who do stuff along those lines and I definitely recommend their last album Sinister Beauty. They recently released a remix album called Beauty Within, which is just… well, beautiful. I’m going to have to stop there, because when you ask me to talk about music, it’s hard to get me to shut up!
Lastly, are you going to continue writing the blog or focus more on physical releases?
Both… Though I intend to restructure the blog a little bit so I’m not giving away all the material I plan to reissue, you know?
Special thanks to Uchenna for taking the time do this interview and post all the YouTube video clips. Pick up Brand New Wayo: Funk, Fast Times & Nigerian Boogie Badness 1979 – 1983 (distributed by Light In The Attic) NOW!