The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores
CD Review: I.K. Dairo M.B.E. & His Blue Spots
Total Time: 56:58
Review by Henry Doktorski:
In the author's mind, the African people's greatest musical contribution to the world is rhythm; their percussion is exciting and powerful. The most popular musical style on the planet, the all-pervading rock n' roll (heard by literally billions of people in nearly every country throughout the globe) is basically a combination of European harmony and African rhythm. Rock developed from rhythm and blues; rhythm and blues, in turn, developed from jazz, which had it's origins in the music which the Negro slaves brought with them to America from their homeland.
About twelve years ago (when the author was much younger), he had the pleasure of participating in several religious functions led by some Nigerian friends, and was delighted by the incredible drumming and chanting and dancing; that is, dancing with a capital D! It was impossible to sit still; the rhythms of the traditional percussion instruments were so infectious. After nearly one hour of wild dancing (and profuse sweating), the author - and all his white friends - retired to the outdoor patio - completely exhausted, but the native African devotees kept going strong for another three straight hours!
I.K. Dairo follows in the footsteps of many centuries of African musical tradition and has achieved a legendary reputation in the Nigerian music scene. His clarion voice and prophetic lyric ability are unsurpassed in Nigerian pop music. The percussion section is tight and enthusiastic. Forty years after the formation of his first band, Dairo still remained on the cutting edge of Juju music. Ashiko (the title of the album) is the original name for Juju music.
This CD was recorded in Seattle while the group was touring in the United States. The material was recorded live in one session. There was no over-dubbing, no editing; just spontaneous performing by inspired musicians. Mr. Dairo's accordion is a diatonic one-row instrument.
The music is energetic and refreshing, yet never frantic, and the songs themselves are nicely balanced. The album includes romantic songs, religious songs and party songs. Mr. Dairo sings in several languages, including the Hausa language of northern Nigeria and the Ibo language of eastern Nigeria. The lyrics are translated into English in the CD booklet. The accordion is featured in tracks 2, 6 and 8. Of special mention are the rhythmic I - IV - V chords in "Salome" and the accordion melodies in "Mo Sorire."
The first track, "Ko Wa Jo" (Come and Dance) is a party song which introduces the band: "We bring it out, The Blue Spots. We bring sweetness itself out. Come and dance."
The second track, "Okete" (The Squirrel), is based on the traditional Yoruba folktale of deceitful Okete, who broke an oath with Ifa, a high ranking deity in Yoruba cosmology. Although the author was lying flat on his back while listening to this track (on account of a recent back injury), he couldn't stop his feet from dancing, despite his horizontal physical position!
The third track, "Fona Mi Han Mi" (Show me my path) is a devotional song to God, asking "Show me my road, Lord of the heavens. Let me bring my rewards home. In my lifetime, I'm begging you don't let me amount to nothing."
"Ekun Rere" (All Charged Up) is a love song. Mr. Dairo is all charged up and ready to meet his lover, but before he goes he must take a bath.
"Yamanta" (Ladies) is in two sections. The first is a call to dance, "Ladies, aren't you going to come and dance? I.K. Dairo, whose records you have been buying, is here.... Raise your hands and then your legs (to dance). You look upwards and you turn with the beat."
The second section is based on an old soldier's song from Nigeria. The soldiers (from the northern Nigerian town of Yola where eligible ladies are plentiful) are transferred to Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, but they are disappointed because they cannot afford to date the very expensive ladies in Lagos.
"A sack of a thousand coins (a lot of money) they gave the soldiers. Company ladies were one thousand for three pence. When we get to Lagos we call Yola. We get less costly wives from Yola, four for three pence."
(One of the author's Nigerian friends, Ishmael, said one day, "My father has three wives." The author asked, "How many wives would you like to have?" Ishmael smiled shyly and replied, "Only one. In these modern times, polygamy has become less fashionable in Africa than it was in the past. Besides, it is very expensive to maintain more than one wife; you have to build each one their own house!)
The sixth track, "Salome" (a woman's name) is a new version of I.K.'s biggest hit of the 1960s, a devotional song to the lovely Solome. The percussion break features a terrific dundun (talking drum) solo. The talking drum has rows of twine which are tied to the skin. By tightening or loosening the twine with one's arm, the pitch of the drum is raised or lowered.
"Daluno Adama" (Hello beautiful daughter) is in two parts. The first is a song of courtship, "Hello beautiful daughter (young woman)... like you are beautiful... Rebecca please come. I will give you money. I will give you fine cloth."
The courtship traditions in Africa are different from many other parts of the world. In India, for example, where most marriages are arranged by the parents, the bride's father has to provide a dowry for her. Consequently, it is difficult for a girl from a poor family to get a good husband. However, in Africa, it is the groom which has to purchase the bride from her father. The father, if he is not pleased with the suitor, can always demand more money!
The second part of the song is a prayer to Jehovah, "He who guides us, come. Please forgive us all. Come and save us, Jehovah."
The final track, "Mo Sorire" (I have been blessed), the singer thanks the Lord, "I'm successful, I am grateful for my good fortune. We will be here (alive) year after year, including wives and children. We will be here with good fortune."
The author believes that "Ashiko" is an important album for lovers of traditional world music.
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