It’s not that I’m unsatisfied with the times in which we currently live (I wouldn’t pass up a global economic slump or Auto-Tune for the all the vodka in Russia!), but if I was presented with a time machine, I’d cut clean out of 2009 United States and head straight for Lagos, Nigeria, 1977. I’d go right into one of those dance parties my mother used to tell me about where youthful twenty-somethings packed themselves together, gyrating, laughing and sweating to the feverish beats of a Fela number, as they displayed the new dance moves they’d spent days memorizing. People were still squashing memories if the civil war from seven years before, but the seriously groovy music genres Afrobeat and Highlife were in full force. This was when everyone cut loose to the likes of Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, the Lijadu Sisters, and the incredible British percussionist Ginger Baker. In 1970s Nigeria, despite the military rule oppression (or perhaps because of it), there was unique and fearless music, that moved people’s feet with lyrics that made them want to believe in something—freedom, rhythm, love. The genres combine melodic elements of jazz and funk with traditional Nigerian sounds, instruments and languages, and the result is a ballsy dare to not get up and move.
Since the whole time machine thing hasn’t quite come together yet, I turn to the next best thing: Nigeria 70. This three-CD box set presents the best Afrobeat and Highlife the 70’s had to offer. The third disc is an audio documentary which looks into the culture and rebellion of Afrobeat and Highlife and how Nigeria’s blood-stained politics birthed and fueled them.
If you believe in using music and art to fight evil, or if you’re just looking for an exceptional escape, put on your dancing shoes and hop into this green-white-green time machine!
Bio: Adaeze Elechi is an editorial assistant at Guernica. Read her last recommendation “here”:https://www.guernicamag.com/blog/1330/staff_pick_adaeze_elechi_8/.