World & International Albums:

The Kings of Highlife: The Vibrant Music of West Africa



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A collection of early-style highlife straight out of Nigeria, with only one artist from outside the country represented, and all tracks coming from a license agreement with Premier Music in Lagos. The album opens up with Victor Uwaifo, the first Nigerian to make gold record status in 1969. After a piece from Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, trumpeter Victor Abimbola Olaiya (the “Evil Genius” of highlife) makes an appearance with “Omo Pupa.” After another Osadebe work, master trumpeter Rex Lawson returns the focus to the horns. Vocalist Paulson Kalu and oldies troupe Wura Fadaka lead the way for Polygram's Nigerian A&R man, Chief Inyang Nta Henshaw, with his hit “Esonta.” Mike “Gentle Man” Ejeagha provides a piece somewhat closer to the Ghanaian highlife forms, and Celestine Ukwu gives a more pop-oriented piece to the picture. Another piece by Rex Lawson follows, as well as another piece from Ukwu, and the album finishes again on the “Evil Genius” Olaiya and his trumpet. This is a collection of guitar-based grooves, in large part, paving the way for soukous and the like later on. This isn't the highlife of Fela, but it's what Fela was listening to originally. It's the early, basic music based only partially on the traditional forms that would eventually become Afro-Pop. Give it a listen as a curious investigator of African roots music, but for the casual fan, items from either end of the spectrum – either traditional or fully modern – would be a better bet). Adam Greenberg –

Track Listing:

Disc 1:
  1. Guitar Boy
  2. Makojo
  3. Joromi
  4. Omo Pupa
  5. Osondi Owendi
  6. Anate
  7. Okwudili
  8. Sanmari Adugbo
  9. Esonta
  10. Ikpechakwa A-Akem Kpee
  11. Igede
  12. Bere Bote
  13. Usondu
  14. So Fun Mi
Release date Australia
July 12th, 2004
Album Length (Minutes)
Wrasse Records
Number of Discs
Original Release Year
Product ID

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