My African Tapes
I want to begin a series of Vinyl of the Week dedicated to African music, especially afro-beat. These will be records that also play an important role in my Dj sets. As you may remember, one of our first Vinyl of the Week Vol 2, was dedicated to the great flute player from Ghana Oscar Sulley.
This time I want to introduce you Joni Haastrup, one of the major figures in post-highlife Nigerian music and crucial figure in the development and innovation of Afro-funk in 1970s Lagos. Son of a Yoruban king Haastrup made his debut in 1964 in his brothers’ band Sneakers. Later in 1966 Haastrup became the lead vocalist on Orlando Julius Ekemode and his Modern Aces’ “Super Afro Soul” LP, considered by many a seminal record and the one that laid the foundations of Afro-beat – the band also featured a certain Fela Ransome Kuti on trumpet.
Later in 1971 Ginger Baker took him to tour Europe as part of the Airforce band – a rock band with strong African influence in rhythm and drumming. Thereafter Haastrup found himself in Lagos ready to start up his own musical project, the genre-defying MonoMono with his friend and bassist Baba Ken Okulolo, guitarist Jimmy Adams and percussionists Candido Obajimi and Friday Jumbo. MonoMono was a five-piece combo, pure Afro-Rock and one of the most popular bands playing in the clubs of Lagos. However, Haastrup labelled his music-style Afro-funk, producing the first Afro-funk song in 1971, “Give the Beggar a Chance”.
In 1978, Haastrup went to London to record “Wake Up Your Mind” for the Afrodesia imprint, a spectacularly soulful, groovy and inspiring LP.
“Wake Up Your Mind” is not only a gem of ’70s funk and his most “Western” LP, as many want to see Haastrup’s record. This album is an unmistakably product of the African diaspora – and very politically aware:
“Free my People, in South Africa… in Namibia… in America… To help free my People, all the beautiful people, who are fighting for LIBERATION. Wherever and whenever they may need help, all over the world”,
as Joni sings in “Free my people”, the first song of the album. Africa is everywhere in the LP, and the deep grooves as well as the funky bass together with Haastrup’s vocals, ready to get dancers out on the dancefloor, can only be understood from a truly African perspective.
“Wake up your Mind” – lyrics
My fellow Africans wake up your minds)
My brother Africans wake up your minds)
It is the only way to find out what we have to do
It is the only way to get the power that we need.
‘Cos we have Gold, we have silver
We have oil we have everything
We have to open our eyes so we can see where we are going.
We should open our mind so we can get back our land.
(We don’t have to wait for no one to tell us what we gonna do
(We don’t have to beg nobody to stop the wars in Africa.
It’s about time Yeah – to wake up our minds
It’s about time Yeah – so wake up brothers
It’s about time Yeah – wake up AFRICANS
We should make them respect our land
It is time to project our culture
We should let them respect our leaders
It is time to project our way of life
So wake up – wake up your minds
The African in America
The Blackman in Australia
The African in Jamaica
It’s time to wake up and project our land
You love to preach JUDAISM
You love to preach MOHAMMEDANISM
We even preach Xtianity – Why can’t we preach AFRICANISM
Why can’t we preach our way of life
So wake up – wake up brothers
So wake up – wake up, wake up Africans
So wake up – wake up, wake up Brothers
So wake up – wake up, wake up Sisters
So wake up – wake up, wake up Africans
So wake up – wake up, wake up everybody wake up
WAKE UP YOUR MIND
WAKE UP, WAKE UP, WAKE UP YOUR MIND
Of Haastrup’s LP “Wake Up Your Mind” one of the most played songs is without doubt “Greetings”, a tribute to mother, sung in Yoruba language. This is a slow-motion disco song of an astonishing groove.
Joni Haastrup and Fela Kuti were friends, some say rivals. Here, what Joni has to say about Fela (extract from an interview by okayafrica):
“Fela and I became friends when I went up to him one night to ask if I could sing one of his songs with his band. At first he wasn’t willing to have me sit in with his band because as he said then, I was a cover soul singer and his music was jazz based. He didn’t think I was up to it (singing his songs with his band) He told me “none of you soul and rock ‘n’ roll singers can sing my songs with my band because the music is too advanced for you all”. I told him “try me”. The next weekend he decided to try me. He announced my name to his audience and invited me to come upstage and sing one of his songs, I went upstage and performed one of his songs with his band Koola Lobitos. When I came off stage, Fela confessed to me that he never thought I could do what I did with his band and that whenever I came to his club I should expect to be called on stage to sing. From that day Fela and I became good friends and closer than he had ever been with any local musician. I substituted for him in his band in 1969 when he had to come to the US to sign a contract for his band’s US tour. Afro beat music was born during that tour in 1970.”