Guitar Boy Superstar 1970-1976

Guitar Boy Superstar 1970-1976

by Victor Uwaifo
     
 

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Soundway, the British label that brought listeners the glorious Nigeria Special compilations, the fantastic Mulatu Astatke EP, and the funky Colombia and Panama collections, has outdone itself this time out. This 19-cut compilation of album and single sides by the brilliant, flamboyant, and prolific Sir Victor Uwaifo (who, in addition to being a truly original

Overview

Soundway, the British label that brought listeners the glorious Nigeria Special compilations, the fantastic Mulatu Astatke EP, and the funky Colombia and Panama collections, has outdone itself this time out. This 19-cut compilation of album and single sides by the brilliant, flamboyant, and prolific Sir Victor Uwaifo (who, in addition to being a truly original guitar prodigy is also an award-winning sculptor, composer, and present-day university professor) is off the chart. Uwaifo developed his talent in Lagos, playing in the highlife bands of E.C. Arinze and the Modernaires in the early '60s before leaving to start his own band, the Pickups, and then the Melody Maestros. During this period he developed his own brand of highlife, called Akwete. The name came from a type of colorful cloth from Eastern Nigeria. Uwaifo composed by color, assigning each one a sound, and the patterns of the colors into rhythms that underscored the highlife melodies. But Uwaifo was only beginning. It is the early '70s to the decade's middle years that this compilation concentrates on. During this period, Uwaifo left Lagos to return home to Benin (modern-day Edo State, Nigeria), and he created his own new music based on the Ekassa, the traditional coronation dance that began in the 16th century. Uwaifo's version concentrated on using the original folk melodies of the Ekassa, and melding them with modern-day highlife instrumentation. The result is a sound that is snaky, bright, cheerful, hopeful, and utterly infectious. Uwaifo's guitar style blends the West African highlife sounds with mid-'60s soul, some early roots rock, later psychedelia, and even funk. He often played a strange hybrid double-neck six- and 12-string guitar, which allowed for different tunings, tonalities, and even drones. The strange thing is that one can hear traces of Buddy Holly, the Ventures, Ritchie Valens, Dick Dale, and Jimi Hendrix. His use of fuzz and wah-wah is his own, though. Check the sonic contrast between the 1970 "Dododo" -- which appeared on the first Nigeria Special set and is sequenced in the late part of the album -- with its upstart hypnotic rhythm and the Farfisa organ playing the most prominent role, and the feedback and fuzz sound of "Atete." There is a great tenor sax part in the rhythm section, but it all gives way to cowbell and drums before Uwaifo's fuzzed-out funky solo. Other standouts are the funky, knotty "West African Safari," where a harmonica solo carries the melody before the guitars and drums claim it and invert the rhythm and harmonics -- it too has a screaming yet sweet fuzz solo that is funky as all get-out. Anyway you cut it and without a doubt, this set is a killer all the way through. It comes with authoritative biographical liner notes by compilation producer Miles Cleret and individual track notes by Uwaifo himself. The sound is terrific considering the tape sources -- and it comes on vinyl as well as CD. This set is a must for any fan of African popular music.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/08/2008
Label:
Soundway
UPC:
0827565038626
catalogNumber:
12

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