Short of becoming involved in a lovely online relationship with a rich prince from Lagos who desperately wants to share his fortune with you if you’d only provide your bank account details and a thousand dollars in fees, most of us living in the western world rarely have a hell of a lot to do with Nigeria. Luckily, there’s a brilliant set of compilation albums put out by the world music masters Soundway that will get us to West Africa a lot faster than some slick fraudster preying on the gullible and the inept.
Included in this incredible collection of mostly retro music that the label has put together are such great titles as: ‘Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro Sounds & Ghanaian Blues 1968-81’ ‘Nigeria Disco Funk Special: The Sound of the Underground Lagos Dancefloor 1974-79’ and the album featured here, ‘Nigeria Rock Special: Psychedelic Afro-Rock & Fuzz Funk in 1970’s Nigeria’.
The titles are a chewy gobful of over-syllablisozsis -that means too many bloody syllables apparently; praise Google!- but damn, they’re also a blissful earful of smooth, crisscross rhythms, retro-funk and pure, unadulterated African soul and joy.
Whilst every song on this indelible mix of party tunes are fantastic in their own right, the unquestionable highlight has to be track 2, The Action 13’s ‘More Bread to the People’. Very little is known about this band, perhaps the answer to the puzzle lies in their insistence to continually evolve the band’s moniker with each recording; the names Aktion Groove the Funk, Aktion, The Aktions and Aktion of Warri are but a few of the recording titles the shapeshifting band goes by.
But what we do know is this; in the aftermath of the infamous Biafra War, the poverty, the angst and the aura of revolution were so prominent in the psyches of most of West Africa, that a burgeoning scene of incredible, history-defining and downright funkifying music was imminent. So it came to pass, that in 1974, a ferociously talented group of 13 musicians who also happened to be political revolutionaries came together to record one of the most inspiring, politically motivated and funky-see-funky-do tracks ever put to tape.
‘More Bread to the People’ is more than just a song; it’s an anthem. An anthem for change, an anthem for militance, an anthem for freedom and to never accept what may be handed down by an oppressive regime. The beauty of the lyrics to this track is that whilst many protest songs deliver a rolodex of generic and negative questions without a great deal of afterthought, this song delivers the answer. It’s in the title. It’s so simple and it oozes with positivity; more bread to the people.
The groove itself is addictive; produced in that distinctive African roots-rock intangibility, the sexual tension between the seductive bass, the extroverted funk guitar, the slinky organ and the teasing percussion is palpable. Couple those with the harmonic melodies of not one, but five lead vocalists and you’ve got yourself one hell of a killer tune that pretty much covers all bases; sex, revolution, joy and answers. It’s the meaning of life in a tight 3 minute package. What more could anyone possibly need?
Get to it!