Boomkat Product Review:
"The period stretching from the mid-1960s through the early 1980s is often considered the 'golden age' of African popular music. Concurrently with the rise of popular music as a worldwide phenomenon, African popular music had its beginnings in the early decades of the 20th century, as radio broadcasting and sound recording facilities were gradually established by the colonial powers. By the end of World War II, European companies such as EMI, Gallo and Decca were starting to establish large-scale operations in the colonial territories. But African popular music really began to flower in the years of nationalist struggle and independence. With the winds of political change blowing in the air, popular music became extremely important as a component of the cultural life of newly or soon-to-be independent nations. Produced and consumed largely independently of local ethnic musical traditions — however much it may have drawn on them — popular music was seen as a powerful expression of newly national identity. The enthusiasm, idealism, and optimism that can be felt in the music of this era reflect the optimism and idealism of independence. The bulk of the music here [on both Lagos Chop Up and Lagos All Routes] falls within the style known as highlife, a pan-ethnic style of dance music native to Anglophone West Africa. The roots of highlife are held to be in colonial-era Ghana, and its early development was marked by two streams — dance-band highlife (an African adaptation of European swing and ballroom music) and guitar-band highlife (based in the 'palmwine' style of folk and street guitar music). The two styles eventually fused in the 1940s, absorbing along the way local African folk tunes and the music of marching brass bands. The founder of modern highlife is considered to be the Ghanaian trumpeter/saxophonist/bandleader E.T. Mensah. Mensah was enormously popular throughout West Africa, and his Nigerian tours planted the seeds of Nigeria’s own highlife scene, spearheaded by guitarist Bobby Benson. Out of Benson’s band came a generation of Nigerian bandleaders including the Cool Cats, led by trumpeter/vocalist Victor Olaiya, the so-called 'Evil Genius' of highlife. Olaiya’s bands in turn spawned many influential Nigerian musicians including Fela Kuti, Victor Uwaifo, Tony Allen, Peter King, Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson, Eddie Okonta, and others. Moonlight Highlife and Omelebele are two of Olaiya’s most popular songs: the former — with its quaint trumpet solo (reminiscent of Louis Armstrong) and plaintive horn background — shows Olaiya’s roots in the older, Ghanaian style of highlife; while Omelebele augurs the increasing influence of American soul and R and B. Similarly, the Harbours Band's Da Wa Lohun (God Answer Us) and the Traveller’s Lodge Atomic Eight’s track Ikut Asana Edem are fine examples of the trumpet-led style of highlife. The Atomic Eight band was based in the eastern town of Aba and featured a front line of talented horn players including the multi-instrumentalist wind player Raymond Barber and trumpeter Babatunde Williams, who would go on to play a central role in Fela Kuti’s Afrika 70. Their passages of collective improvisation reflect roots in the coastal brass band traditions of Nigeria and Ghana, and the more distant influence of New Orleans."