Audio

1973 Nigerian Psych-Rock Blo 'Chapter One'

Mr Bongo reissues Nigerian psych-rock band Blo 'Chapter One.'


Just as we're gearing up for Luaka Bop's Onyeabor mania, another reissue courtesy of 1970s Nigeria might have to take speaker priority. Nigerian trio Blo is considered by many to be the first psych-rock band to emerge (whatever that means...) from the continent. Taken together, the names Berkely ‘Ike’ Jones (guitar), Laolu ‘Akins’ Akintobi (drums), and Mike ‘Gbenga’ Odumosu (bass) result in not only an acronym (Blo), but also a pioneering fusion in afro-psychedelic funk. The definitive Blo release Chapter One (1973, EMI) is now seeing new life as the latest Mr Bongo reissue, a real deal vibe in a world that can always use a bit more authentic psychedelia. Blo's Chapter One reissue is out now on Vinyl LP/CD via Mr Bongo. Listen to standouts below, including the particularly chilled "Time to Face the Sun," later sampled by LA-based producer Madlib.

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This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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