Hi -- welcome to my African music review section. This page includes records by artists under the letter "O". More African music resources can be found at the main index page.
By the way, I'm hardly a world's expert on African music, and this list is kinda whatcha call a "work in progress," so please feel free to make suggestions and comments.
Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey "Get Yer Jujus Out" (Rykodisc, 1990)
Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey "Juju Jubilee" (Shanachie, 1990)
Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey "Juju Jubilation" (EMI-Hemisphere, 1998)
A nice sampling of mellow, multi-textured music from bandleader Ebenezer Obey who, next to King Sunny Ade, was probably the best-known Nigerian juju artist. This disc includes three super-long jams (18+ minutes each) as well as two shorter, six-minute-long tracks. The tone is generally very mellow and relaxed, with gorgeous picked and slide guitars, and nonstop commentary by the Yoruban "talking" drums that Obey brought into the NIgerian pop mainstream. Lovely vocals, sweet vibes. A winner.
Victor Olaiya "Victor Olaiya's All Stars International Soul" (Vampisoul, 2009)
A nice reissue of some raw, raucous Afrobeat from the 1960s and '70s. Nigerian bandleader Victor Olaiya had an obvious allegiance to American funk pioneer James Brown, and often breaks into pen emulation of Brown's famed "The One" beat, alternating this with giddy highlife and proto-juju riffs, sometimes all in the same song. These performances are more rough-hewn than some of Olaiya's contemporaries, but this gives a good sense of the DIY-ish of the old regional African pop scene. Definitely worth checking out if you're digging deep into the roots of Afrobeat and African funk.
Babatunde Olatunji "Drums Of Passion" (Columbia, 1959)
Listened back to from the vantage point of a world exposed to several glorious decades of "world music," this stark set of percussion-based songs by Nigerian expatriate Babatunde Olatunji may seem a bit plain and untextured. Still, the fact that it's sold over five million copies since it first came out in 1960 shows that there was a hunger among the American record buying public for something new, and more importantly, something authentic. By the time Olatunji's album came out, the jazz world had already spent over a decade searching for one "new sound" or another to inject into the mix: mambo-inspired Latin riffs swept through the bebop scene in the late '40s, grandiose composers such as Stan Kenton and Duke Ellington had pawed through the cutures of Cuba, Spain, Asia and Brazil, looking for new melodies and modes to work with. But, as they say, there's nothing like the real thing. Olantuji's primally arranged drumming, with its brusque muscularity and vibrant call-and-response chants, certainly delivered the goods on that front. The album's euphoric new liner notes place this release, a bit preposterously, at the center of all "world music-y" changes in jazz, rock and pop (even ahistorically claiming its seminal influence on Brazilian batucada)... The triumphalist tone of the author can be taken with a grain of salt, but this album certainly marks a major landmark in the history of global musical culture... And fans of African drumming will certainly be dazzled to hear the brightly remastered version of the newly-expanded CD version. Definitely worth checking out!
Babatunde Olatunji "Drums Of Passion (Legacy Edition)" (Sony-BMG Legacy, 2009)
...Fans of African drumming will certainly be dazzled to hear the brightly remastered version of the newly-expanded CD version. The new, 50th-anniversary edition also includes a second disc with the More Drums Of Passion album, each CD with several dazzling bonus tracks, including several that were previously unreleased in the USA, such as "African Waltz" and the luxurious, ten-minute long jam, "Hail The King." Definitely worth checking out!
Babatunde Olatunji "Zungo! Afro-Percussion" (Columbia, 1961) (LP)
Although there's some nice, powerful drumming on here, the overall feel of this album may seem a bit top-heavy and monochromatic... It's that "...his percussion, brass, woodwinds, and choir" subheader on the album jacket that'll tip you off. Olatunji and his Nigerian percussion ensemble plays host to a cast of thousands that includes jazzmen such as Ray Barretto, Yusef Lateef and Clark Terry -- great players all, although their contributions are largely buried in the mix. Not a bad album, by any means, though is doesn't quite match the intensity of the earlier Drums Of Passion album. Worth checking out, though... it's very mellow, meditative, easy on the ears and entrancing.
Babatunde Olatunji "Flaming Drums" (Columbia Records, 1962)
Babatunde Olatunji "Drums Of Passion: The Beat" (Rykodisc, 1988)
Babatunde Olatunji "Drums Of Passion And More" (Bear Family, 1994)
A 4-CD box set... Wow!
Babatunde Olatunji "Healing Rhythms, Songs And Chants" (Olatunji Music, 1995)
Babatunde Olatunji "Love Drum Talk" (Chesky, 1997)
Babatunde Olatunji "Healing Session" (Narada, 2003)
Babatunde Olatunji "Circle Of Drums" (Chesky, 2005)
Tunji Oyelana "A Nigerian Perspective: 1966-79" (Soundway, 2012)
A fun, rugged, idiosyncratic guitar-pop from Nigeria, with an unruly mix of funk, highlife and Western rock that sets it aside from the classic highlife sounds that were coalescing at the time. If you're looking for some African pop with rough edges and little bite, this might be worth checking out.
Godwin Kabaka Opara & Oriental Brothers International "Do Better If You Can/Onye Ikekwere Mekeya" (Original Music, 1995)
Orchestra Baobab "N'Wolof" (Dakar Sound, 1998)
Classic Senegalese dance music! These live recordings from 1970-71 capture Orchestra Baobab playing at the very venue in Senegal that they took their name from. The sound quality is slightly rougher than their later studio albums, but the songs are great nonetheless -- these guys were an impressive ensemble! The raggedy vocals, sung in the urban Wolof dialect, may be too shrill for some listeners, but the musical grooves are quite nice. On a couple of tracks, the guitars go wild, soaring into psychedelic heights; mostly, though, this is mellow, beautiful material. I'd recommend their studio work first, but this ain't bad.
Orchestra Baobab "Bamba" (Stern's Africa, 1994)
This single CD edition collects two Baobab albums from 1980-81, and the music is simply quite lovely. Classic hypnotic grooves that creep up on you and bring a sense of wonder and elation. Highly recommended.
Orchestra Baobab "Pirate's Choice" (Nonesuch, 1982/2002)
A juicy, expanded 2-CD reissue of Baobab's legendary 1982 album. Gorgeous West African pop, with a heavy emphasis on the style's deep Afro-Cuban roots. This set is more rhythm-heavy and doesn't share the same emphasis on luxurious, hypnotic guitar work as other Baobab recordings, but is recommended nonetheless... Good stuff!
Orchestra Baobab "Specialist In All Styles" (Nonesuch, 2002)
An completely gorgeous, lulling, beautiful album of Cuban-influenced African guitar music. This is a fine reunion disc, showcasing the band's continued mastery of the sweet African pop they helped create decades ago. This is their first new recording in 15 years, and it's absolutely stunning -- a record you will treasure for years to come. Highly recommended!
Orchestra Makassy "Legends Of East Africa: The Original Recordings" (Arc Music, 2005)
This Tanzanian-Zairean band, led by Kitenzogu Makassy, was one of many hardworking East African soukous groups in the 1970s and '80s. This disc reissues their first album, Agwaya, which was originally released in 1982 on Virgin Records. As the liner notes point out, these sessions were the first time the Makassy band had gone into a studio and recorded all the instruments separately, instead of the whole band playing the songs live. It shows. The album doesn't exactly feel flat as much as, well, simply professional and workmanlike. It's not bad, it just isn't as joyous and rapturous as some of this African guitar pop can get. That changes, though, on the two (previously unreleased) tracks that end this disc, where the band comes alive and shows the sparkle that must have amazed their fans, lo those many years ago. Particularly noteworthy is lead guitarist Mose Se Fan-Fan, who went on to record some scintillating guitar music under his own name. Those songs alone are worth the price of admission!
Orchestra Marrabenta Star De Mocambique "Independance" (Piranha, 1994)
(Produced by Aurelio Do Libom)
Orchestra Marrabenta Star De Mocambique "Marrabenta Piquenique" (Piranha, 2000)
Orchestra Super Mazembe "Giants Of East Africa" (Sterns/Earthworks, 2001)
A beautiful set of chiming guitar tunes by this Congolese/Kenyan powerhouse ensemble, drawn from the group's 1977-86 heyday, including material from two early '80s albums, Mazembe and Kaivaska, which originally came out on the AIT and Virgin labels, respectively. Great guitars and well-arranged horns make for some nice, classic African pop. This band just barely missed the world music boom of the 1980s, but this CD gives folks a chance to reexamine their worthy legacy.
Orchestre Veve "Vintage Verckys" (RetroAfric, 2001)
A nice collection of recordings by saxophonist Verckys Mateta, an influential Congolese pop musician who helped pioneer the soukous style that became popular in the 1980s. Verckys was originally a star performer in the OK Jazz ensemble, but set out on his own in the late '60s. He used saxophone riffs where other bands would have guitar leads, and also had a fairly expansive sound mix. Nice stuff, which becomes more elaborate and groove-oriented as the disc progresses -- fans of Afro-Beat who are looking for something less strident and more melodic than Fela Kuti's brand of funk-jazz might really enjoy this album. Definitely worth checking out!
Oriental Brothers International/Dr. Sir Warrior "Heavy On Highlife" (Original Music/Afrodisia, 1990)
Classic electrified Nigerian highlife music from the 1970s and '80s, featuring various incarnations of the fabled Oriental Brothers band -- who were one of the biggest groups in Eastern Nigeria -- along with tracks from breakaway acts such as Dr. Sir Warrior's "Original Oriental Brothers" and guitarist Dan Satch Opara's own edition of the band. Dan Satch steals the show on this disc with the 18-minute long "Ihe Eji Aku Eme," from 1984, although all of the album will be of interest to fans of the genre. I have to confess, I wasn't as blown away by this album as by others on the Original Music label, but it is still a very strong, completely set... just not a lot of surprises. Great liner notes by OM's John Storm Roberts, where he deftly outlines the regional stylistic differences that defined Nigerian pop in the 1960s and '70s.
Oriental Brothers International "Do Better If You Can/Onye Ikekwere Mekeya" (Original Music, 1995)
Oriental Brothers International "Nwa Ada Di Nma" (Flame Tree, 1974)
Oriental Brothers International "Vintage Hits, v.1" (Panco, 2002)
Oriental Brothers International "Vintage Hits, v.2" (Panco, 2002)
Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe "Sound Time" (IndigeDisc, 2001)
An outstanding historical recording of old-school Nigerian highlife from the newly-inagurated IndigeDisc label. We've grown so used the the sleekness of production-heavy studio wizards like King Sunny Ade that hearing something like this, that retains its charming, minute imperfections, is a real treat. This album includes seven great tracks from one of the founders of the Nigerian pop scene, recorded between 1970-1985... It's all top-flight material, warm, gentle and captivating.... This disc stands up to repeated listenings, and has survived many a CD carousel purge at my house... In fact, it's still in there, and I'm still happy! Highly recommended.
Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe "Kedu America" (Green Linnet, 2000)
Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe "Classic Hits" (Leader, 2001)
Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe "The Best Of..." (Mosaic)
African Artists... Letter "P"
African Music Index
World Music Index