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Africa Before Invasion

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Album Review

Najite Agindotan was born in Nigeria and learned the elements of the Afro-beat style from its originator, Fela Kuti, who formally took Agindotan on as a godson following his father's death. Now living in Los Angeles, Agindotan has a band of his own, and while his style certainly owes a clear debt to Kuti, he has absorbed many other musical styles as well. These are all proudly displayed on the debut album of his ensemble, the Najite Olokun Prophecy. In true West African style, the album's five tracks range in length from long to longer; they offer a winning combination of jazz horn charts, incredibly complex and multi-layered percussion, and actual song structure, though the song structure is generally embedded in and subservient to the rippling long-form foundation of congas and talking drums. The first two tracks on this album are the weakest ones; the third track, "Honesty," is the first to build up some real musical tension and structural interest — by the time you get to the percussion break halfway through the song's seven-plus minutes and then segue into the call-and-response vocals, you're thoroughly hooked and likely to remain that way throughout the even longer (but also even funkier and more interesting) "Aorieo" and the spectacular highlife workout of "A.B.I." Fans of Fela Kuti will resonate to this album immediately, but even those unfamiliar with the various traditions of West African pop music will find plenty to enjoy here. Recommended.

Africa Before Invasion, Najite Olokun Prophecy
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