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Africa Before Invasion by Najite Olokun Prophecy

Africa Before Invasion is Najite Agindotan’s (he calls the group ‘Najite Olokun Prophecy’) love letter to his homeland. A prime example of 20th century African Diaspora, Najite’s music combines classic Afrobeat sounds with more American sounding jazz harmonies. Najite performs as lead vocalist, percussion soloist, group leader, and has written all the material for this wonderfully absorbing and uplifting 17 piece ensemble. The group includes four percussionists (congas, bembe, talking drum, and trap set), electric bass, electric guitar, two keyboardists, four horns, a flautist, and four additional singers.

Najite was a student and performing partner of the late great godfather of Afrobeat: Fela Kuti. They traveled and performed often at festivals throughout their native land Nigeria. It is obvious that Fela’s lessons were not wasted upon Najite. While the lyrics on this disc are not as overtly political (or possibly confrontational) as his teachers’, they nonetheless address Africa’s difficulties and problematic history. The music itself is the more overt similarity. All the trademarks of the Fela/Afrobeat sound are present: danceable hooks made up of simple, sing-able melodies, long sections of improvisation interspersed with written rhythmic breaks and vocal sections, emphasis on the drum, etc... What is different here is that the music has more jazz leanings than funk. The keyboards and horn solos in particular are informed with a distinctly ‘western’ sensibility. While it is not as advanced as current mainstream American jazz playing (Shorter, Brecker, Hancock, etc.... ), it’s obvious that these guys have been checking that stuff out and are bringing some of that harmonic vocabulary into the mix.

The title track is perhaps the most intriguing. Almost calypso in flavor (steel drums would fit perfectly here), this tune is the most musically breezy and light piece on the recording. The melody and feel are positively celebratory, joyous, and happy-go-lucky. This is ironic because this tune also contains the most overtly political lyrics on the record:

"Invaded from the North by the Arab Muslims
Invaded from the South by the Christian Europeans
We were fighting, We were divided
We were taken as slaves"

These lyrics are balanced with the repeated refrains - "Africa is my home" and "I love Africa." No doubt this sense of irony is not lost on Najite, who has created an intriguing and deep addition to the recordings of the Afrobeat tradition.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Najite Olokun Prophecy
  • CD Title: Africa Before Invasion
  • Genre: World Music
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Sofa Disk
  • Tracks: Showtime, Lasisi, Honesty, Aorieo, A.B.I.
  • Musicians: 17 piece ensemble led by Najite Agindotan - Lead Vocals, Congas, and Talking Drum.
  • Rating: Four Stars
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