Various Artists – The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970s Nigeria

Various Artists – The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970s Nigeria

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Boy, you want to talk about a treasure trove for a music snob? The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia in 1970s Nigeria is just begging to be discovered by serious aficionados who want nothing more than to ensure that their taste is several steps more obscure than their peers. I mean, would you look at all of those awesome buzzwords in the title? “Afro Rock?” “1970s Psychedelia?” “Nigeria?” Insufferably pretentious people such as myself are going to be tripping over each other to introduce this stuff to our friends. We’ll act as though it’s for their personal betterment rather than to boost our own egos and show off how knowledgeable and cosmopolitan we are. I can just hear us now: “What, you’ve never heard of the Hykkers? You’ve at least heard of Reme Izabo’s Music Research, right?”

Moving past the ugly and vain tendencies of us snide collectors, let us take a moment to just appreciate the idea of this compilation: young Nigerians emerging out of a fresh and horrific civil war to express their love for this newfound western genre known as psychedelic rock. Doesn’t that just sound like the most exciting cross-section of time period, culture, and external influences? Naturally, the resulting music doesn’t sound like any kind of psychedelic rock familiar to American audiences. The Afro rock promised in the title might actually be the stronger presence on this album, which is probably for the better.

And though the title of this compilation promises two distinct, specific genres, it’s really a hell of a lot more diverse than that. Bongos Ikwue gives Sly Stone a run for his money with the graceful funk and irresistible pop on display in “All Night Long.” The Lijado Sisters’s “Life Gone Down Low” filters a despairing view of the world through endlessly compelling and elegant soul. And if Ofege’s “In Concert,” with it’s hyperactive polyrhythms and nonstop wah-wah guitar, never made it into a blaxploitation film, it would be such a waste of a brilliant piece of instrumental music.

In the end though, The World Ends still delivers plenty of what the title assures it will. It’s difficult to imagine psychedelia and Afro rock meshing well into you hear something like the Founders 15’s “Don’t Take Me For A Ride” or the Elcados’ “Chokoi & Oreje.” Awe is the only appropriate reaction to the way the unmistakably Afro Beat rhythms engage with trippy organs and blistering, fuzzed-out guitar solos. Most likely, you’ve not heard anything like it. I know I hadn’t.

It’s always a little difficult to discuss the culture of an impoverished and war-torn nation without falling into condescending traps (“The music is brimming with vitality” or “The people are astoundingly resilient,” etc). Lines like that end up saying a lot more about the speaker’s low expectations of the people he or she is chronicling than the actual people themselves. Knowing that, it’s still absolutely necessary to point out the sheer vibrancy on display throughout The World Ends. Every song bursts with passion and joy. The apparent effortlessness with which these bands merge far-flung ideas and styles with their homegrown ones is astounding. I can’t speak to how this album will play to 1970s Nigerian rock experts (if those exist), but as far as neophytes are concerned, holy crap, is this essential.

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