In Nigeria in the 1970s, only a tiny handful of female artists broke through the backing singer/dancer ceiling to become stars in their own right, particularly if they wrote all their own material – as did The Lijadu Sisters, whose repertoire ranged from love songs and dance anthems through philosophy and political/social commentary.
The Lijadu Sisters’ Afrodisia debut, 1976’s Danger, is as funky and mellifluous as it gets, the twins’ gorgeous harmonies underpinned by a solid Afro-rock beat and framed by Biddy Wright’s funky organ and guitar work. Danger has the vibe of uplifting positivity which would be a feature of all four of The Lijadu Sisters’ Afrodisia albums.
Lyrically, most of the songs address social and political issues, sometimes directly, sometimes through metaphor and allusion. The uptempo opener, “Danger,” is on one level about a “dangerous lover.” But in the wider context of the times – with the police and army’s abuses of power running rampant and otherwise unchecked (Fela Kuti’s eviscerating Zombie was also released in 1976) – it captures life on the edge in contemporary Nigeria.
In Yoruba, “Amebo,” which follows, literally means “someone who gossips.” The twins here extend the word to mean they are watching the powers that be – “your office of power” and “the work you have done” – and will not be afraid to speak up about wrongdoing and incompetence.
They do just that on “Cashing In,” which addresses the complacency and corruption of the Nigerian ruling elite in general, and in particular the then-recent revelation that government ministers were flying prostitutes into the country at the tax payers’ expense. Such people are cashing in, sing Taiwo and Kehinde in the refrain, while “poverty’s a common sight.”
The slow and mournful “Lord Have Mercy,” which closes the album, returns, heartbreakingly, to the idea of poverty amidst national economic wealth. It tells the story of a boy the twins saw “dying on the street…children starving; mama’s dead, poppa’s gone; life is wasted; Lord, have mercy; Lord, hear me crying.”
The remaining tracks, “Life’s Gone Down” and “Bobby,” are respectively an example of The Lijadu Sisters’ signature positivity (“it’s not too late, if we hurry; people get together, life’s gonna get good”), and a rock-steady infused love song.