vintage nigeria

Juju stars Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and Dele Abiodun; Afrobeat originator Fela Anikulapo Kuti and ozzidizm originator Sonny Okosuns; highlife rejuvenators Victor Uwaifo, Prince Nico and the Oriental Brothers; fuji stars Ayinla Kollington and Ayinde Barrister; apala veteran Haruna Ishola; waka child prodigy Salawa Abeni; and roots-modernists the Lijadu Sisters. With the exception of Abeni and the Lijadu Sisters, the biggest names on the 1970s Nigerian music scene were all men.

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 Abeni, with lyrics closely based on or taken straight out of Islamic scripture and folk wisdom, and the Lijadu Sisters, whose repertoire ranged from love songs and dance anthems through philosophy and political/social commentary.

“The music business was hard for women in Nigeria,” says Taiwo Lijadu. “Back then, they didn’t think women had brains.”

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Taiwo and Kehinde Lijadu, better known as The Lijadu Sisters, are the much loved Nigerian singer-songwriters. Born in Jos - northern Nigeria - in 1948 the pair sang and wrote songs from a young age and later established themselves as session singers. By the time they were 20, their beautiful voices and unique sound helped them get ahead, even in a music industry whose best-known stars - Sunny Ade, Fela Kuti, Victor Uwaifo, Ayinla Kollington - were men.  At just 20 they had released their first single ‘Iya Mi Jowo’ (“mother please”). The track 'Danger’ was released in 1976 on an album of the same name. On the surface at lease it’s about a 'dangerous lover’, but it might also be said to address broader contexts (compare it to Fela’s 'Zombie’, also released in 1976, an eviscerating take on army and police abuse of power). A little known about 'Danger’ is that it has a bridge which is almost identical to the one used by Jamaican duo Althea and Donna on their international hit ’Uptown Top Ranking’ (1975) and Trinity’s ’Three Piece Suit’ (1977). The Sisters say the influence is a matter of coincidence, 'something that was in the air at the time’.

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