October 21, 2018

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With Bantu, Agberos go International – Dami Ajayi

With Bantu, Agberos go International – Dami Ajayi

Believe me, horns can blow life into Lagos nights.

Now, not every night and not in every place.

On some Friday nights at the Freedom Park, a stifled grunt would go into at least three horns and exit as a groan to heaven and the night would be born.

Those were the best times to birth the night with a 13 man collective as midwife.

BANTU. Name as pre and post-colonial history. Name as acronym. Double entendre.

For about five years, on every 3rd Friday of every month, BANTU discharged music that electrified Lagos.

The band always had an enthused audience drawn from all walks of life unified by place and name, Lagos.

If you were a regular, I need speak no
further. If you never experienced it, please imagine it then buy the album.

BANTU has put out a compendium of their best nights there on CD.

10 tracks or beauties made to please.

The quick rhythm of Afropunk instructs you to break a leg or at least try to. Soul-teasing shrills from the higher-pitched members of a buoyant brass section, an insistent percussion nudging bystanders to embrace the dance floor, to become dancers—the Agberos International Album hits the snare drum running.

The baton doesn’t drop on Lagos Barbie. Ambling somewhere between South African rhythms and highlife, this satirical song will not be lost on those it is addressed to: Lagos girls who bury their natural hair under a colonial canopy called weave. Be rest assured that in the heat of the music, they may do
just as the song instructs.

Hoisted by a tongue full of delightful voices, the female vocalist Ireoluwa Allen leads Ka Ma Dupe to church.

On the meditative Afrobeat gem Niger Delta Blues featuring Tony Allen, poetry and protest bivouac in the enclave of music to discuss the environmental disaster that the Niger Delta has become.

The brass section takes the cake on Ma Ko Ba Mi, that nostalgic tune that re-imagines childhood in an underground spiritual game pulsating with throaty horn shrills and high-hitting octaves.

Se Jeje subtly admonishes on the vocal surface of things; underneath, horns parley with strumming guitars in a slow-
hitting harmony.

Oni T’emi borrows its hook from Fela’s last highlife love song, ‘Lover’, and adds a 70s funk to a formula that also nods to contemporary spoken word poetry provided by Ade Bantu and Wana Udobang. This song is a near-bedroom ballad replete with cooing horns.

On Stori Plenty, politicians are raconteurs. Ade Bantu’s coarse voice grates over the mid-tempo rhythms
chronicling the lies told the polity and lies yet to be told.

The trio of BANTU percussionists —Akin, Wura Samba and Dare—jumpstart Anything for the Boys which seems too grandiose to be a mere plea for a
tip. Femi Smart’s quirky guitar licks provide the tongue-in-cheek back-story of how sometimes the electorate must stoop to conquer.

Peter Sadibo’s bass guitar plucking is the spine hoisting Ile, a song that takes its hook from a pithy Yoruba saying about home as hearth.

Home here is metaphorical, allegorical and ideologically Pan-African and no matter how international the Agberos go, home will always be best.

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