Names such as Orlando Julius, Joni Haastrup or the recently deceased William Onyeabor were the pillars of the development of this gender in Africa.
Disco music became one of the most influential genres during the last twenty-five years of the last century because it was a danceable and inclusive genre. As we have mentioned in previous posts, although in the United States there was a fierce persecution of clubs, amateurs and musicians of the genre, in other countries disco music remained popular and remained in high demand.
In India it became an essential part of the Bollywood cosmogony that produced music for its record tapes, which had already adapted to the context by feeding on local rhythms and instruments. The same thing happened in the Caribbean where the album was fused with rhythms such as calypso and reggae. Due to the persecution of the genre in North America, it took some time for the musical markets dominated by gringos to become familiar with the classics of the album from other regions.
In the last ten years and with the rising popularity of vinyl, hundreds (thousands?) of compilations dedicated to disco music from regions outside North America have been released. Many titles of classics of the genre have also been reissued in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe.
We cannot underestimate the great influence of bands like Daft Punk, whose sound is highly based on the disco and electrofunk music of the early 1980s. His collaboration with Nile Rodgers in 2013 brought back to mainstream the guitar riffs that Nile had made popular with Chic thirty years ago. Of course, italodisco genius revived by the French, Giorgo Moroder, has also helped bring the genre back to life in this century.
On the other hand, African disco music has been in high demand because all African music has been in high demand since the beginning of time. Boogie and disco have been reissued by independent labels that have carried out a work of investigation and deep search above all in the African West. Labels such as Voodoo Funk, Luaka Bop, Strut, Soul-Jazz, Comb & Razor have given us the opportunity to listen to the mix of the album with African rhythms such as highlife, afrobeat and afrofunk of the past half century.
The Nigerian Joni Haastrup is one of the most renowned names for his contributions to the development of afrosoul and his incursions into disco music in his native Nigeria. Another highly sought-after popular case is the recently deceased William Onyeabor whose highly electro compositions have a high dose of disco, such is the case of his classic Body & Soul album that was reissued by Luaka Bop during the recent frenzy of Nigerian music in the world.
Another Nigerian musician whose work is indispensable for the development of the African album and soul is Orlando Julius. Precisely one of the classic roles of the Nigerian album is “Disco Hi-Life” where Juluis documented his extraordinary skills as a saxophonist. The album of the same title is original from 1976, released right on top of the world record. Julius collaborated during his career with musicians such as James Brown, Hugh Masakela, Ginger Baker, Gil Scott-Heron and the Crusaders, etc.
The album was originally released by Nigerian label Jofabro in conjunction with UNICEF. The United Nations Children’s Foundation became involved in the project because Julius composed the song “Children of the World” which performed as part of the World Year of the Child celebrations. Despite being one of Julius’ most popular albums, it was only a local hit. It also didn’t help much in its popularization that for the original edition not many copies were made. The Afro-soul classic and Nigerian album eluded radar for many years and only a few were familiar with the Hi-Life album and was a treasure for record collectors. Great Nigerian musicians of the time such as Tunde Williams, Butley Moore and Kenneth Okulolo participated in the record sessions.
“Disco Hi-Life” is one of the best African record songs you haven’t listened to until today. It has the Afrobeat wind section and the hi-hat of the album: there’s not a second during the song where you don’t move your feet. For the 2009 edition the rola was introduced by Orlando Julius himself who recommends us to ‘enjoy and be happy’. That’s what “Disco Hi-Life” is all about.
The French label Hot Casa re-issued this classic in 2014 and due to the few copies in circulation it became one of the most sought-after Nigerian music records among record buyers.
In Revancha we have copies of Hi-Life and other titles by Orlando Julius. We also recommend Brand New Wayo and Nigeria Soul Fever.