The Najite Olokun Prophecy

The Najite Olokun Prophecy
Africa Before Invasion
SoFa Disk/EFA Caroline

Afrobeat firebrand Fela Kuti died in 1997, the same year his LA-based music student Najite Agindotan finished the first version of this, his debut album. With a little contrarian thinking, this cosmic coming-and-going should have been good news for Agindotan. His terrific take on the genre should have angered the purist, irascible Kuti, because he went native: Agindotan's Afrobeat is more Lagos by way of South Central's Leimert Park. Amid Kuti-like keyboard riffs and talking drums are large foundations of jazz laid down by trombonist Phil Ramelin and pianist Nate Morgan. The Kuti-esque fury is toned down, but it keeps a sly sense of irony and revolutionary rhythms. The chief torchbearer for Afrobeat is the slinky seven-minute song “Honesty”—with Agindotan's protesting vocals, Nat Nyema's surfy guitars and Rock Samori's bembe drums, it's a song that hints at exotic intrigue or an elegant apocalypse. For this reissue, SoFa Disk chiefs/producers Allen Avanessian and Low Res have conjured a clearer and more vigorous sound from the first version, rerecording it with Agindotan's crew of 17 musicians, perfectly capturing a unique Afrobeat. They have a lot of foot-stomping fun, too—otherwise, they wouldn't have been able to play the high life (a more lighthearted, danceable Nigerian sound) with such songs as “Aorieo” and “Africa Before Invasion,” probably the only happy-sounding tunes ever written about colonialization.

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