An old LP cover dug out from the Concertzender archives. Basa Basa Soundz.
On the cover the members of the Ghanese afro funk band Basa Basa are posing in front of a kiosk in beautiful clothing made of kente fabric holding instruments. In the middle: good friend Fela Kuti, the legendary Nigerian saxophone virtuoso and inventor of afrobeat. This cannot be a surprise because Basa Basa Soundz was really big in Africa in the seventies. According to John Oko Nyaku, the other half of the twins that set up Basa Basa Soundz, they regularly performed next to Miriam Makeba, Sunny Ade and Sir Warrior. But why don’t we know them then?
Well, the breakthrough in New York failed. After the acquaintance with Fela Kuti during his stay in Ghana the band travelled back with him to Nigeria. They lived there for twelve years, made use of the modern recording techniques in Nigeria and worked hard. But in the eighties the economic crisis in Nigeria caused more and more problems in the music industry. Besides they thought that after their big success in Africa, America could be the next step, so the Nyaku left for the US with high expectations.
Unfortunately the system there turned out to be that they had to pay managers and agents three to six months in advance…and they didn’t have that money. Oko – this is how he likes to be called – took on a job as a guard to get by. He didn’t have enough money to promote his band, but enough to develop his hobby as a photographer. Editors in America as well as Africa were keen on the pictures he was able to take at concerts. Thanks to his job as a guard (at Wells Fargo!) he was able to get backstage. And, believe it or not, that is how Oko became an international star.
But we will go back to the seventies, when pop, soul, jazz, rock and funk from America started to influence music in Africa. Full circle then. Catch the groove!