A BRIEF HISTORY OF NIGERIAN JAZZMy passion and love for the Jazz genre of music motivated my research into the history of jazz in Nigeria, I wanted to know all about its evolution and development, including the key players. My response to this urge gave me the idea for the creation of this blog
The argument about the origin of jazz has lingered on for a long time. But the first documented jazz form is the ragtime or dixieland jazz which was first heard on the streets of New Orleans in Louisiana USA.
But Pre jazz time has shown to have emanated from the slaves who worked on the farm lands. As we know the slaves were from Africa, predominantly west Africa. Their drumming, echoing, hand clapping and call and response pattern was syncopative in nature (the backbone of jazz is syncopation). Therefore it can be said that the elements of jazz originated from the African slaves. Ragtime was stereotyped as "black" music, because of its origin.
IT was not until 1963 when the Fela Ransome-Kuti quintet committed itself to the music head-on that we began to have groups existing essentially for the purpose of playing the music. Hitherto, bands mixed jazz with other music forms–– to give audiences varieties of entertainment treats and dance steps.
Bobby Benson, Willy Payne, Sammy Akpata, Consul Anifowose –– all played jazz in the same session with highlife, fox trot, jive, mambo, chacha, waltz and the like.
Bobby Benson called his outfit ‘Jam Session’ out of his love for jazz –– even though it was obvious that his band was not an ad-hoc one for the purpose of jamming. Jam sessions were fashionable in jazz in those days as the vehicle for bringing musicians of varying capabilities together to blow and pull their musical resources together in the same showcase. It was also an opportunity for grandstanding and demonstrating their individualities side by side. The Bobby Benson Jam session was a permanent outfit, a solid one which featured the likes of Zeal Onyia, a great trumpeter, along with Eddy Okonta and Chief Bill Friday. It also had Jibril Isah, one of the greatest saxophonists in West Africa in those early days.
Benson just loved the term ‘Jam Session’ –– that was why he named his outfit after it. Besides, his very signature tune was a jazz classic called Soft Winds, which the ensemble played with relish to open their night stands and shows. Benson played blues guitar even though he was a great saxophonist.
Willy Payne, Sam Akpata and Consul Anifowose played jive and jazz along with their repertoire, but the band that intrigued me in this direction in the ‘50s was the one led by Tunde Amuwo, a saxophonist with great swing and jazz feeling. His signature tune was a freewheeling big band sound called Eleven-Eleven, which even gave members of the band solo opportunities.
As the years passed, musicians such as Chris Ajilo and Sammy Lartey from Ghana got together to play jazz, apart from the fact that most of Ajilo’s repertoire with his Cubanos were jazz-inspired. He operated a combo, which gave young musicians such as guitarist Don Amechi, and saxophonist Lekan Animasahun and others the opportunity to express themselves freely.
Stay glued to this blog for the completion of this research.