Victor Olaiya

All Star Soul International

By David RyshpanThe influence of James Brown in West Africa in the '60s and '70s is utterly astounding, as any fan of the Ghana Soundz compilations is aware. Dr. Victor Abimbola Olaiya, known as the "evil genius of highlife," serves as the bridge between Ghanaian highlife and what would become Afrobeat. Fela Kuti and drummer Tony Allen are notable alumni of Olaiya's groups. Olaiya is equally indebted to Brown here. Nigerian highlife is clearly a transitional music — the horn parts are harmonized in the style of Brown and Ghanaian highlife, as opposed to the mostly unison lines of Afrobeat. The percolating, swinging percussion is present but the syncopated style Tony Allen would later pioneer is in its infancy. The unfortunate thing about this reissue is the lack of documentation. While Vampisoul has done the best with the information it has, the musicians are unidentified and much is unknown about these 1970 sessions. It's a shame because these sides are important to the Diaspora of African music.
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