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Tunji Oyelana – “Lisaba Egba”
A Nigerian Retrospective 1966-79
During the heyday of Nigerian music in the 1970s, thousands of records were produced in a variety of musical styles and marketed towards a hungry audience. Few at the time thought any of these albums would be more than entertainment. Most never considered any of them to be “art.” Tunji Oyelana was an innovator, involved in the new sound coming out of Nigeria; a sound driven by frustration regarding bad politics, the lack of human rights and social inequality. In 1971 Oyelana and his backing band, The Benders, released “Agba Lo De” b/w “Koriko Nde” which foreshadowed a change in Nigerian music as much as Fela Ransome-Kuti’s “Jeun K’oku” (“Chop and Quench”) did.
The massive appeal of Fela Kuti’s afrobeat overshadowed the success of Tunji Oyelana in Great Britain and the U.S. Oyelana’s music has been hard to find, but luckily for us, Soundway Records has put together an incredible compilation of his best work entitled A Nigerian Retrospective 1966-79. Tunji Oyelana and The Benders’ mix of highlife, afrobeat, afrorock, funk, calypso, juju and reggae is unique and irresistible. Oyelana’s poetic storytelling of Yoruba folklore gave depth to the popular music of the time. The singer-songwriter, actor, bandleader, dramatist, comedian and academic shines on this excellent collection of timeless tunes.
During the 1980s Oyelana worked with his mentor, Wole Soyinka, and The Benders to record Unlimited Liability Company, which angered Nigerian officials with its critical view on political corruption. In 1996, while touring internationally with Soyinka’s play The Beatification of Area Boy, Oyelana and Soyinka rubbed military dictator Sani Abacha the wrong way and the pair ended up being charged with treason, which forced them into exile until Abacha’s death in 1998. Now Tunji Oyelana lives with his family in London and performs several nights a week at his restaurant and venue, Emukay. Don’t miss the chance to see this living legend in person if you get the opportunity and look for A Nigerian Retrospective 1966-79 wherever fine music is sold.