Early 1950s, Northern Nigeria. An industrious music mogul-in-the-making, Prince Joseph Tabansi, saw a gap in the market that the major labels were overlooking. He established his eponymous label in 1952. Within 20 years Tabansi was one of the regions main industry players; setting up offices across Nigeria and recording artists from diverse former colonies.
Several decades later, the similarly independent-minded BBE records are about to re-issue lost Tabansi classics over the next two years; like only they know how.
As a flavoursome foretaste to this labour of love, the label releases the Tabansi Sampler this month . With much care and devotion, the BBE team have gathered an eclectic yet cohesive range of morsels reflecting the label’s broad palate. For those growing up in the West African Diaspora, the epic High-Life and Juju by the likes of Ojo Balingo (Oba Mimo Olorun Ayo), Zeal Anata (Zeal Onyia) and Ebo Taylor (the ever-insightful Make You No Mind) will arouse Proustian nostalgia for the soundtrack of our childhoods. Traditional sounds sit comfortably alongside that which more commonly falls under the very wide Afro-funk umbrella. The immeasurable global influence of African melodic structures and percussion comes ‘home’ as artists such as Dytomite Starlite Band of Ghana (Amanfoo), Tony Sarfo & His Funki Afrosibi (Super Star), Victor Chukwu (Akalaka), The Mandators (Looking Out For You) and Zack Geebah (For the Love of Money) infuse elements of transatlantic offshoots like jazz, funk and ska. As precursors to the Afrobeat that currently dominates the airwaves and dancefloor, these pioneers are sure to be embraced by a new generation of listeners thanks to BBE’s timely relaunch.
For those of us less familiar with the various musical waves sweeping across West Africa during the 70s/80s, the impact of disco (Ben Jagga’s Hold on Pretty Woman, the Leo Sayer-esque You’re My Solution by Erik Kol, for instance) and synth-pop/soul (Nkono Teles’ Love Vibration) comes as a pleasant and, at times amusing, surprise.
This feel good compilation is a solid forerunner for BBE’s latest major rediscovery mission.
The Tabansi Sampler – out 30 August 2019 on BBE Records.
(This review also features on I Was Just Thinking…)