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World Music CD Reviews Africa

NAJITE OLOKUN PROPHECY

By NED HAMMAD
Published May 2, 2006

Africa Before Invasion
SoFa Disk

You might think you’ve stumbled on some great lost late-’70s Afrobeat session. Such is the level of authenticity in the sound of master drummer/vocalist/ composer Najite Agindotan. He traveled West Africa during his youth with his father’s Urhobo cultural music ensemble before studying under Fela Kuti (eventually becoming the Afrobeat pioneer’s godson) and performing with Hugh Masekela and Billy Higgins, among others. Not that the frothing, six-beat groove of “Showtime” or the pounding, insistent “Lasisi” sound at all dated or redundant. Thanks in part to Agindotan’s jazz-informed approach to harmony—which finds its way into the piano of “Showtime” and a Latin-tinged chord progression in “Aorieo”—the five tracks here sound fresh and vital. The latter, a blazing, 11-plus-minute romp, brims with the reedy organ figure of some mid-’60s R&B track. Meanwhile, the joyous, sweet-toned highlife guitar of “A.B.I.” belies the serious tone of the track’s subject matter, specifically a compact (and somewhat mythologized) history of African people; the cut culminates with call-and-response choruses of “Africa is my home.”