A : He promised to take us to meet with Victor Olaiya who was a very popular highlife musician that time. And we were first auditioned at Western Hotel that had a nite club at Apongbon. At that time, the Daily Express newspaper was adjacent to the hotel. Our performance at the nite club was superb and from there we were taken again to Victor Olaiya's nite club to perform which was also successful because we stole the show there too. From there, we moved to Bobby Benson's nite club at Kabam bamboo along Ikorodu road, and we played with Bobby Benson's Kabam bamboo resident band on a Saturday night. We were given one whole hour to perform, and our performances were very successful there too. At Bobby's place, i was given about fifteen minutes to do my solo floor show which i danced to the music of James Brown. I performed so well to the extent that the audience was asking for more. This was how Alhaji got very interested with the group and he bought us musical instruments to go on tour to the Northern part of Nigeria. We were in Zaria doing shows when we heard that President Busian government in Ghana was repatriating all foreigners from the country, and Nigerians were among them. Before the civilian regime of President Busia in Ghana, there had been the military regime of Major General Ankara and the civilian regime of President Kwamme Nkuruma. So, in Zaria, we started thinking of what to do being foreigners in Nigeria too. We decided to change the name of the group from the TRIFIX to the BIG BEAT FROM GHANA.
Q : Meaning the group TRIFIX metamorphosed to the BIG BEAT FROM GHANA?
A : We made them assume that we were among the repatriated Nigerians from Ghana. So, the BIG BEAT FROM GHANA started touring the North. We performed in Zaria, Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi, Maiduguri and so many other beautiful places in the North. And at that time, there was no state called Abuja. After our successful tour in the North, we came back to Lagos where Alhaji Shehu Zaria again got us a flat to stay in, and we started doing shows in all the nite clubs of Lagos. One day, Fela Anikulapo Kuti had just come back from America and our band was to rehearse at KAKADU nite club owned by him. I had gone there with the technicians to balance the musical equipments when we saw him in the club.
Q : When did KAKADU nite club become AFROSPOT nite club? And where was it situated that time? A : It was when Fela came back from the U.S. that he changed the name of the club to AFRO SPOT and it was situated at Alagomeji bus stop. I met Fela in the nite club with Sandra Daniel. He asked me, 'J B, what are you doing here'? I said that i came with a group from Ghana and that we have been performing at the club for a while but the group is no more because all other members have gone back home and that i was the only one left in the country. We discussed a lot on that day and i started going there regularly to participate in shows. One day, he asked me, 'can you join my band'? I said, 'why not' because he already knows what i can do and he has watched my performance before in Ghana. He asked me to pair with Dele who used to do a floor dance show called comprehensive show every Saturday and i was placed on a salary of five Nigerian pounds per week. One day, some black Americans came to perform at the nite club, after their shows, the two American congarists of the American band had a jam session with Fela's band, he noticed how unique the music was. After the Americans left, he asked me to get a conga drum player for him and i told him that i used to play konga myself for the Panlogo group back in Ghana then. He asked me to get one more person and i got Friday Jumbo who was playing with Peter King to pair with me on the konga. He gave us money to buy two traditional konga drums which we introduced to the band on a Tuesday night sitting beside Fela Anikulapo Kuti himself performing, on the memorable night that he introduced first Ladies Night to the AFRO SPOT nite club which was 9th of April 1971. When Fela came back from America, the name of his band was still FELA AND THE NIGERIAN 70, after changing from COOLER LOBITO to that name. But he was still not satisfied with the name because of the involvement of few Ghanaians in his band like myself and two guitarists in the band who were half Nigerian and half Ghanian. So, we decided to change the name again to FELA AND THE AFRICAN 70, and that was when the real Afro beat music started.
Q : How many albums did you record with the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti? And what were your experiences with him like?
A : We recorded about twenty singles at EMI 36 Tracks Studio Abbey Road in London. EMI had 3, 6, 8, 12, 24 and 36 Tracks Studios, and Fela and African 70 Band had all our recordings in the 36 Tracks Studio of EMI. Firstly, we recorded Fela and the African 70 live before a studio audience.
Join us in the concluding part of the interview.