In some parts of West Africa, the appearance of twins is considered a harbinger of blessings to come. And when Fela Kuti, who had already installed statues of twins on the altar at the Shrine, met the brothers Joe and John Nyaku, he may have sensed the glow of their own future pulsing backwards through time. Or maybe he was simply being a good host when he bowed and declared, “Dear twins! We are honored to welcome you.”
The Nyukus had already made a name for themselves in their hometown of Accra, Ghana, playing at the legendary Napoleon Club, and under Fela’s tutelage, they’d record a pair of records under the name Basa Basa Soundz in Lagos (the first of which, confusingly, only received wide release in the US). Following a split with their manager, the twins regrouped, dropped the “Soundz,” and began working with Themba Matabese, a musical polymath who was splitting time between London and Lagos and had the facility with sound to prove it.
With Matabese at the boards, the twins and their band – Wallace Tay, Harry Nasser, Augustus Norley, and Amadu Tabajira –entered the studio in 1979 to record what would become one of the most extraordinary records of its era. It’s an artfully conceived, emotionally nuanced synthesis of afrobeat and disco, soul and psychedelia, funk and traditional Ghanian music, often toggling among them all within the same song and occasionally letting them run all over one another simultaneously. With Matabese’s Mini Korg serving as lead instrument, the pulsing oomph of the title track (named for a harvest festival celebrated by the Ga people in Ghana) unrolls in a melancholy mode, while on “African Soul Power,” Matebe dials down frenetic thunder and laces it through the gaps in the brothers’ 4-4 disco beat, the entire thing feeling like a precursor to what would later be called G-funk. Sometimes they sound like the Isley Brothers, and sometimes they sound like Francis Bebey, but mostly they sound engulfed in the heady mix. “We were not in a rush for people to dance,” Joe Nyuku says in the liner notes of the recent reissue by Dutch label Vintage Voudou. “We wanted people to listen to the spiritual side of the instruments.”
The album was originally released in Nigeria under the name Together We Win, and a few copies made their way to the Netherlands, where they were issued under the name Homowo. The album never caught on, and the band eventually went their separate ways. Long considered a holy grail record, it doesn’t capture a moment of transition from traditional to contemporary Western sounds so much as it reflects a sense of possibility, optimism, and deeply felt human warmth. words / m garner
2 thoughts on “Basa Basa :: Homowo”
Thank you for this. I was smitten from the first time I listened to this track. Have since downloaded the entire album and has been on heavy rotation since. I love the 30-40 minute records, the first track comes back on and I just let it play again, like CCR or the Sadies, I can listen to the record two or three times in a row. I’m not a huge “world Music” guy or even Afrobeat. I love Fela and have always thought that was all I needed. Basa basa is amazing though. That moog!!
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