From the dapper highlife rhythms of Aba to the fiery psychedelica forged in Lagos, funky guitarist and composer Joe King Kologbo was a senior figure in Nigeria’s happening rock scene of the 1960s and ‘70s. Yet, like a lot of music forged in the West African nation, his name almost slipped through a crack in time forever.
Music became a casualty of a bloody Civil War that broke out in 1967. During the conflict, records were eradicated. Bands fractured as their members were forced to scatter and flee for their lives. A lot of the music that was cut in Nigeria during that era has never been released outside of the country. LPs were boxed up and left to decay in abandoned lock-ups and warehouses.
But in that period of relentless sonic inventiveness, Kologbo never stood still. His axe got hips swaying on the hotel and nightclub dance floors across Nigeria’s most vibrant cities. He hit the studio with a diverse clutch of artists, and used his position as an elder statesman of highlife to mentor younger musicians.
Still, Kologbo’s name has been scarcely mentioned outside of his home nation. His songs are rarely featured on the reissues that have streamed out of Africa over the last 15 years. But with three-track solo album Sugar Daddy recently reissued by London-based Strut Records, Kologbo’s work is deservedly enjoying brand new shine.