**Clear vinyl edition** Before Afrobeat, there was Highlife-Jazz and Afro-Soul. Highlife music, originally from Ghana and widely popular across West Africa, dominated the music scene in Lagos when Fela Kuti returned to the newly independent Nigeria in 1963. Fela had been studying trumpet at Trinity College of Music in London where he met drummer Tony Allen, who also joined him in new group Koola Lobitos as they sought to mix things up by introducing the sounds they had heard in the capital's jazz clubs. The music of Fela Kuti has never been easy for beginners to know where to start and this album of early recordings with Koola Lobitos represents a largely unknown, or at least unheard, period of his career.
Released on Parlophone Nigeria in the mid ‘60s remained out of print for a long time. While Fela's Afrobeat compositions took the groove to its limit over side-long tunes, the first disc of early 7" singles here demonstrates the group's desire to take existing sounds and create something new, if not the extended focus and political message that would come later. The group were still developing ahead of the curve though and the abstract sounds were new to listeners in Nigeria, incorporating jazz chords into highlife arrangements.
Record starts with Signature Tune, a short, sharp blast of percussion-led brass that leads into It’s Highlife Time, which provides a statement of intent as Fela introduces the music that's "got the beat". You get a feel for how the group could ignite a dancefloor, as the group's highlife rhythms fuse with Fela's jazz licks on the trumpet, inspired by Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. Olulufe shows a steadier side of the group, as snaky saxophone lines weave around Fela's vocals, transporting the influence of American jazz musicians back to Africa. The horn blasts around the extended dance rhythms of Obinrin Le (Women Are Unpredictable) is perhaps the closest to the kind of arrangements that would be developed later.