Sonny Okosun

  • Sonny Okosun
  • Liberation (Shanachie) 1984 
  • Which Way Nigeria? (Jive Afrika) 1984 

A decade younger than Fela Kuti, Nigeria’s Sonny Okosun(s) grew up on the Beatles and Elvis Presley rather than the country-western twang that influenced Sunny Adé, or the funk explosion that gripped Fela. He and his group blend highlife, reggae, funk and various African beats into an international style, an Afro-rock that dovetails nicely into his politics.

On Liberation, “Tell Them” spiritedly invokes (in English) martyred freedom-fighters around the world; other songs mix Yoruba and English. Which Way Nigeria? is more of the same, and also quite good. The horn-happy sound is both accessible and eminently danceable, and has served him well through a career that spans over a dozen albums. Since scoring a major political hit in 1976, with “Fire in Soweto,” Okosun’s music has taken a softer turn.

[Richard Gehr]