THE BLACK HIPPIES-THE BLACK HIPPIES.

THE BLACK HIPPIES-THE BLACK HIPPIES.

One of Nigerian music’s best kept secrets, are The Black Hippies. They only ever released two albums. Their finest moment was their 1977 debut album The Black Hippies. It was released in 1977, on EMI. Sadly, by then, disco and funk were flavour of the month. The Black Hippies were a year too late releasing their debut album. 

If The Black Hippies had been released in 1976, commercial success and critical acclaim would’ve come The Black Hippies way. Instead, The Black Hippies disappeared without trace. It was a case of what might have been. Since then,  a new generation have discovered The Black Hippies. It’s come to be regarded as a lost classic. However, copies of The Black Hippies are being increasingly hard to find. So, Academy LPs decision to rerelease The Black Hippies is a welcome one. The Black Hippies was rereleased on 26th May 2014 and features The Black Hippies’ finest hour. 

The Black Hippies story began back in 1973. Founding member Joseph “Pazy” Etinagbedia was a member of The Fire Flies, one of the top bands in Warri. They played a mixture of American and European pop hits, highlife, jazz and rock. Soon, The Fire Flies were one of Nigeria’s biggest bands, especially amongst the expats.

Many expats had arrived in Nigeria from America and Europe. Nigeria was in the throes of an oil boom. It was akin to a gold rush, albeit of the liquid variety. At night, expats far from home, had money to spend. So, they headed to Warri’s clubs, where The Fire Flies held court. They played an eclectic selection of music. Much of that music reminded the expats of home. For a while, Joseph “Pazy” Etinagbedia was happy playing with The Fire Flies. Then eventually, Joseph became restless and decided to form his own band, The Black Hippies.

Joseph’s reason for forming The Black Hippies was he wanted to change direction musically. He wanted to play hard rock. This type of music was popular amongst Nigerian youths. There was a ready made market for The Black Hippies’ unique brand of fuzzy rock. 

Soon, The Black Hippies were the toast of the Warri music scene. The trio led by Joseph “Pazy” Etinagbedia were soon one of the city’s biggest bands. They were soon playing alongside some of Warri’s biggest names. This included vocalist  Tony Grey. Before long, The Black Hippies were spotted by EMI and their legendary producer producer Odion Iruoje. The Black Hippies were signed to EMI and entered the studio in 1976.

A total of five songs were recorded for The Black Hippies eponymous debut album. The Black Hippies was released in 1977, on EMI. It’s captivating fusion of Afro-beat, fuzzy rock, psychedelia and voodoo funk. However, by the time The Black Hippies was released, music had changed. Disco and funk were now flavour of the month. So when The Black Hippies had released their debut album, it was a year too late. Sadly, The Black Hippies wasn’t a commercial success.The album literally disappeared with trace. Since then, The Black Hippies has become almost impossible to find. Despite that, The Black Hippies is regarded as a lost classic. You’ll realise why, when I tell you about The Black Hippies.

Opening The Black Hippies is Doing It in the Street. Pounding drums, hissing hi-hats and percussion lock into a groove. They’re joined by stabs of a dusty Hammond organ and a blistering wah-wah guitar. An urgent, impassioned vocal enters. Then when it exits stage left, The Black Hippies kick loose. It’s a joy to behold. Searing, sizzling guitars combine voodoo funk with rock and psychedelia. Meanwhile, the rhythm section, percussion and Hammond organ create a mesmeric, hypnotic backdrop on this genre-melting hidden gem.

I Have The Love On You bursts into life. Here, the rhythm section, percussion swathes of Hammond organ and blistering rocky guitars driving the arrangement along. Joseph “Pazy” Etinagbedia’s emotive vocal sounds as if he’s been inspired by soul and reggae. When his vocal drops out, it’s time for some grandstanding. Wah wah guitars, funky bass, pounding Afro-beat drums, a myriad of percussion and the unmistakable sound of the Hammond organ combine. Each of The Black Hippies seems determined to outdo the other. It’s akin to a game of daring do. This has the effect of driving each of The Black Hippies to greater heights as they unleash a blistering, joyous slice of irresistible music.

There’s no let up in the tempo on the joyful, funky Love. From the get-go, The Black Hippies kick loose. Chiming, funky guitars join the rhythm section and Hammond organ in propelling the arrangement along. They’re joined by percussion and blistering, scorching wah wah guitars. Then there’s a needy, heartfelt vocal. It oozes emotion. It’s enveloped by the wall of uber funky guitars, hissing hi-hats and wailing Hammond organ. Genres melt seamlessly into one. There’s everything from Afro-beat, fuzzy rock, jazz, psychedelia and voodoo funk on this dance-floor friendly paean. Quite simply, this is one of The Black Hippies’ greatest songs.

The Black Hippies drop the tempo slightly on the celebratory The World Is Great. A riffing Hammond organ sets the scene for the vocal. Meanwhile, the rest of The Black Hippies provide the arrangement’s pulsating heartbeat. They combine a myriad of percussion with the rhythm section and wah wah funky guitar. Before long, The Black Hippies have kicked loose. It’s as if they can’t contain themselves. Soon, another dance-floor friendly epic unfolds. Resistance is impossible. Not when The Black Hippies unleash their uber funky music.

Closing The Black Hippies is You Are My Witness. Drums, hissing hi-hats and the percussion combine. Before long, bursts of guitar and stabs of Hammond organ make their presence felt. They lock into the tightest of hypnotic grooves. This is the perfect backdrop for the vocal. It’s akin to a confessional. It’s delivered with power and passion, sometimes, briefly becoming a vamp. As the vocal drops out, blistering, searing guitars enter. They veer between funky and rocky. Briefly, they steal the show. Then later, they join the rest of The Black Hippies in driving the arrangement to it’s dramatic, funky crescendo.

Although The Black Hippies features just five songs, it’s an album that oozes quality. From the opening bars of Doing It in the Street, right through to the closing notes of You Are My Witness, you’re hooked. Seamlessly, The Black Hippies fuse musical genres and influences. This includes everything from Afro-beat, fuzzy rock, jazz, psychedelia, reggae, soul and voodoo funk. Sadly, by the time The Black Hippies was released, musical tastes had changed. 

The Black Hippies were a victim of circumstances. If disco and funk hadn’t become the most popular genres in Nigeria, then The Black Hippies would’ve been a huge commercial success. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Commercial success and critical acclaim eluded The Black Hippies. Their debut album disappeared without trace. So, Joseph “Pazy” Etinagbedia decided that The Black Hippies should change direction musically.

For their sophomore album Wa Ho Ha, Pazy and The Black Hippies drew inspiration from a variety of sources. This included disco and reggae. Just like many artists, The Black Hippies had jumped onboard the disco bandwagon. However,  Wa Ho Ha didn’t come close to replicating the quality of The Black Hippies.

No way. The Black Hippies finest hour was their genre-melting eponymous debut album. Sadly, when it was released The Black Hippies passed most people by. Since then, a small number of enthusiasts have been flying the flag for one of Nigeria’s lost bands, The Black Hippies. Their finest moment was their 1977 debut album 

The Black Hippies. However, there was a problem. Copies of The Black Hippies were becoming increasingly hard to find. When a copy came up for sale, the price was beyond most people. So, Academy LPs decided to rerelease The Black Hippies on 26th May 2014. Belatedly, a new generation of music lovers are able to hear The Black Hippies 1977 lost classic, The Black Hippies.

THE BLACK HIPPIES-THE BLACK HIPPIES.

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2 Comments

  1. Pinch

    This may be the best record of the whole Afro Funk genre. And, one of the rarest. The original goes for at least $1000, probably more. Think there are like 3 copies in existence. Sick stuff.

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for your comments. The Black Hippies album is definitely one of my favourite Afro Funk albums. I was really pleased it was reissued.

      Copies as you say, are like gold dust. There’s a reason for that. Back in the early eighties, there was a vinyl shortage, and people were encouraged to bring their old vinyl to be recycled, and turned into new vinyl. Little did anyone realise, that they were getting rid of some of the most valuable Afrobeat albums. Now very few copies of The Black Hippies come on the market. if they did, and were in good condition, the vendor could literally name their price. Incredible isn’t it?

      Keep reading my blog, there’s always reviews of Afrobeat, Afrofunk and Highlife being published.

      Regards,
      Derek.

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