CULT CLASSIC: THE BLACK HIPPIES-THE BLACK HIPPIES.

Cult Classic: The Black Hippies-The Black Hippies.

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

If The Black Hippies had been released in 1976, commercial success and critical acclaim would’ve come their way. Instead, the album disappeared without trace. It was a case of the wrong album at the wrong time. However, since then,  a new generation of record buyers have discovered The Black Hippies and it’s now regarded as a lost classic and is without doubt their 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 headed to Warri’s clubs, where The Fire Flies held court. They played an eclectic selection of music and much of that music reminded the expats of home. For a while, Joseph “Pazy” Etinagbedia was happy playing with The Fire Flies. Then eventually, he became restless and decided to form his own band, The Black Hippies.

His 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 and at the time, 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 and  were soon playing alongside some of Warri’s biggest names including 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.

The Black Hippies recorded five songs for their eponymous debut album. It was released in 1977, on EMI and is a 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 and when The Black Hippies was released their eponymous debut album, it was a year too late. Sadly, the album wasn’t a commercial success and disappeared without trace. It was a huge disappointment for the group, producer Odion Iruoje and EMI who thought the group were the “next big thing” in Nigerian music. That’s no surprise given the quality of music on this lost classic. 

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 and 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 which oozes emotion. It’s enveloped by the wall of uber funky guitars, hissing hi-hats and a wailing Hammond organ. Genres melt seamlessly into one including everything from Afrobeat, fuzzy rock, jazz, psychedelia and voodoo funk on this dancefloor friendly paean which  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 teh group provide the arrangement’s pulsating heartbeat. They combine a myriad of percussion with the rhythm section and wah wah funky guitar. Before long, they kick loose. It’s as if they can’t contain themselves and soon, another dancefloor friendly epic unfolds. Resistance is impossible 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 and 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 and is 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 and briefly 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, the album would’ve been a huge commercial success. Sadly, that wasn’t the case and 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.

Not by a long shot. The Black Hippies finest hour was their genre-melting eponymous debut album which sadly passed most people by. Since then, a small number of enthusiasts have been flying the flag for one of Nigeria’s forgotten bands The Black Hippies, and their eponymous debut album which is a lost classic that after one listen you’ll be smitten. 

Cult Classic: The Black Hippies-The Black Hippies.

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1 Comment

  1. I vaguely recall this band not sure why or where I may have come across them. Will check them out.

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