Alhaji Waziri Oshomah - World Spirituality Classics 3: The Muslim Highlife of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah Music Album Reviews

Alhaji Waziri Oshomah - World Spirituality Classics 3: The Muslim Highlife of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah Music Album Reviews
The third volume in Luaka Bop’s World Spirituality Classics series spotlights a Nigerian musician who fuses traditional rhythms and pan-Nigerian highlife with the teachings of Islam.

The concept of religion as a realm separate from secular life does not exist in many sub-Saharan African cultures. Spirituality is to be considered intrinsic to the material world, and all aspects of life are infused with ritual and belief. Holiness can be found in nature, prayer, medicine, and song. Dance, in particular, is a way to channel the divine and communicate with spiritual forces. It’s therapy, worship, ecstasy.

Alhaji Waziri Oshomah’s music is all of these things. A devout Muslim and pillar of his community, he fuses traditional rhythms, pan-Nigerian highlife, and elements of Western pop with the teachings of Islam, playing frenzied concerts where provocative dancing is soundtracked by his religious and philosophical musings. The mix of the sacred and the apparently unholy is no contradiction in Waziri’s hometown of Auchi, a majority Muslim city in Nigeria’s largely Christian Edo State, where over time Islam has become interwoven with the culture and traditions of the Afenmai and Etsakọ people.

Seven of Waziri’s dance tracks are collected on The Muslim Highlife of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah, the third volume in Luaka Bop’s World Spirituality Classics series, following 2017’s The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda and 2019’s The Time For Peace Is Now. Each compilation explores the ways in which music can lead people closer to God. For Alice Coltrane it was through gentle spirituality, calm, and reflection; for the likes of the Floyd Family Singers or the Religious Souls, religious preaching went hand in hand with funky rhythms and soulful grooves.

For Waziri, enlightenment happens on the dancefloor. He was born in 1947 into a deeply religious Afenmai/Etsakọ family, and as a child he discovered the Nigerian highlife that was sweeping across Lagos at the time. When he began sneaking into clubs and eventually playing in his own band, his family disowned him, convinced their Muslim faith was diametrically opposed to popular music and the lifestyles associated with it.

But Waziri stayed firm in his belief that music could be a way of spreading positive messages and the teachings of Islam. He crafted his own idiosyncratic style of dance music, emphasizing the region’s mellow palm-wine rhythms over the horn-heavy, big-band highlife that was exported from Ghana to Nigeria by musicians like E.T. Mensah in the 1950s. The horns on “Forgive Them Oh God Amin – Amin’’ are reminiscent of Ebo Taylor, but rather than supplying extra punch to the funk-heavy sound that Taylor pioneered, they provide a counterpoint to unfurling, languorous guitar lines and unhurried rhythms. With a steady, almost spoken delivery, Waziri asks God to forgive those who gossip, descending into a hypnotic call-and-response chant with his backing singers.

It’s not hard to draw comparisons with Fela Kuti, who was exploding onto the scene in those same years. While Kuti’s Afrobeat did have an undeniable impact on Waziri—at one point he even said his music was “the Afenmai brand of Afro Beat”—their approach to politics and power couldn’t have been more different. Where Kuti challenged and rebelled, Waziri praised and celebrated, writing several songs in honor of the important people of Auchi. On the sprawling, 17-minute-long “Alhaji Yesufu Sado Managing Director,” for example, he pays homage to a local village chief over breezy guitars, a light, bouncing bassline, and bubbling electric organ.

It was a different Nigerian legend who had the biggest impact on Waziri. Victor Uwaifo was a fellow Edo State musician known for a unique style that blended modern instrumentation with traditional rhythms, soul, and funk, even experimenting with electronics. While remaining rooted in traditional styles, Waziri also incorporates electronic effects into his music. On “Jealousy,” a siren-like synthesizer announces the beginning of Waziri’s sermon, a warning against the perils of jealous feelings (“You that is entangled in envy/You will be killed by hypertension”) over warbling electronics and percussive shakers. As in many of Waziri’s songs, the lyrics’ ethical emphasis—preaching living according to one’s values and respecting other people—transcend any one particular religious sect.

As religious divisions increase in other parts of Nigeria, the people of Auchi—irrespective of creed, age, or gender—still come together to listen to the teachings of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah, finding catharsis and community in the Etsako Super Star’s spiritual highlife. With its sprawling grooves, strutting rhythms, and joyful atmospheres, Waziri’s music conveys a lesson that is not bound by language or local context. Rather than searching for pathways to enlightenment in a higher realm, it preaches the possibility of finding God in the here and now: in togetherness, pleasure, music, and dance.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Alhaji Waziri Oshomah - World Spirituality Classics 3: The Muslim Highlife of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah Music Album Reviews Alhaji Waziri Oshomah - World Spirituality Classics 3: The Muslim Highlife of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on October 14, 2022 Rating: 5


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