Who Say I Tire


There's no doubt that the brightest star which burned in the Nigerian firmament in the early '70s was Fela Anikupalo Kuti. But for a while Segun Bucknor's Revolution, with its politics, African roots consciousness, dancers and African funk fusion, gave even Fela something to think about. To date, this is the largest compilation of his music from the early '70s to have been released. Segun was born in 1946 into a well-regarded Lagos musical family who were church singers and organists. He started to play box guitar and the piano at nine years old. Two years later, he got to lead his first band, The Hot Spots, and then in 1961, he got the chance to play and record with highlife bandleader Roy Chicago's Rhythm Dandies dance band. But by 1964, highlife was becoming old hat for post-independence Nigerian youth. With three school friends, Segun formed The Hot Four, who played mostly covers of popular pop and rock songs, but in 1965, he left for New York's Columbia University to study liberal arts and ethnomusicology. During his three years in the U.S., he was totally overpowered by a sonic blast that hadn't reached Nigeria when he left for the U.S.: sweet soul music. In 1968, he'd completed his studies and returned to Lagos on a mission to bring soul power to Nigeria. Trouble was, he soon found that young Lagos had already succumbed in his absence. The Civil War had sped up the demise of highlife as a popular force, causing a mass exodus of the Igbo highlife bandleaders to Biafra, and juju music had begun to come to prominence in their absence. But then the Sierra Leonean Geraldo Pino and his Heartbeats arrived to turn the Lagos scene on its head with his funky routines and their version of U.S. soul and funk. The Hot Four reformed as The Soul Assembly, recorded two singles, dressed up in sharp Western-style suits and even toured in Ghana, then the molten hot hub of happening African music. But much of the music The Soul Assembly and the other Lagos soul bands were playing were covers of U.S. hits, so when The Soul Assembly disintegrated in 1969, Segun began to develop another musical vision based around his own compositions. He formed Segun Bucknor & The Assembly and headed towards a more organically African expression of soul music. As that African essence evolved, the band became Segun Bucknor & The Revolution. Out went the suits, in came a resplendent vision of bare torsos, cowrie shells, shaved heads and the crowning glory of the non-stop undulations of the trio of dancers, The Sweet Things. Segun was writing and recording politically-aware songs filled with social comment like "Sorrow, Sorrow, Sorrow," "Poor Man No Get Brother," "Son Of January 15th," "Who Say I Tire" and "Adebo," featured on this compilation. Son Of January 15th, the 1970 (?) album from which most of these tracks have come, turned out to be Segun's finest hour. His subsequent tunes and lyrics lost their urgency and his popularity waned. By 1975, he had disbanded his Revolution to concentrate on journalism, though you may still be lucky enough to catch him performing, maybe in church or even in the right club in Lagos, where he still lives. Liner notes by African music expert Max Reinhardt (BBC Radio 3's "Late Junction").