Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Sonny Okosuns

  • Liberation [Shanachie, 1984] B+
  • Which Way Nigeria? [Jive Afrika, 1984] B+
  • African Soldiers [Profile, 1991] C+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Liberation [Shanachie, 1984]
If I were more conversant with the infinite shadings of African pop, I might get a sharper buzz off Okosun's panstylistic Afro-reggae, and I might be ready to settle for reassuring uplift if the two chants on Heartbeat's Black Star Liner sampler had been reserved for his U.S. debut. But as things stand, this sounds a little soft to me, just like the universalist-influenced politics that go with it. The curse of not-Marley strikes again. B+

Which Way Nigeria? [Jive Afrika, 1984]
For an African groove to buoy those of us who haven't been swimming in it since childhood, it has to be articulated in distinct detail, which is why I thank the engineers who popped each element out this time. Agile horn arrangements from a man called Dave also stir it up. As on Okosuns's Shanachie compilation, the lyrics (all but "My Ancestors" in English) are kind-hearted, militantly progressive, and a little simple--maybe too much so when he's following Nigeria's new leaders. B+

African Soldiers [Profile, 1991]
Those who wish Afropop were more political should reflect on this avowed revolutionary's Fire in Soweto--first banned in South Africa, which is no feat, it then became the theme music for Liberia's Samuel K. Doe, who soon proved one of the continent's worst despots. And as with most protest pros, neither Okosuns's "progressive" music, rock-colored reggae plus ye olde indigenous rhythms, nor his "progressive" lyrics, which praise Jah and Jesus and ye olde African woman, have gained passion or precision with the years. C+