“I was just out of senior secondary school and I wanted to make an album. I had this urge. Melodies used to come to me in my sleep and I would wake up and record them on my tape recorder. I would mumble sounds and write lyrics later – it was this big dream born out of dreams. My Dad was creative. He sang traditional music, so he was cool with it, as long as it wasn’t a career choice, just a hobby.

I first thought I needed a record company to sponsor the project so I travelled to Lagos dressed as a hippy with my demo in my pocket. I arrived late so, to save money, I slept under a bridge. I went to EMI in the morning to meet with Odion Iruoje but instead I met with Tony Okoroji who said, ‘we will listen to it and get back to you.’ When I didn’t hear from them, I knew I had to move on.

I was into disco and funk at the time and I was looking for a bass-driven funky sound. The entire idea was to make an album that sounded like something made in London or the U.S. so I tried to sound “American” and did some research on the LPs I loved, from the jacket cover design to the names of the session men. On my album I credited Fred Pants, John Norway, King Gusher, Kif Goods… (laughs), that was the vogue at the time! Although I wanted the album to sound like an American or British production, if you listen to the first track, ‘Get On Down,’ you can hear that we ended up with something else: a mix of American and Nigerian.

My perseverance paid off and I found myself at Goddy Oku’s Godiac 24-track recording studio in Enugu, which was the best studio available there at the time. It was amazing. Frank Izuora, a family friend, heard about my project and was equally enthused so he came down to the studio (Frank was a founding member of the band Question Mark, which was produced by Odion Iruoje in the ‘70s). Frank had since moved to the US and was on holidays back in Nigeria. So, he became involved, he played guitar and actually sang lead vocals on the title track, ‘Friday Night’.

It took about 9 months to a year to make the album. I financed it by myself so I had to resort to friends helping out with loans for session men and studio time. But the 24- track studio was great because if you made a mistake, you didn’t have to do it all again.

The original LP was released on blue vinyl and that idea came from William Onyeabor. We used his pressing plant and he sold the idea to me. It was different so I said ‘why not?’”

Livy Ekemezie

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“I am from Cameroun and I am primarily a keyboard player. I played keyboards and bass guitar on hundreds of sessions in Lagos and Aba. My background is in jazz and funk – I played as a solo jazz pianist at the Sheraton in Cotonou and worked on projects spanning highlife, jazz and jazz funk. During the late ‘70s, I was employed in a nightclub in Constanza, Cameroon called Club San Francisco. There, we had to play the disco and funk hits every week so I was very popular as a session man with Nigerian musicians looking for that sound. I played on William Onyeabor’s ‘Anything You Sow,’ – there were just three of us. I programmed the drums and played bass and strings live, Dorothy Ipere sang the background vocal parts. She was a classical music singer. I worked on several projects for Afrodisia, EMI and Decca in Lagos. I worked on Odion Iruoje’s ‘Sound President’. All of this prepared me for Livy’s project.

I knew Livy from his interest in music. He came to our shows and, when he introduced the idea of an album to me, I wanted to encourage him. In those days, the keyboard player was often the arranger but this role was rarely acknowledged. The feeling was that, because you were paid as a keyboardist, anything else was part of the job.

On ‘Friday Night’, I used an analogue Moog Synthesizer, a Fender Rhodes piano and a polyphonic Yamaha synthesizer. Livy sang the vocal parts and I played the backing music and we fashioned out the parts for the other instruments on the keyboard.

Jules Elong

Interviews by Temitope Kogbe

Sometime in 2015, I got a call from a digger friend, “how much would you pay for Livy Ekemezie’s Friday Night. I sat down, took a deep breath and gave him a number, a high number. He was feeling me out, if the number wasn’t satisfactory, he would move on to the next guy. This was the ritual.

“What if I offered you 10 copies”, “I would pay you the same amount”. I hastened to add. I had on occasion been known to negotiate prices down if and when I was offered a lot of deadstock. This case was different. Friday Night was a one of the big ones, those records you only see on want-lists. A rare record among rare records. A unicorn.

What is the condition of the records, I asked. “oh, they’ve never been played, I have 12 of them”. I received the records and for the first time, held a copy of Friday Night in my hands, most were sealed, so I opened one and played it….. Then I understood why it was so highly sought after…

Hard dance grooves, filtered through 80s syths and punctuated with funky licks from a Fender Rhodes. The voice was funky and embedded in the grooves, the joy of repetition, proto-house, afro-disco boogie, minimal afro.. So many good things going on…

I reached out to my friends around the globe and spread the word. Some established diggers took notice, “Can you help us licence the record”, “The amount you have, suggests you have met the man”… “Are you pressing these records”.. Local diggers got in touch, “we need Livy’s number can you help?” As I meditated on the requests, Javi Bayo a Spanish DJ and longtime friend suggested I put it out myself. “how..”. “Set up a label, licence the record…”.

“Hmmmm”

I made some moves, located Livy’s village, found his sister who after much cajolling, explained that Livy came to the village only rarely and that he was a very reserved man. But you can call him on this number. My first attempts to speak to him were met with silence at the end of the line. She further explained, that Livy worked as a contractor in the upstream oil sector and was concerned about getting kidnapped. I thought about the situation and sent a text message that read, “Dear Sir. You have created a thing of rare musical beauty that has withstood the test of time. Only few career musicians manage this feat. But somehow, by dint of hard work and divine inspiration you achieved it. The work deserves to be re-issued to vindicate your former self for the investment put into this work. To show him that somewhere in this busy world, a raceless tribe found in this rare gem, something worthy of love, respect and recognition.

Whilst this was going on, a friend from Australia reached out to say that a DJ in New York was putting out a bootleg edit of Classic Lover, a track from the album. I sighed. It was only a matter of time. My Australian mate mentioned that at least four names (reissue labels/DJs) were being bandied by the cognoscenti as being in the process of working on a release of the lp. My mate added, if anybody can make it happen, you can, plus there’s no better way to launch a label.

I sent a text to Livy mentioning the threat of a bootleg. He sent a number, “this is my lawyer’s number please talk to him”. Progress at last. We signed the contracts, two months and three weeks after I sent the text message, in a fast food restaurant in Port-Harcourt. Mr Livy looked frail but in high spirits. He explained that the record was a unique foray into music after which he dropped everything and furthered his studies. He currently has a doctorate degree in marketing. “I had big dreams then, it was designed to appeal to a global audience”… “you achieved it sir, only thirty five years later”. He smiled shyly, “We give thanks..”

Temi Kogbe
February, 2017

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we are honoured to officially release this music masterpiece by Livinus Ekemezie, a record so ahead of its time, a document of how sound travels. Released in 1982 on a private label, this sound has travelled from Goddy Oku’s Godiac Studios in Aba, to the dance floors of Lagos, Port Harcourt, Berlin, London, Paris, Detroit and New York. The vocals are undeniably Nigerian, however the sound of the record is harder to place. This was Livy’s idea and he achieved it wholesomely. He wanted to travel in sound and he did. This holy-grail lp has been on the top 5 lists of most collectors and diggers of afro-boogie.

Official release date is 10th March 2017, pre-orders available from Strut/K7.

Legendary EMI Nigeria producer Odion Iruoje and rare African music collector Temi Kogbe have launched a new label called Odion Livingstone, a brand new venture out of Lagos, Nigeria in association with Strut Records. The label is one of the only imprints based in Nigeria to specialize in new and back catalogue releases from across Africa, bringing a fresh African perspective.logo