Sunday, 1 September 2013

Biodun & Batik Afro Jazz Band at Freedom Park - Audio Tracks

On Stage at Freedom Park in Lagos
with Biodun & Batik Afro Jazz Band
I was invited to Freedom Park on Lagos Island on Friday night to perform as the guest of trumpeter Biodun with his Batik Afro Jazz Band. Freedom Park is a relatively new venue on the site of the former colonial prison, an open air stage inside a walled prison courtyard that has been converted into a green space – an urban performance place in a sculpture garden surrounded by food stalls. I had heard of Freedom Park as the site of occasional Seun Kuti gigs, but it is relatively far from where I stay and I had not previously ventured down there. It is a very nice spot to spend an evening and I recommend it to music fans in Lagos. Biodun met me at the gate and introduced me to the park director, who turns out to be Fela Kuti’s son-in-law.

Biodun is a fine Hugh Masakela-influenced trumpeter – I wrote about him when we first met in May of this year. His pedigree includes stints with Fela and Lagbaja. At Freedom Park, he fronted his Batik Afro Jazz Band of keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, and occasional girl singer. I had met bass player Mike before at Biodun’s home studio, but the rest of the rhythm section was new to me, fairly young but highly competent players. When Biodun phoned me to make the gig, I asked for a set list. He said not to worry, no set list, they probably would not play any standards, just some pop tunes and highlife in I-IV-V progression, and I could just jam along.
Two Tenors -
With Saxophonist Seun Olota

I realized the morning after the gig that Biodun and Batik play an incredible diversity of music – from jazz tunes by John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter to reggae, Fela's afrobeat, Igbo and Yoruba highlife, Afro-pop, originals, 60’s rock, and even some requisite smooth jazz hits and pop covers by the likes of Whitney Houston. I played tenor on the jazz tunes, most of the highlife, and had my first experience performing a Fela tune live – Water No Get Enemy, which I learned from Showboy last year and actually remembered. During the second set, another tenor player, Seun Olota, joined the group, making it an octet. He and Biodun looked to be old friends and Seun fronted the band on two Fela tunes, singing and dancing Water and Lady to the crowd’s delight.

I have posted a few audio tracks from my Zoom: here are links to Water No Get EnemyFootprints, an Igbo highlife of unknown title, and Equinox (320 kbps MP3 sound files). That’s the good. The bad is that the sound system was not great, with the bass dominating, the snare drum too loud, and the piano down in the mix. The lead instruments were somewhat buried all night – especially the tenor sax, of course, which particularly gets drowned out by loud bass guitar since their frequencies overlap. But the music itself is nice.

There was no ugly.


  1. Nice on Mr. Ronald, It really was a swell night.

    The Ibo Highlife that night was Love Adure

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