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African Rhythms 1970-1982 by Oneness of Juju

This compilation reveals Oneness of Juju to be one of the most underrated jazz / jazz funk bands of the USA. Oneness of Juju (previously Juju) were from the Richmond, Virginia / Washington DC area and mainly played funky jazz (yet never slick fusion) with a strong influence from the African culture they'd totally immersed themselves in. OOJ's music was no afro-beat but it was instrumentally startling all the same, and also utterly soulful, as the band was fronted by a female singer (the sophisticated Lady Eka-Ete) who could match the prowess of any Aretha or Marlena (for proof, check "River luv rite", which you might already know from "Club Africa" - cf. [uzine 99.06]). Oneness of Juju is best-known for the seminal, fiercely funky title track of their "African Rhythms" lp from 1975 (especially since it was included on the first v/a "Africafunk" compilation) and that track is of course included here - both in the lp and in the entirely different 7" mix (albeit part 1 only of the latter) and in two brief interlude / chant formats. Yet Strut did not simply compile tracks from a few of OOJ's albums to make an easy 'best of'. Instead, they had the vision to seek contact with the band's original members and collaborate on this career overview, thus bringing into scope Juju involvement on tracks by Roach Om, Lon Moshe, Okyerema Asante and Ndikho Xaba. And that's quite simply wonderful, because without that effort we'd probably never have been presented with the previously unreleased "West wind", an absolute gem which sounds like a laid-back Cymande complemented with Pharaoh Sanders playing the kind of soprano sax which evokes the same magic as Coltrane's "My favourite things" or Soft Machine's "Chloe and the pirates". Not that it's all jazz here: "Every way but loose" (the original 6'39" version) is a party funk monster which would lead any "Block Party Breaks" compilation to glory, even in primitive mountain caves; Lon Moshe's "Doin' the carvin' for Thabo" is an incredibly entrancing piano-and-vibes-driven jazz groove; and "Nomusa" by Ndikho Xaba, with once again wonderful piano playing, is as mesmerising as the best of Pharaoh Sanders' relaxed grooves. Other ultimate highlights here are "Space jungle funk" (which is nòt Bootsyesque, mind you), "Freedom fighter" (ethnopercussion galore) and "Asante sana" (a cozy, exotic exercise in street soul avant-la-lettre). Even without the inclusion of the magnificent "Poo too / liberation dues" (from "African Rhythms" and also on "Africafunk 2" - cf. [uzine 00.07]), this compilation shines mightily. 25 tracks on the 2cd version; check Strut's site for details on the vinyl (which does exist). (pv)

This review was first published on 2001-10-17 in [uzine 01.18], cf. http://www.dma.be/p/ultra/uzine/0118.htm

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Oneness of Juju
  • CD Title: African Rhythms 1970-1982
  • Genre: Soul / Funk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: Strut
  • Rating: Four Stars
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