TRIBUTE SEGUN DAMISA
Monday 22 February 2010, by
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SEGUN DAMISA 1964 – 2006
As planning is approaching top gear level to mark with a big celebration the first decade, of the passing of the creator and King of afrobeat Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. A celebration, that would assemble all groups playing afrobeat world-wild at the Africa Shrine Lagos Nigeria, in a-week long musical pilgrimage and street carnival, death has come again knocking on the afrobeat-family doors. Segun Damisa, leader of the defunct Abuja based afrobeat group: Alkebu-lan and founder, of the Bordeaux based Afrobeat Crusaders died of generalised cancer July 17, 2006 in France.
A child of Kalakuta, Segun started his musical apprenticeship as a percussion player at a very young age, when he joined Fela’s Kalakuta community in the late seventies. Spending most of his teenage and early adult life in Fela’s kalakuta no doubt left an indelible mark on his life and musical career. He left Fela’s commune for a brief stint with King Sunny Ade during the period the Juju music maestro recorded his highly popular “Sweet Banana” and “My Dear” albums in Nigeria . In 1986, Femi Kuti after quitting his father’s Egypt 80 band, decided to carve his own knish in the afrobeat world by creating the group Positive Force. Segun Damisa joined this group as a founding member, the beginning of a career that would span a decade and half.
While with Femi Kuti, Segun was opportune to play alongside musical names in the business and privileged to travel world-wide where he acquired the exposure that would serve as a propelling force at the creation of his group Alkebu-lan in 2001 after he quit Femi Kuti’s Positive Force, and later Afrobeat Crusaders – a group he put together after moving base to Bordeaux in France 2004. After a series of concerts in and out of Bordeaux including opening for Antibalas, Segun took his Afrobeat crusaders into studio to record a nine title album in February/March 2006. Recorded at Chris Birkett’s studio, the guitarist/producer also played guitar solo on one of the tracks. Also featured in the album is Soul Makossa impresario Manu Dibango who played his alto sax solo on the song AIDS. The album produced by the tenor sax player of the group, Pierre Henry Vulliard (aka Speedy) for Arts Sciences Information is due for release early 2007.
Despite his death, his group members are resolve to carry on where he stopped and they have the offer of Antibalas lead singer, the Nigerian born Amayo, to appear whenever time permits. Amayo like Segun is a lead singer and percussionist.
All the following titles recorded are songs composed and arranged by Segun Damisa
GARI, a staple food in Nigeria and most parts of West Africa is farina made from cassava. In this song, Segun explains how people all over Nigeria eat gari with varied source (like a soup) prepared in their respective traditional ways, or drink it with coconut or beans cakes. Sung in a mix of Pidgin English and Yoruba, he implores political leaders, and decision makers not to allow poverty degenerate to the point where the average citizen cannot afford the most basic staple food –gari. With inflation on constant rise in African modern day society, Segun reminds leaders of the importance of providing the people with basic necessities of life.
NIGERIA renders homage to the fighting spirit of his fellow citizens and Africans in general. In the face of corruption and mismanagement that renders the lives of average citizens hopeless by successive governments on the continent, Segun underlines the strength of a people to survive in the face of what seems to be the forces of hell. With enfaces on the fact that despite the odds massed against the majority since independence, Nigerians and indeed African determination to keep alive the spirit of their tradition and values is laudable. This will to survive boils down to stupidity and gentility Segun claims. Particularly, religious influences and motivations calming people suffering and wailing to accept their faiths as pre-destined.
AIDS, a song enriched by Manu Dibango’s beautiful alto sax solo, is Segun’s contribution towards raising public awareness to the deadly effects of the wide-spread of HIV virus on the African continent. Particularly among a sexually active population, he points out that it is a killer decease that has no respect for the rich or poor. If you come from Ikoyi the rich residential area on the Lagos Island or Ojuelegba the popular Lagos ghetto on the mainland, there is no escape from the killer decease if one practices un-protected sex he warns.
SUFFER DEY in Pidgin English means there is too much of suffering. Singing about the lives of majority of Nigerians and indeed Africans, Segun points to how people are working hard without making ends meet. Those who have money can barely survive in the face of constant inflation, and scarcity of basic needs. Plus the fact that due to mismanagement of African natural resources, there is no available jobs for the majority population. Warning in street parlance that: “one day mokey go go market, e no go come back”. Meaning that one day the people would rise-up in a bloody revolution.
ESHERE is teaching world leaders some morals. Nobody is indispensable in this world hence in whatever position one finds himself, Segun advices that one should do what is right. If you occupied a position of power yesterday or today, remember there will be someone else occupying your place tomorrow. Calling on specified national leaders like George Bush, Chirac, Obasanjo and Mugabe to do the right thing, for tomorrow someone else will surely occupy their respective positions. Whatever your position, be it President or Prime Minister remember that it wouldn’t last for eternity.
ALAKITIJON is a Yoruba folk song talking about the negative side of being two-faced. Shearing, an essential part of a communal life can only be enhanced by transparency and clear intentions. For someone living within a community it would be morally in-correct to be double-faced. Humanity so says a Yoruba adage, is the cloth we wear, it is the riches of society, it will remain the same personally Segun declares would it be the same for you?
LAILO another folk song, based on the commonly-held belief among Yoruba people like most peoples of Africa about life after death. A song based on doing well, for you can harm me in this physical world, but when we all answer the calls of the spiritual world it is a place where you can do me no harm. Chris Birkett, producer and guitarist whose name is synonymous with either playing with or producing names like Rufus Thomas, Anne Peebles, Gene Knight, Pink Floyd and Sinead O’Cornor added his rock-felling background to the track.
OJEJE is a nostalgic song of an orphan left in-charge of an old wicked grandmother always maltreating the poor child. Please say to my departed parents that the entire big yam left for me as heritage, the nasty old grandmother eat, living me to eat only crumbs the orphan cried.
INTERLUDE , the last of the nine-piece track is Segun’s short percussion solo reminding the listener of his dexterity on the instrument. Listening to the music and lyrics, there is no doubt that spending most of his teenage and early adult life in Fela’s kalakuta, left an indelible mark on his life and musical career.
Segun was a true child of Kalakuta as all the songs point out, written in the combative political spirit of Fela and afrobeat music. Added to this is his respectful, charming and warm personality. He was always ready to lend a hand to whoever stretched out their hands for help. Sometimes to his own detriment, Segun would answer present to the calls of distress from friends and folks alike. Surely we would all miss those warm smiles on his face even in difficult times.
With a hind-sight privileged as I was at his death bed, I can understand why Segun fought so desperately to beat the cancer that was slowly and painfully taking away his life. The only thing that calmed his combative soul was my promise that we all in the afrobeat family will do everything within our means to perpetrate his memory with the release of his gift to us all – this beautiful and rich afrobeat album.
PARIS FRANCE 2006