We Can Make It Better: A Guide To Nigerian Boogie

The end of the 1970s and early ‘80s marked a particularly fertile period for music in Nigeria. The country had broken the seal on its oil reservoirs, a military dictatorship had toppled and a flamboyant new sound began sweeping through the capital city of Lagos’ clubs and recording studios. Since then, popular interest in afrobeat—and the market for rare West African dance records—has skyrocketed, and Parisian producer D.K. is one of many producers to fall under its spell. The sunny house and boogie hybrids on his debut album for discerning French imprint Antinote paid a sort of homage to the sound and spirit of the era. Fresh on the heels of his sophomore full-length, Island Of Dreams, D.K. pulls together some of his favorite tracks from the “golden age” of Nigerian boogie and beyond.

Esseh Luckee Sunshine, “Ife” (Kendal 1984)

“This track was composed by Esseh and reportedly produced by Nkono Teles, who was an influential musician and sound engineer in Nigeria in the ‘80s. The instrumental sounds like classic boogie, but the vocal hook with the backing voices is captivating, mostly because it’s so different from what you might typically have heard around that time.”

Alioke Alison Borg, “We Can Make It Better” (Coconut 1986)

“I have to say: this record has one of the best sleeves ever. We Can Make It Better was released on this great Nigerian label called Coconut in 1986. There are some really good records on this imprint, including LPs from Baad John Cross and Sam ‘Ooh’ Onyemeh, but unfortunately most are way too expensive now!”

Mark Ekpo, “Music Takes Me High” (Sagitarius 1984)

“This one is more like a funk track, but I had to include it. I’ve been searching for this record for a while now, but never managed to actually get my hands on it. This track is quite singular because it sounds homemade and hybridized at the same time. It’s clearly a live jam that mixes acoustic instruments and electronic effects with a sick delay on the vocals. Anyway, I really need to find this record!”

Tom Youms, “Being A Man” (Taretone 1980)

“I could play Mario Kart on the Koopa Troopa Beach course for hours while listening to this song.”

Terry Mackson, “Call The Police” (Supremedisk 1984)

“‘Call The Police’ may be the best song on Terry Mackson’s Distant Lovers album. He also released another LP in 1983 with a track that I really like called ‘Love Letter to Johny‘.”

Steve Monite, “Welcome My Love” (His Master's Voice 1984)

“I hope this album will be reissued one day. It was produced by Tony Okoroji, who’s known for his work with [former pop frontman and Nigerian gospel singer] Dizzy K. Falola. I really enjoy the crazy LinnDrum beat on this track. The swing on it is so good, and it fits perfectly with Steve Monite’s vocal flow.”

Hotline, “You Are Mine” (Blackspot 1986)

“‘You Are Mine’ is extracted from the LP of the same name, which came out on Blackspot in 1986. Like a number of tracks from that period, it shows the thin line between reggae and boogie music.”

Lemmy Jackson, “Tonight” (Time 1981)

“I couldn’t make this list without including a real love song. I’ve been listening to soul music since my teenage years, and it’s one of my main influences. Lemmy Jackson was also the producer of this amazing hit from Oby Onyioha, called ‘Enjoy Your Life’. Be patient with this one and just wait for the vocal to come in.”

D.K.’s Island of Dreams LP is out now on Antinote. Stream it in full here and buy it here.