In 1989, Shina Peters released Ace: Afro—Juju Series 1, an album that would propel his musical career to new heights and result in him being crowned the father and king of Afro-juju music—a previously unheard medley of juju rhythms and Afrobeat. His style, which mixed fast, unrelenting fuji style percussion with electric guitars and futuristic keys made him an international superstar. But Peters had been playing music long before that LP: a self-taught musician, he was a guitar player, pianist, and vocalist in some of Lagos’s hottest bands throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Sewele, his 1986 album, marked a crucial change of direction for him: he was just starting out as a solo artist, experimenting with his sound, and trying to make his mark in the world of juju music. The record wasn’t a commercial success, and is often forgotten in discussions of Peters’ career. But it was an important time in the evolution of his sound.
Thankfully, Strut Records’s reissue unearths Sewele’s four extended jams: the title track runs to over 13 minutes long, but doesn’t overstay its welcome, bursting with syncopated percussion and Peters’ twangy guitar riffs. “Yabis” is a funky Afrobeat number with an irresistibly catchy hook, over which Peters exhorts his people to be proud of who they are. In “Agbe’ere De,” another pleasantly long track, Peters and his International Stars Band sneak in the familiar riffs of “Get up Stand Up” by Bob Marley and ABBA’s “I Have a Dream,” before ending with “Late Aboderin,” where smooth percussion underpins a catchy guitar riff and Peters’ languorous vocals.
With its original artwork and extensive liner notes written by the man himself, Strut brings to life a long lost chapter of Sir Shina Peters’ musical career, and acts as a reminder of his invaluable contribution to Nigerian music.