Village Sounds: The Music Of BLO


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BLO was officially formed in 1972 - the name coined from the confluence of the original band member's names. The "B" Stood for Berkley on guitar, the "L" for Laolu on drums and the "O" for Odumosu who played bass.

Nevertheless the core of the Unit was formed decades ago when as School boys they first played as the "The Clusters" before moving up to be professional back up musicians for a slew of seasoned Acts such as The Sierra Leonean Geraldo Pino and the master drummer Ginger Baker. But now strap your self in and I will let Messer's Berkley, Laolu and Odumosu introduce them selves in the appropriately named song "BLO".

BLO {audio}{/audio}

They were one of the first bands that successfully mixed native Nigerian rhythm with the psychedelic music of the West. But unlike in the East of Nigeria where "The Funkees "were doing it by choice they did this out of necessity to survive. So the truth is that BLO as Berkley's initial fuzzy guitar would testify - was a Rock band first and everything else second. Now kick back and listen to Native Doctor but not before I dispel the myth that Timmy Thomas played drums on it.

NATIVE DOCTOR {audio}{/audio}

Listening to BLO initially would almost always make me involuntarily reach for the incense and draw the curtains. This was not because their music reeked or triggered an attack by the dreaded mosquito Luftwaffe - in fact far from it- it was always different and demanded your full attention. Well listen for yourself to "Chant the Mother Earth", but not before I do one thing namely light an incense.

CHANT MOTHER EARTH {audio}{/audio}

Now that the proper stimmung has been set..I have always been puzzled over the fact that most of BLO's subject matter mostly seemed to be based on some form of mystical inspiration and attempted to catapult you to some higher state of mental being. In other words it hardly allowed for you to blink. Nevertheless fact is fact, and songs like "Preacher Man", "Chant the Mother Earth", "Beware", and "Native Doctor" all have this common supernatural thread running through them. Here to buttress my point are "Preacher man and Beware."


To really appreciate BLO the Rock Band, one would have had to have seen them live. In fact I will go out on a limb and say that toe to toe they could have held their own ÔÇô at least in the studio- with bands like Grand Funk Rail Road, or Rare Earth whose Album "Willie Remembers" is the undisputed blue print for the initial BLO Sound. In fact I have included the Band's "Could Not Forget What Happened Last Night" as Exhibit 1 for you to listen yourself. Meandering keyboards, pounding reckless drums all held together by a mesmerizing throbbing bass solos all spell out one thing ÔÇô a white BLO! Check it out.

COULD NOT BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT {audio}'t_Believe_What_Happened_Last_Night.mp3{/audio}

Now for those hardened Rock fans still basking in the glow from that awesome performance by Rare Earth who may say okay, but "you are giving them too much praise", please kindly remember that after their stint with Pino they were actually the band known as "Salt". Yes they were Ginger Bakers traveling band because long before he hooked up with Fela and cut those fabled "shrine sessions": all he knew was BLO. So in addition to their unique style they were battle tested in "Rock" as they toured Europe and North America with him and the "Lijadu Sisters", returning as seasoned veterans back to Nigeria. Here is an absolutely stunning performance taped in Bavaria where they were one of the many opening acts for the 1972 Olympics.


Right from their return back to Nigeria they were different and the magnitude of Jones guitar play was again of such quality that by 1973 they had replaced Osibisa as the new flavor in demand. Known for their attention to detail it is also an open secret that they drove their Producers crazy, recording tracks over and over till they got it right. "Phase 2" was recorded in 9 sessions from 6 am to 6 pm causing at least one Engineer to go on strike. Here is my personal favorite.

DON'T TAKE HER AWAY FROM ME > {audio}{/audio}

Incomprehensibly despite their roaring success as an astute act throughout Nigeria and not just in some pockets, poor marketing and distribution of their initial body of work failed to make the band a success at the cash register, and EMI would drop them from their label. Not that it mattered because Afrodasia would gobble them up quicker than an Ice cube in July's Sun. However as we listen, it would come with consequences. See if you can pick the beginning of the New BLO sound on Scandi Boogie.

SCANDI BOOGIE {audio}{/audio}

Plain and simple? Afrodasia boxed BLO in and would insist on -for lack of a better term - "Blacker" sound and BLO would subsequently respond by getting funkier ala "The Commodores", "The Isley Brothers" and the Bahamian based outfit "T Connection ". Here is more of the same sound

GET THE GROOVE {audio}{/audio}

While they continued to churn out hits all the way up to "Phase IV" by which they had now become a quartet - after the departure of Odumosu and the addition of Lemmy Jackson and the Cameroonian Celestin Nyam - in my humble opinion they never matched the initial brilliance of Afro Rock., but remained without a doubt one of the most successful and fabled Nigerian bands ever, if not Number 1.

NUMBER 1 {audio}{/audio}

This has been Iwedi Ojinmah Live from the Nigerian Village Square.