Album Review: Pazy and the Black Hippies Wa Ho Ha

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Pazy and the Black Hippies

Wa Ho Ha

Secret Stash Records/Comb and Razor Records

Release Date: September 4, 2012

Track Listing

Side A

1. Comfort Me JahoJa

2. My Home

3. Come Back Home

4. Elizabelth

Side B

1. Wa Ho Ha

2. Papa’s Black Dog

3. Lahila

By the 1970s reggae music had become a prominent influence on musicians and artists across much of Africa, including Nigeria. But it Afrobeat, a genre which borrowed liberally from Western culture while still being uniquely Nigerian, and created by its beloved godfather, Fela Kuti that managed to quickly become became part of that country’s national consciousness and its musical identity.

Originally from Southern Nigeria’s Benin City, Edire “Pazy” Etinagbedia and his backing band, the Black Hippies released their second full-length effort, Wo Ho Ha on EMI Nigeria in 1978. Sadly, thanks to the financial calculus that influences business decisions, Wo Ho Ha was no longer printed or issued, so it disappeared for the general listening public and became the sort of extraordinary rarity that cultists talked about. Occasionally, used versions could be found but even an extremely worn copy of Wo Ho Ha was prohibitively expensive. Thankfully, almost 35 years from its initial release, the folks at Secret Stash, with the assistance of Comb & Razor have re-issued a carefully re-mastered version of the album on vinyl – yay analog! – complete with the original artwork restored. But lest you worry reader, you can find this album on the digital format too. And in case you were wondering, the vinyl edition comes with a download card so you can download the album on to your device, as well.

Until you hear the album, you probably won’t understand why Pazy and the Black Hippies’ second full-length effort was so beloved. You see, it manages to combine elements of woozy psychedelica with blissed out dub step reggae that, mixed with the deep funk grooves and horn lines. Most of the lyrics are sung in a call and response fashion in a wild mélange of Pidgin English, Yoruba and other regional dialects (which is quite typical of most Afrobeat). The material manages to dodge easy pigeonholing with an eccentric, mischievous charm – although a song like “My Home” is probably the closest to being anything particularly straightforward, as it’s the most reggae orientated song of the entire album. The lyrics are sung with both pride and sadness – pride in one’s hometown and a sadness that isn’t quite the same you’d remember it. “Elizabeth,” a love song and lament over the narrator’s only true girl, along with “Wa Ho Ha” “Papa’s Black Dog,” and “Lahila” have the tightest, funkiest grooves on the entire album. It shouldn’t be a surprise that those two of those three songs owe a great debt not just to reggae but calypso and soca – I almost swore I heard songs like that while in Jamaican restaurants in Jamaica, Queens. “Papa’s Black Dog” kind of reminds me funk act Mandrill – same tight grooves with more of a rock feel, punctuated by Pazy Etinagbeia’s whooping like a feral dog before the repeated hook “Big dog is coming . .” “Lahilla” is probably the closest thing to Fela Kuti-inspired Afrobeat on the album.

What Secret Stash Records with the assistance of Comb & Razor Records have done is re-create the actual sound of the analog recordings as closely as possible, as the album retains the warm, fuzziness of lovingly played vinyl with this particular album’s ragged charm. The album manages to sound as though it were being played back on a beaten up Walkman or in a venue with a terrible sound system – the guitars are specifically tuned to sound tinny and shitty; the vocals are slightly off key; and the drums sound strange but at the end of the day, the grooves are so tight that you can’t help but digging Pazy and his Black Hippies eccentric and charmingly ragged brand of funk. It’s a shame that the album had all but disappeared from the larger public but finally folks can see why Wa Ho Ha is a cult favorite for all of those who love Afrobeat and international funk.