Aside from having the best name in the business, and looking like the coolest cats ever, The Funkees were an Eastern Nigerian Afro rock band in the early ‘70s. They’ve previously appeared on a couple of Soundway’s excellent Nigeria Special compilations, so it’s really interesting to delve a little deeper into their oeuvre and hear more of the material. The story is that they began during the Nigerian civil war in the early ‘70s as a cover band, playing for the army’s 12th Brigade before eventually relocating to the UK, splitting up in ‘77 amid much acrimony, with the lead guitarist jumping ship to popular Afro pop band Osibisa.
What we’ve got here are the best of their two albums and a number of their incredibly rare 7” recordings. The Funkees were true to their name – there’s no political grandstanding or social commentary, this is pure Afro funk designed to get your arse on the dance floor. With driving percussion over which keys and guitars duel, the vocals, mostly in language, are often coated in heavy reverb, like Akula Owu Onyeara, which clocks in at seven-plus minutes and features a totally over the top organ solo during an extended instrumental breakdown. The band also adopt elements of psych rock. One instrumental track is called Acid Rock, while on Point Of No Return they sing in English and sound a little like a funkier take on Iron Butterfly, albeit with insistent, almost tribal percussion. It’s a remarkable fusion and it’s one of many on this collection.
Some of the recordings are a little raw, with bloated bass and shrill organ, yet that’s their sound, and it works. Each track is killer. It’s Afro funk heaven and you can’t go wrong.