It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I have noticed quite a few people reading them, so here we go: Number 20 in our list of Madlib sampled music is none other than Solomon Ilori and His Afro-Drum Ensemble with his 1963 album on Blue Note titled African High Life.
Nigerian-born Solomon Ilori was born in 1934 to a very musical family. His father was both a dancer and a singer who encouraged Solomon to sing, dance and play the drums as well. Later on in his life, he picked up the guitar and flute and after perfecting those instruments began to take music more seriously. The band he was in during his teens brought him popularity as he won an award at the Nigerian Festival or Arts in 1955. In the late fifties, he decided to take the risk of going to the US in order to popularise African music in the country. Despite Solomon’s music being deeply rhythmic and spiritual, it didn’t gain as much traction in America as he had wanted to at the time. What prompted the opportunity for Solomon to record on Blue Note Records in the late fifties and sixties was legendary American drummer Art Blakey’s willingness to make records with African and American drummers through the respected label. Solomon Ilori assembled his Afro-Drum Ensemble and recorded the album at Rudy Van Gelder’s studios in Englewood Cliffs for Blue Note in 1963.
Musically, this album is dense with percussive rhythms and grooves that pure tribal and raw energy. The track “Igbesi Aiye (Song Of Praise To God)” is a 13-minute sonic experience that takes you into the depth of rich percussion and layered instrumentation with gorgeous saxophone notes and subtle but powerful piano playing. What caught Madlib’s ear was the dense percussion and drumming throughout the track, something he used on his short but sweet outro track from his Medicine Show # 3: Beat Konducta In Africa project titled “Unika (Outro).” Listen to how he takes the sample and adds a subtle dose of bass to the track to give it more of a bounce than the original. It’s only 40 seconds long, but it ends the project with a percussive groove that is instantly recognisable.
Listen to Solomon Ilori And His Afro-Drum Ensemble’s “Igbesi Aiye (Song Of Praise To God)” off the album African High Life (1963, Blue Note Records). Sampled by Otis Jackson Jr. (Madlib) on “Unika (Outro)” from Medicine Show # 3: Beat Konducta In Africa (2010, Madlib Invazion).