“All the music that we do is based firmly on African traditions. So is rhythm and blues – but we try to get nearer the source, right down to the grass roots of the jungle – the sun, the heat, the insects, the abundance of life. And we overlay the whole with jazz – saxophone, guitar, brass, flute, and sometimes piano – because jazz is also derived from the old sources of Africa.” (Ginger Johnson)
Born Geroge Folunsho ‘Ginger’ Johnson in Nigeria in 1916, Ginger Johnson was an awesome percussionist who spent most of his life playing and composing music on a drum/drums of some kind! Nicknamed “Ginger” for his reddish hair and freckles, Johnson was a prominent musician in London from the 1950’s to the early 1970’s. As a bandleader he led Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers and recorded and performed with the likes of Edmundo Ros, The Rolling Stones, Ronnie Scott and Quincy Jones among many others.
His musical background goes right back to his childhood when, after he was orphaned at a young age and brought up by his sister, he developed an interest in both classical and traditional music. After joining the Navy in Nigeria in the mid-1930’s, he found himself signing up to the British Merchant Navy in 1943 and after the war decided to settle in London where he worked as a full time musician.
It was here that he recorded as a percussionist with Ronnie Scott, going on to the Edmundo Ros Orchestra in 1950 where he became lead percussionist, recording several albums with the band. He also joined up with other African and Caribbean musicians who had migrated to England and recorded an array of 78’s and 45’s with them…these were among the first recordings of African music in Britian!
In the 1960’s he was an important musician in what was the time of Swinging London and his percussion playing had made him a big name. Now, in high demand, he was performing with a multitude of big names such as, Georgie Fame, Brian Auger, Long John Baldry, Graham Bond, Hawkwind, Genesis, and Elton John! In the mid-1960’s he formed his own band – that being Ginger Johnson & His African Messengers – and released one record with them, entitled African Party.
This is where today’s song can be found! Amongst a feast of percussive wonders, Talking Drum sings out a melodic and highly rhythmic song! A fine taste of Afrobeat, the drums are divine and hypnotic, their taste a buzzing hit of tasty beats and hot layered spicy percussion!! It’s a dream for my ears!!
Enjoy, and if you fancy hearing more, I’ve pasted the whole of African Party below!! Yum!