Africa Today

19/06/2020Nigerian Trumpet Phenom Etuk Ubong Releases Six-Track Direct-To-Disc Album On Night Dreamer

If you've listened to or possibly even added Etuk Ubong's 2018-released "Black Debtors" 7-inch to your collection, then you're already in the know and will likely agree to Seun Kuti calling him "one of the best things to come out of Lagos." The Nigerian trumpeter, composer and bandleader with his home-cooked 'Earth Music' style is a veritable musical force to be reckoned with. For his latest feat he's now teamed up with London/Haarlem-based imprint Night Dreamer, a record label specialising in direct-to-disc recordings, to release a live-and-uncut session that really stands out.

Hailing from southern Nigeria, Etuk Ubong was raised in Lagos. He trained at different schools in Nigeria as well as the University of Cape Town. At age 16, only two years after first picking up a trumpet, he was recruited into the band of the late but legendary highlife musician and trumpeter Victor Olaiya, who had greatly influenced the likes of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen among others. Ubong has played alongside several big-time African musicians, including Nigerian gospel reggae artist Buchi, Femi Kuti's Positive Force and contemporary South African pianist and composer Nduduzo Makhathini, but has also built an impassioned following on the burgeoning London jazz scene (EFG London Jazz Festival, Steam Down, Jazz re:freshed, the Royal Festival Hall, We Out Here Festival) and was scheduled to perform at this year's Jazzahead trade fair in Bremen, Germany, which has been postponed.

What is easily most impressive about is Etuk Ubong is the breakneck speed and high intensity of his virtuosic, genre-crossing performances, combining explosive spurts on trumpet with on-point lyricism, reminiscent of a certain William Onyeabor. But there's more to it. His music includes an equally engaging, thought-provoking socio-political dimension, used to address hardship or injustice – e.g. "African Struggle" or "Mass Corruption" – as well as "the pursuit of spirituality." Take "Spiritual Change," for instance, "a deep cut on which Etuk reflects on Africans' need for internal change before they can address the problems around them." As such, he's created his own palette of sounds, blending elements of "afrobeat, highlife and jazz, but also the ritualistic drumming of Ekombi" to "reflect his heritage and life philosophy of goodwill, peace and love for humanity," e.g. "Purpose of Creation".

For "Africa Today" Etuk Ubong followed the Night Dreamer imprint's invitation to their Haarlem, Netherlands-based recording studio. Joined by fellow Lagos-based trumpeter Michael Awosogo and a high-calibre ensemble of musicians from the UK and Netherlands, including Vels Trio’s Jack Stephenson-Oliver on keys, the six-track album was recorded "in just one sitting on the final last of a five-day session." With Etuk Ubong leading the way on vocals and trumpet, the result is emphatically orchestrated and utterly propulsive.

Officially releasing today, you can stream/buy the full album below and also rewatch the official music video to Etuk's track "Black Debtors", which we mentioned in the beginning.

The lineup:
Etuk Ubong (trumpet, vocals)
Robin van Rhijn (drums)
Jack Stephenson-Oliver (keys)
Benson Itoe (bass)
Mamour Seek (percussion)
Dra Diarra (percussion)
Michael Awosogo (trumpet)
Alba Pujals (trombone)
Giovanni Cigui (tenor sax)
Nicolò Ricci (baritone sax)
Bahghi Yemane (vocals)

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom