The last couple of years have brought us an embarrassment of riches from Nigeria. Now you'd be forgiven for expecting me to start with Nigeria Rock Special: Psychedelic Afro-Rock & Fuzz Funk in 1970s Nigeria, but no! It's awesome, but the right place to start is the recently re-released comp Nigeria 70: The Definitive Story of 1970's Funky Lagos (2001).
"Kita Kita" (Gaspel Lawal) from Nigeria 70: Definitive Story
This was the grandaddy of the 21st century resurgence of West African genre compilation series. It has all the best western rock- and funk-influenced bands that litter the other records here (BLO, Ofo, Monomono, The Funkees), the big Afrobeat names (Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade), consistently high quality and diversity. And it's a double-CD on the cheap! "Kita Kita" (embedded above) is probably my favorite single song from them all. If those 7 songs don't convince you... I, I just don't know.
The follow-up comp Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump, Original Heavyweight Afrobeat, Highlife & Afro-Funk (2008) is a worthy successor, but a little heavy on Highlife. The main pop form of modern West Africa for decades, it's frenetically polyrhythmic party music. Hate to sound at all ungrateful, but I do prefer the more directly rock- and funk-inspired stuff a bit. Still, it's got plenty of terrific stuff - like Peter King's very smooth jam "African Dialects."
"Kenimania" (Monomono) from Nigeria Rock Special
Nigeria Rock Special: Psychedelic Afro-Rock & Fuzz Funk in 1970s Nigeria (2008) - love these names! This is everything I assume that you want to hear: African rhythms, chanted vocals, psych guitar leads, rubbery basslines, rattly organs. These Soundway Nigeria Special collections are more focused than the Nigeria 70 ones, and this one has an almost garage-y edge. Still it is funky and rockin' good fun! Really it's a toss-up between The Definitive Story and this, so get both to be safe.
"Take Your Soul" (Sahara All Stars of Jos) from Disco Funk
Moving later into the '70s, next up is Nigeria Disco Funk Special: The Sound of the Underground Lagos Dancefloor 1974-1979 (2008). Time to get down! There's still some '70s rock influence, but more often it's horn charts and boogie rhythms. Good stuff all around - Bongos Ikwue & The Groovies, one great Joni Haastrup song also on The Definitive Story, and hard-driving potential themesong "Lagos City."
Finally, there's the double-disc set that got Soundway back in the Nigerian comp business, Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Nigerian Blues (2008). It's got your random great songs, your Highlife icons, and more Monomono and The Funkees. So, it's not all Highlife and Juju - but I'd start with the others and build up to this massive collection.
Warning: This stuff is addictive. It's good music, it's fun to listen to, it's kind of cultural, but it's in recognizable styles that you might already dig.
So dig it!