Independence special: Joni Haastrup, soul prince in Nigeria

This October 1, 2020 marks the 60th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence. As on every anniversary date, RFI makes you relive the musical atmosphere of the time. Close-up of a unique singer whose career began in the 60s, before Fela and before Tony Allen: Joni Haastrup, king of Afro-soul.

In the early 1960s, Nigeria was hit by the Beatles mania. It was at this time that Joni Haastrup, grandson of a Yoruba king from western Nigeria, started playing music, pushed by his brother who lent him records. For Julien Lebrun, co-founder of the Hot Casa Records brand, who re-released the 1978 vinyl Wake up your mind, “Joni Haastru’s style can truly be called Afro-soul. Orlando Julius popularized this style through music, Yoruba percussion arrangements and soul that came from the United States thanks to James Brown’s trips to Africa during the same period. But Joni Haastrup has for him this completely unusual tone of the soul singer’s voice. ”

“Everyone tears up Joni Haastrup,” continues Julien Lebrun. Victor Olaiya took him into his group in 1965, then Orlando Julius and even Fela had their goals on him! Finally, he formed his own group, Monomono, in 1971 after a meeting with Ginger Baker, the famous rock drummer and collaborator in Fela. At the time, in the early 1970s, his style was like a fusion between a bit of jazz arrangements and a lot of rock guitars: a more ‘rough’ style, more ‘hard’ in a way. It was only later, in 1978, in London, that he recorded a more disco, more funk album, “Wake up your mind”. The following year, he moved to the United States in the Bay Area of ​​Los Angeles. And he still lives there. ”

In the USA, Joni Haastrup was a dance teacher and continued to perform in small jazz clubs. He embraced the Buddhist religion. At 72 years old, the singer is too weak to answer interviews, but on the Internet some of his records are sold for several hundred euros.


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