Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers

African Party

Release: 2015-06-22


Label:Freestyle Records


Cat #:FSRCD110

Ginger Johnson's life is one of the greatest untold stories of African music in Europe. Born George Folunsho Johnson in Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria in 1916. Aged just 18 he joined the Nigerian Navy, and made his first visit to Britain. After World War II Ginger decided to make London his home, working with many artists including British saxophone legend Ronnie Scott who first really utilised Gingers amazing technique to full effect, featuring him in not only his live concerts, but also several recordings for theEsquire jazz label in the 1940's & 50's.

In the 60's Ginger was mentor & guru to a young Fela Kuti. Gingers London home became a vibrant hub of African music activity for Fela and an entire host of musicians who would gather there to exchange news, talk, eat and jam for hours on end. To Fela, and all who gravitated towards Ginger's home, he was simply known and addressed as 'Father'.

Aside from his music, Ginger was something of a social activist. Not only was he a musical educator, and instrumental in the beginnings ofThe Notting Hill Carnival, he also opened his own venue Club Iroko in Haverstock Hill, North London, which was a creative hub for groups like Osibisa, and also a welcoming hang out for visiting legends like Sun Ra, George Clinton andFunkadelic, and British group Cymande (3 members of Cymande cut theirteeth playing in Gingers group).

Ginger and his group performed at The Royal Variety Performance, his music featured in the James Bond film 'Live & Let Die' and Ginger himself appears on screen drumming in the Hammer Films cult classic 'She'.As a session musician he played for a bewilderingly wide range of acts such as Georgie Fame, Osibisa, Madeleine Bell and Quincy Jones. Ginger & his group also collaborated with many early rock bands such asHawkwind, Argent, Thunderclap Newman, Genesis and Little Free Rock.

Perhaps Ginger Johnson & His African Messengers most high profile live engagement was performing with The Rolling Stonesin Hyde Park in 1969, as Ginger his troupe provided the percussive, high energy rhythmic bedrock to the infamous live version of Sympathy For The Devil.

Freestyle Records is incredibly proud to reissue the music ofGinger Johnson & His African Messengers. Its bedrock of African drums, hi life, and jazz was in fact the precursor to Afrobeat - and Gingers direct and vital influence upon Afrobeat, as guide & mentor to it's undisputed champion Fela Kuti is just one part of a fascinating and underappreciated story that only now is being recognised for its significance.

Ginger Johnson was mentor to Fela Kuti in the ‘60s and his output was considered to be the origin of Afrobeat

• Originally released in the late ‘60s, Ginger Johnson’s albumAfrican Party is being reissued for the first time
• Ginger Johnson & His African Messengers played with The Rolling Stones in 1969. SoundCloud+ 

Freestyle Records are incredibly proud to reissue the music of Ginger Johnson & His African Messengers. Its bedrock of African drums, hi life, and jazz was in fact the precursor to Afrobeat. In the 60s Ginger was mentor and guru to a youngFela Kuti. Ginger's London home became a vibrant hub of African music activity for Fela and an entire host of musicians who would gather there to exchange news, talk, eat and jam for hours on end. To Fela, and all who gravitated towards Ginger's home, he was simply known and addressed as 'Father'.Brilliant, brilliant album!" - Gilles Peterson, BBC 6 Music 



Please reload

2015 -Vinyl is making a comeback Album sales in the UK climbed to 1.29 million last year -- the first time the 1 million mark has been surpassed since 1996. The format is still just a fraction of the total UK albums market (1.5 percent, to be precise) but now its success is being recognised in the charts. The UK's Official Charts Company is launching two vinyl-specific top 40s  today -- one for albums and another for 7-inch and 12-inch singles -- for the first time in Britain. The renewed interest in vinyl doesn't appear to be slowing either, with album sales in the first quarter of 2015 up 69 percent from the same period last year. Is the growth from audiophiles, collectors, DJs, or a mixture of all three? It's not clear, but in the age of streaming, it's nice to see that analog still has a place with music lovers.

Ginger Johnson

Omar Lye-Fook

Designated by many as the father of British neo-soul (though his impact extends over to U.S. shores as well), singer/songwriter/producer Omar began as one of the U.K.'s most promising R&B hopefuls with his early-'90s international hit "There's Nothing Like This." However, unintentionally avoiding pop stardom, he chose never to compromise his artistic credibility, and because of that, people like India.Arie, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, Gilles Peterson, and his biggest idol, Stevie wonder, have all endorsed him as personal fans (with the prior three naming him as an influence). Although he gets thrown into the R&B category, Omar has no real definitive boundaries. In interesting new ways with each album, he has molded soul and urban music to fit his wide variety of influences, including ragga, hip-hop, funk, jazz-pop, rock, and Latin/Caribbean dance. Despite the lack of chart success, his original techniques have garnered him a strong legion of followers in the U.K. and a devoted fan base in diverse regions across the world. Born October 14, 1968, in London but raised in Canterbury,Omar Lye-Fook couldn't escape the call to music even he tried. His father, Byron Lye-Fook, was a studio musician and drummer who had done work for reggae greats Bob Marley and Horace Andy, as well as The Rolling Stones  At age five,Omar was already learning how to play the drums. During his grade school years, he completed formal training in piano, trumpet/coronet, and other percussion instruments, but he also taught himself to play the bass, emulating Level 42 guitarist Mark King As a part of various brass, jazz, and percussion ensembles, the young prodigy had performed in Italy, Brazil, and the U.S. before turning 15 years old. By the time he was a student at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music in London, he was too tempted in pursuing a professional career and left after one year. Recording for his father's Kongo label,Omar debuted in 1985 with the single "Mr. Postman" at age 16. With Kongo following up with a series of buzz-worthy white labels throughout the late '80s,Omar's favorable reception continued to grow because of his classic yet updated soul approach, which was years before neo-soul became an acknowledged subgenre.


Please reload

"There's Nothing Like This" first broke out in 1990. It peaked in the U.K.'s Top 20 the following year and remained on top of the R&B and dance charts for several weeks. This was at a time when acid jazz and house were the dominant urban forms in Britain. The soulful ballad got Omar signed to pioneering disc jockey Gilles Peterson's Talkin' Loud imprint. He recorded the albums There's Nothing Like This (1990), which was compiled from his earlier Kongo recordings, and Music (1992), a more mature outing, both in terms as a musician and a singer. (On some of these earlier recordings, he is credited as Omar Hammer, derived from his stepfather's last name.) For his following two albums,For Pleasure (1994) and This is not a love song (1997), he moved on to major-label RCA. The former had him in the studio with ex-Motown songwriters and producers leon ware and Lamont Dozier,who were both fans of his music. But on the latter album, keyboardist/producer David Frank (Chaka Khan, Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, and his own group the system) took the reins of the album's direction.

Omar never received the type of promotion that he expected when joining RCA's roster, and so he parted ways with the label, finding himself on the French-based Naïve Records. Stating influences of soundtrack compositions and Latin jazz, he had much more personal space to work with on the 2000 effort Best by far, indulging in his signature string and horn arrangements. However, a long period of inactivity ensued following the 2000 recording, although he did appear on U.S. rapper common's Electric Circus LP in 2004. During that time, Omar constructed his own studio and established the record label Blunt Music. At this point in his career, he felt more independent than ever before, and with extreme satisfaction he released his sixth studio album,Sing (If You Want It), in 2006. Both U.S. (Common, Angie Stone) and U.K. artists (Rodney P, Estelle) paid homage to Omar, recording guest vocals for the album, but his crowning achievement was obtaining the Stive Wonder duet "Feeling You," a song that Wonder apparently promised him 15 years earlier. Omar's brother, hip-hop/reggae producer Scratch Professor, also contributed, offering more drum-kicking rhythms for the dancefloor. At the end of the year, the Urban Music Awards, which acknowledge urban music artists around the globe, finally gave Omar his long, overdue praise, bestowing upon him the Best Neo-Soul Act and Outstanding Achievement Awards. A lengthy break from music followed. He got involved with acting, and in 2012, his recording career was acknowledged once more when he was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire. The next year, he released The Man on the Shanachie label with guest appearances from Caron Wheeler and 

Pino Palladino.


All Music

Please reload

Soul II Soul is a two-time Grammy winning act that emerged at the end of the 1980s from London. The group initially attracted attention as a sound system, playing records at house and street parties (where their clothing style - dubbed “Funki Dred” - quickly made a splash, inspiring them to start a line of clothing). Founded by Jazzie B and featuring a changing roster of other musicians - notably Nellee Hooper, Simon Law, Phillip ‘Daddae’ Harvey and Caron Wheeler - Soul II Soul’s experiments in music-making of their own resulted in the dub plate “Fairplay,” which secured them a deal with Virgin Records. They had huge hits in 1989 with the singles “Keep on Movin’” and “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me),” both from their debut album Club Classics Vol. I. These songs (both featuring Wheeler on vocals) set the tone for early 90s mainstream dance music in the UK. Their follow-up album, Vol. II: 1990 - A New Decade, yielded the hits “Get a Life” and “A Dream’s a Dream,” the latter featuring operatic vocals by Victoria Wilson-James. While their U.S. following declined somewhat following its release, Soul II Soul continued to have hits in the UK, including 1992’s #4 single, “Joy.” Soul II Soul reached Volume 5 of their series for Virgin in 1995, then released 2 more albums for Island Records. Soul II Soul are an English musical group formed in London in 1988. They are best known for their 1989 UK chart-topper and US Top 5 hit, "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)". They have been nominated for five Brit Awards - twice for Best British Group. Career: The group initially attracted attention as a sound system, playing records at house and street parties (where their clothing style, dubbed "Funki Dred", started a line of clothing). Founded by Jazzie B and featuring a changing roster of other musicians - notably Nellee Hooper, Simon Law, Phillip 'Daddae' Harvey and Caron Wheeler - Soul II Soul's experiments in music-making of their own resulted in the dub plate "Fairplay," which secured them a recording contract with Virgin Records. Their first singles in 1988 failed to make the UK Top 40, but the group went on to commercial success in 1989 with the singles "Keep on Movin'" and "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)", which topped the UK Singles Chart for four weeks, and was the fifth best-selling single in the UK that year. Both tracks, which featured Wheeler on vocals, were taken from their debut album Club Classics Vol. One which reached number 1 in the UK Albums Chart and was certified triple platinum by the British Phonographic Industry. In July 1989, the British music magazine, NME, reported that Soul II Soul had to pull out of their scheduled live appearance on BBC Television's Top of the Pops programme, following a dispute with the programme's producer. The group also had some success in the United States, where "Back To Life" reached the Top 10 and was certified platinum, and the album (renamed as Keep on Moving for the US market) reached the Top 20 and sold over two million copies. The group also won two Grammy Awards; Best R&B Performance by a Duo Or Group With Vocals for "Back To Life", and Best R&B Instrumental for "African Dance". Their follow-up album, Vol. II: 1990 - A New Decade, yielded two Top 10 hits, "Get a Life" and "A Dream's a Dream", the latter featuring vocals by Victoria Wilson James. This album also reached number 1, and was certified platinum by the BPI, and reached the Top 30 in the US where it was certified gold. In April 1990, Soul II Soul got three US Soul Train awards. The band had one more Top 10 in 1992 with "Joy", taken from their third album Vol. III: Just Right, which itself peaked at number 3 and was certified gold by the BPI. However, by this time the band's commercial success was in decline. Their greatest hits album, Volume IV: The Singles 88-93, was released in late 1993 and peaked at number 10. Soul II Soul reached Volume V of their series of albums for Virgin in 1995, which peaked at number 13. They then moved to Island Records and released two more albums in 1997, Volume VI Time for Change and the remix album, but these failed to chart. The group then virtually disbanded for some years, but reformed for various live dates in the 2000s. In 2002, Doreen Waddell, a former singer with Soul II Soul living in Hove, died after being hit by three cars while fleeing from a shoplifting incident. The 36-year-old, who left a 4-year-old son, sang lead vocals on Feel Free and Happiness (Dub), and backing vocals on other tracks, on the album Club Classics Vol. One. The daughter of former member Melissa Bell, Alexandra Burke, was the winner of the 2008 series of the UK television talent contest The X Factor and has since gone on to a successful music career of her own. On 2 December 2008, a radio programme about Soul II Soul was broadcast on BBC Radio 4. The Soul II Soul Sound System featuring Caron Wheeler toured Australia nationally in February 2009. They played the Playground Weekender Festival near Sydney. Soul II Soul performed live at the Yasalam free concerts in conjunction with the 2009 Formula 1TM Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix celebrations in October 2009.

Soul II Soul



Please reload

Jill Scott

Born in 1972 in North Philadelphia, Jill Scott grew up in the ghetto with her mother, Joyce, and grandmother. A deeply loved and gifted child, she learned to talk at only eight months and was reading by age four. Always the center of attention, her principal in elementary school described her as a little butterfly.

After running from Jill's abusive stepfather, mother and child moved in with Jill's grandmother, with whom she had a very close bond. After a rough but memorable childhood, Scott attended Temple University, studying secondary education. She was planning on becoming a high-school English teacher.

When she was placed at a school as a student-teacher, her fellow professors disapproved of her unique method of teaching the kids: she often incorporated singing and melody in order to help with memorization. Due to the negative comments she was receiving, she quit.

Shortly thereafter, a friend helped her in joining a local theater troop. After some hard work, she earned a spot on the Canadian cast of Rent, began to do poetry readings and befriended some big names in the Philly artistic community, included Jeffrey A. Townes(DJ Jazzy Jeff). It was here that Scott's musical career took off.
Encouraged by Jazzy Jeff and Ahmir-Khalib Thompson (Ahmir "Questolove" Thompson) of the hip-hop group The Roots, Scott wrote several songs in only three days during the summer of 1999. One of them, entitled "You Got Me," was performed by Erykah Badu and The Roots, and won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance (Duo or Group). A few months later, after Jeff burned 100 demo CDs and marketed the soul singer, Jill Scott signed with the new label Hidden Beach. During this whole process and since then, she collaborated with Will Smith and Common, and worked on soundtracks for Down to Earth (2001), Wild Wild West (1999) and In Too Deep (1999)

Amazingly, she made 50 songs for her debut album and had a lot of trouble trimming it down. Finally, after much deliberation, "Who Is Jill Scott? Words & Sounds, Vol. I" was released in July 2000. It featured music that was youthful enough for the younger generation and soulful enough for those above 40.

Accolades came pouring in for her unique contribution to hip-hop: "Who Is Jill Scott?" was certified platinum, and she received three Grammy nominations (including one for Best New Artist), three NAACP Image rewards and one Soul Train Award for Best Female R&B Album. Her fame carried her on stage as she performed on VH1's Divas Live with Aretha Franklin; speaking of Aretha, Jill Scott was the 2001 recipient of the Aretha Franklin Award as "Entertainer of the Year" at the Lady of Soul Awards.Originally sang the hook on The Roots Grammy winning song "You Got Me."Was offered a role in the Broadway play 'Chicago', but turned it down.Attended the Philadelphia High School for GirlsAn only child.Has a cat named Stacey.Released a book of poetry entitled "The Moments, the Minutes, the Hours" in April 2005.Originally attended Temple University to become a high school English teacher.Performed with a Canadian touring cast in the musical 'Rent'.Her stepfather was abusive, so she and her mom went to live with her grandmother.Slept in the same bed as her grandmother until the age of eighteen.Recorded 50 songs for her debut album, but included only 18.She quit teaching after other teachers complained about her method of singing to students to improve their memorization skills.Founded the Blues Babe Foundation, an organization that provides scholarships to college-bound students in the greater Philadelphia area, in 2002.Named one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" in 2001.Released her double-platinum debut album, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1, in 2000.Was nominated for a Grammy in Best New Artist of 2000, but did not win.Cites Sarah Vaughan as one of her musical influences. The others are Frankie Beverly andMaze, Minnie Riperton, Donny Hathaway, Anita Baker, Roy Ayers, Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Sade.Mother's name is Joyce Scott.While not a single, the album track "He Loves Me," dedicated to her then-husband Lyzel became a particularly popular song in her live and televised performances.Won a 2005 Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative R&B Performance for "Cross My Mind.".She remains close to her mother and grandmother, nicknamed "Blue Babe", and resides in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey.Prior to her breakthrough in the music industry, Scott worked at a variety of jobs, including a number of retail positions and stints at a construction site and an ice cream parlor.Is a supporter of gay rights.Favorite movie is The Wiz (1978).Invented a new brand of bras for full figured women called "Butterfly" in the spring of 2008.Is expecting her first child with fiancé Lil' Jon Roberts. The baby is due April 25, 2009.Announced June 20, 2008 that she is engaged to her drummer, Lil' John Roberts.Gave birth to her first child at age 37 on April 20, 2009, a son named Jett Hamilton Roberts, who arrived 5 days earlier than expected. The child's father is her now ex-fiancé Lil Jon Roberts.Son, Jett Hamilton Roberts, born April 20, 2009. He weighed 7 lbs. 8 oz.Recording her new album The Light Of The Sun: Words and Sounds, Vol. 4. [February 2010]Personal Quotes (7)I am a woman, I make mistakes. I make them often. God has given me a talent and that's it.I wanted to remind people I'm just flesh and blood. I falter. I am poor. I am blind. I am pitiable. I am naked. But I'm here and that is the blessing. The gift of life.Married life is really good, it's a beautiful thing, I enjoy spending my life with this man; I like him, I like his personality, I like the way he treats his friends. When I'm talking about love, I'm talking about him.All I have to do is be me on stage. But acting, I have to be someone else, and walk how they would walk and blink how they would blink. I used to talk about it bad like, 'aw man, that person made $10 million a movie?' But now I understand why they do. I get it now.(When asked if she is religious) When I was 12, I decided that I wanted to see what else was out there. I believe that all of the religions have merit and that it's man that messes it up. I am more spiritual than religious. Sometimes I feel like a Buddhist and I need to chant; sometimes a Baptist and I need to holler and shout and sometimes I need to be a Catholic and need to purge my sins and confess. It just depends on where I am. But, I know I need to get there.The artists who stand out to me have a passion for what they do. There are a lot of people who can sing. It's just like when you go to church and people are singing because it sounds good, not because it feels good. There's a difference.When I was growing up, my mother would take me to plays and museums, and we'd talk about life. Those times helped shape who I became.