Old School Throw Back - Remembering A Band As Sweet As The Breeze
In our past articles revisiting the Music of the post-Biafran war, especially in the Southeastern part of Nigeria and Western Cameroon, we have repeatedly harped about the importance the city of Aba played in the evolution of the two most important genres of that time, namely Highlife and Afro Rock.
While one has to also play ode to places like Enugu and Onitsha and the Igbo speaking community in Lagos, Aba was actually where the rubber met the road and its imprint on bands like One World, the Apostles, both versions of the Wings and even the Oriental Brothers remains undeniable and one has to consider the town as the true Mecca for the birth of these new sounds.
Another such a group was Sweet Breeze which unlike other bands that drew their audience from across the board this band initially at least, became popular among the students at the various institutions of higher learning before engulfing everybody else.
With the charismatic Dallas “King” Anyanwu on lead vocals and input from the famous Jake Sollo the ex-Hyker and later on Osibisa member, the group released several stellar records and almost everyone knew their simple sometimes cheeky lyrics by heart. Other core group members were Basil [Bazy] Cole Akalonu (Drums), Vin Iketuonye (Bass) and Jackie Moore Anyaorah (Lead Guitar).
Unlike the other groups who borrowed heavily from the glam -rock apparel popular in the UK then, the band upped the ante and created their own posh style. They wore locally tailored linen Suits, pointed Italian Stiletto shoes complete with gold caps, fitted shirts, and silk ties.
From 1976 till 1980 when they would morph into the Esbee Family known for their audacious Chics and Chicken release, the band would continue to churn out hit after hit making them one of the more successful bands of that era. Their first Album "Across the Desert" literally went viral churning out three massive hits "Palm wine the Tapper", "Mr and Mrs Fool" as well as "She's Cooler than You" (below) back to back to back.
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Refusing to rest on their laurels they would soon be back in the studio and within a year released their second LP " Song of the Breeze" which featured the runaway hit "Igbaraka Bilum"(below). Sang in vernacular it is a satirical examination of the normally huge bride price requirement expected among the Igbo, only this time it speaks about the lack thereof from a certain suitor. It was highly well received and continued with the popularity of such songs sang in Igbo as trailed blazed by Semi Colon's "Isi Agboncha" from a year or two before.
"Advice" their third album was also a monumental success with a potpourri of subject matter and different styles of writing. While both "She's my Choice" (below) and "Mr Begger" are the clear-cut hits here, the album is embedded with many other gems in the deep tracks making clearly a solid gold album.
By 1979 it was clear that the band was becoming more spiritual and it was reflected in the content of the fourth effort titled "Fire in a Jar". By this time Disco, Funk and Jazz were in full bloom as was Reggae. Fela had also literally exploded and the general audience had started exploring these new platforms costing not just Sweet Breeze her usual numbers, but other bands in the Afro-rock genre as well.
In 1980 the band would coin its last album as Sweet Breeze, before splitting up and trying to stage a muted comeback as the for mentioned Esby Family. It was called "Sweet Home" but could not match the vibrancy and euphoric delivery of the first three albums.
As we now in the present tense, fondly look back at the past, it is clear that Sweet Breeze remains one of the better bands that help provide the songs that made up the soundtrack of their lives.
While radio today has been overrun by Rap and Afrobeats it is sad that we rarely hear these old school tracks anymore. And when we do, they are not played enough but have now been relegated to Point & Kill joints or Nkwobi Spots where the older generations can still venture, gulp icy beer, their spicy fare and reminisce when the music was still as sweet as the evening breeze on a hot summer day.