b. Bisade Ologunde, Lagos, Nigeria. Now based in Manhattan, New York, USA, Nigerian singer Ologunde adopted the name Lagbaja (meaning ‘anonymous’ or ‘faceless one’ in Yoruba) as he embarked on his career in the early 90s. His name was reflected in his choice of stage attire - a slitted textile and rubber mask adopted so that the artist represented the ‘common man’ in keeping with the carnival tradition of his Yoruba tribe. He formed his first small band in 1991 in Lagos after he had taught himself to play the saxophone. With a high quotient of percussion instruments including congas and talking drums, this group drew its principal inspiration from the traditional highlife music of the 60s, as well as western jazz. Following regular performances at the Sea Garden venue in Lagos (an aquarium), they soon built up enough local support to acquire bookings at the French Institute. Their debut album was released in 1992. Colours - The Colour Of Rhythm included versions of stage classics such as ‘My Favourite Things’ and ‘Lilli Bolero’, in addition to the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’, reflecting Ologunde’s long-standing fascination with English culture and music. Despite this, his attempts to have the album pressed on compact disc in England in 1993 were aborted when the British Embassy in Lagos refused him a work permit. America proved to be more welcoming. A further cassette followed in 1994, a self-titled collection which included songs such as ‘Naija Must Sweet Again’, which many took to be an attack on Nigeria’s military rulers. This theme was continued on sessions for Lagbaja’s 1996 album. Songs such as ‘Bad Leadership’ concerned what Ologunde views as the biggest problem afflicting contemporary Africa. He was then invited by the International Red Cross Committee to join Youssou N’Dour, Papa Wemba and Lucky Dube on a Pan-African project to promote awareness of humanitarian abuses. Each member of Ologunde’s band was sent to selected troubled areas of Africa and invited to submit two songs each documenting their experiences. The other participants joined together in Senegal to compose and record two of these songs at N’Dour’s Xippi studios. The project was also the subject of a film documentary by Cameroonian director Bassek Bakhobio.
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