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Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers

I Jool Omo

Freestyle Records

Released: 30th March 2015 | 2 track afrobeat single

Ginger Johnson's life is one of the greatest untold stories of African music in Europe. A Nigerian immigrant to London in the late 1940's, who quickly became the rhythmic backbone to the big band of The Edmundo Ros Orchestra and the jazz group of Ronnie Scott. By the mid 1960's Ginger was considered the only Afro-Latin percussionist to book, which is why he played with everyone from Georgie Fame, Quincy Jones through to The Rolling Stones.

Ginger Johnson was also mentor, guide, guru and father figure to a young Fela Kuti. Gingers house in London was a vibrant hub of African music activity for Fela and an entire host of African & Caribbean musicians who would gather there to catch up, eat and jam for hours on end. To Fela, and all the younger musicians who gravitated around Ginger, he was simply known and addressed as 'Father'.

Ginger was also instrumental in the beginnings of The Notting Hill Carnival. His own venue, Club Iroko in North London, was a creative hub for groups like Osibisa, Cymande, and also a welcome hang out for visiting legends like Art Blakey, Roland Kirk, and Elvin Jones.

I Jool Omo is an infectious, happy rhythmic extravaganza, where layers of pulsating drums are perfectly meshed with jazzy flute, saxophone and a hypnotic guitar riff whilst the collective vocal lifts the entire track into a high energy, mesmerizing groove. As the chief exponent of the African talking drum, the thunderous beat that opens Talking Drum leaves you in no doubt as to the power and impact of Gingers skilled drumming.

Ginger Johnson's music is built upon a bedrock of African drums, hi life, and jazz, and is the forerunner of Afrobeat - and Gingers direct and vital influence upon the genre's undisputed champion Fela Kuti is just one part of a fascinating and underappreciated story that only now is being recognised for its significance.

"It's great to see the work of a legend come together for the generation of today. Ginger Johnson, one of the most talented and versatile drummers, has inspired all genres of music. Masters At Work, Nuyorican Soul, Elements Of Life have all been influenced by the work of Ginger Johnson and now it’s time for the world today to hear how timeless his music is!"
Louie Vega, Masters At Work/Nuyorican Soul
"Ginger Johnson has been one of the forgotten figures of the UK African music scene but in the 1960s he was ubiquitous in jazz, R&B and particularly on the psychedelic scene. He added a party atmosphere to all the events in which he played but also reminded audiences of the music's African roots"
David Toop, The Wire
"Nice reissue!"
Gilles Peterson, BBC 6 Music
"Really uplifting music!"
Mike Chadwick, Jazz FM
"Fan-afrofunk-en-tastic!! BUY this record!!"
Pimpernel Jones, Herma Puma
"how good is that? you hardly can beat the true CLASSIX. Ginger,I salute you"
Tom Wieland, Trans Europa Express Radio
"Simply Joyous! Well done Freestyle for putting this out."
Phil Levene, Soulm8 e-zine
"Infectious rhythm fire....not possible to sit still while listening to this. Can we have more of Ginger please?"
Renegades Of Jazz, Agogo Records/Mojo Club
"Totally mesmerizing!"
Chris Crates, ALL FM 96.9 | Manchester
"Excellent and driving piece of music! Interesting career too which shows the eclectic skills of this musician."
Oliver Korthals, The Mojo Radio Show on NDR 90.3 FM