Pax Nicholas / Nicholas Addo-Nettey

Nicholas Addo-Nettey | Pax Nicholas | Ridimtaksi
CLICK TO ENLARGE

Nicholas Addo-Nettey was born in Accra, Ghana. From his early childhood on he was dedicated to music: he started singing in a gospel choir when he was only 6, and later on joined different traditional and cultural groups as a dancer and percussionist. In the 60s, Ghanaian youth were crazy about American soul music, and Nicholas was no exception to the rule. James Brown and Otis Redding were his idols, and by the age of 18 he started to perform himself. Shortly after, fellow musician Joe King Kologbo invited him to the Mecca of African funk music: Lagos, Nigeria. Nicholas was not only talented but also lucky. Kologbo introduced him to Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the undisputed Godfather of Afrobeat. He was able to convince the master of his skills as a drummer and singer and in 1971 became a full member of Fela´s legendary band Africa 70 as a conga player and background singer. The first record he appeared on was “Shakara” – an international smash hit and one of Fela´s greatest. Nicholas was at the right place at the right time. In the 70s, stars like James Brown, B.B. King, Ginger Baker, Stevie Wonder and Manu Dibango came to Lagos to visit Fela’s Shrine Club to hear this new and incredibly heavy thing called Afrobeat.

While playing and recording for Fela’s Africa 70 (he appeared on all of Fela’s releases between 1971 and 1978), Mr. Addo-Nettey also always had his own thing going on the side. He released two solo LPs for the Tabansi Label with the Martin Brothers Band from Portharcort, Nigeria: Mind Your Own Business in 1971 and Na Teef Know The Road of Teef in 1973. The latter, made with Africa 70 musicians and singers, is heavy Afro-funk, recorded in Ginger Baker’s highly equipped Lagos studio, where many of Fela’s albums were recorded, as well. Obviously, Fela was not amused at all about these kinds of things, even less when he heard how strong the Na Teef… album was. Reportedly, he said, “Don’t you ever, EVER play it again!” And so it was. Despite being a killer record, Na Teef… remained undercover for more than 30 years.

The story of Na Teef… would have ended there had it not been for Frank Gossner (aka DJ Soulpusher of voodoofunk.com, a dedicated cratedigger who, in the 90s, found a copy hidden at a record store in Philly, tracked down Nicholas in Berlin, and brought the album to the attention of Daptone Records.

As for Nicholas, in the 70s he experienced life in Fela’s Kalakuta Republic, a place where about 100 musicians, dancers, friends and family members of Fela lived, played, loved, and celebrated together. It was a property in Lagos that had been declared an independent state by Fela, in open defiance of the brutal dictatorship that was ruling in Nigeria at that time. The regime, which hated Fela for his radical messages and his popularity, attacked Kalakuta several times. In one of these raids, Nicholas was arrested with several other band members and remained in prison for nine months, where he was strongly mistreated. During another army attack in 1977, Fela’s mother was thrown out of an upstairs window and killed, and the whole compound was burned to the ground. The dangerous conditions became to much for Nicholas to bear. When playing at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1978, he and other band members, including drummer Tony Allen, left Africa 70 because they didn’t want to go back to Nigeria. While Allen moved to Paris, Nicholas stayed in Berlin where he raised two sons and continues to play music to this day. Pax Nicholas now leads his own band, Ridimtaksi, which features West African musicians, continuing to play his own fresh take on Afrobeat.

– DJ Matatu

Nach oben

Short Vita

Get Flash to see this player.

1960: Nicholas Addo-Nettey alias Bob Sky, started his music career, at the age of six during his schooltimes as a traditional dancer and a singer.

1965 - 1970: He learned more how to drum, sing and dance.

Middle 1970: He was invited by a musician called Joe King Kologbo: a famous guitarist, who released one of the best seller record in Nigeria "Baby Pancake"
Mr. Joe King then asked Nicholas Addo-Nettey to join his great Afro-Boateng`s Hykkers Band, as a copyright soul singer, in Kumasi Ghana. Nicholas worked with Joe King K. untill 1971.

Then he started writing his own songs which he later on got a connection to record with the Martin Brothers Band from Portharcourt Nigeria on Tabansi Label with the  Album called " Mind Your Business". Composed and arranged by Nicholas Addo-Nettey and the Martin Brothers Band sang by Nicholas Addo-Nettey.

The second Album follows entitled: "Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef" Composed, sang and arranged by Nicholas Addo-Nettey (backed by) The Martin Brothers and the Africa 70 Musicians. Nicholas Addo-Nettey was at this time, also working with the legend of afrobeat music: Fela Kuti`s Africa 70 Band as a full member, percussionist and background Singer.

The Finest Afrobeat of the Africa 70 member Pax Nicholas

RE-RELEASED 2009

Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef - Pax Nicholas & The Nettey Family
"Na Teef Know De Road Of Teef" - Pax Nicholas & The Nettey Family

Nach oben

To Challenge a King

Interview by DJ Matatu - Published by Wax Poetics (Januar/Februar 2010)
Issue 39 - Fela Kuti/Tony Allen [more]

Pax Nicholas from Fela´s Africa 70
celebrates a late recognition of his
hard-hitting Afro-Funk

Mr. Nicholas Addo-Nettey (aka Pax Nicholas) is in a very good mood today, cooking a delicious Ghanaian style chicken meal and yelling his thoughts from the kitchen to the living room. He lives in a tall concrete building in a public housing neighborhood in the outskirts of Berlin, Germany. Most of the inhabitants are not-so-well-off Germans and immigrants from Turkey and elsewhere. When you enter his flat in the 8th floor, the cold and somehow depressing atmosphere of the surrounding area changes completely due to the warm welcome Nicholas receives his guests with. He`s a small and very agile guy you would never expect to be 55 years old. The walls are packed with colorful concert flyers, pictures of his two sons, his fiancée from Ghana, posters of Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and other Black heroes. Next to his desk you find a keyboard, where he spends a lot of time composing new songs. After thirty years in Berlin, trying to make a living with percussion workshops and several band projects, and only very few people taking notice of his glorious past as a full member of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti`s band Africa 70, finally a change has come to his life. It all started a couple of years ago, when he was contacted by Frank Gossner (aka DJ Soulpusher), a renowned German Deep Funk 45s and Afrobeat collector, who had found an amazing and ultra-rare Afro-Funk album in a Philadelphia record store: Na Teef Know De Road of Teef  by “Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family”. In September 2009, Na Teef will be re-released and distributed worldwide by Daptone Records. This is the story of a long lost funk jewel and a man who´s finally getting paid.

How did you become a member
of Fela´s Africa 70?
In the seventies this must have been
one of the most wanted jobs
in Africa`s music scene.

From my early childhood on I was dedicated to music:  in my hometown Accra, Ghana, I started to sing in a gospel choir when I was only 6. Later on I joined different traditional and cultural groups as a dancer and percussionist. In the 60s, the Ghanaian youth was crazy about Soul music from Black America, and I was no exception to the rule. James Brown, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, Sly  & The Family Stone - those were my idols at that time. By the age of 18, I started to act as a Soul singer myself with Joe King Kologbo, a famous guitarist from Nigeria who was touring in Ghana at that time [and appeared recently on the Soundway collection Nigeria Rock Special]. He was the one who invited me to Lagos, Nigeria in 1971. Kologbo also introduced me to Fela, and luckily I was able to convince him of my skills so that only a few days later I would be standing on the stage of the Shrine [Fela`s club in Lagos], playing with Africa 70! When Fela noticed that my voice was good too, I also started as a background singer. The first record I appeared on was the international smash hit Lady Shakara. From then on you can hear me singing and conga playing on every single Fela album until 1978.

Seems like you were in the right
place at the right time.

It was a very special time for everyone who was part of it. We played the Shrine several times a week, not only for some hours, but the whole night! People came there from all over the world in order to learn about Afrobeat. James Brown, B.B. King, Ginger Baker, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Manu Dibango, only to name a few -  I`ve been with all of them. When we went on tour we had our own airplane, with about 50 or 60 people travelling all over.

You also experienced life in Kalakuta Republic,
as you told me.
How was this place like?

It was a big compound in Lagos that Fela had inherited from his mother, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti - Nigeria`s first woman to drive a car, a political activist against colonial rule before independence, and a good friend to Ghana`s first president Kwame Nkrumah. In the 70s, Fela made this place his headquarter, called it Kalakuta Republic and declared it independent in open defiance of the brutal dictatorship that was ruling in Nigeria at that time. It had a barbed wire fence around it and a lot of security. At that time, about 100 musicians, dancers, wives, friends and family members of Fela´s lived there together, smoking a whole lot of weed, drinking, rehearsing, loving, dancing, fighting...it was a crazy place I can tell you, which also attracted a lot of criminals and ruffians. But there was one rule: no one should ever challenge Fela´s authority, otherwise you would be in deep shit.

What do you mean?

Let me tell you one thing: Fela was a legend, a hero. I learned so many things from him and I will always respect him. He came from a very influential family and due to his wealth and popularity as a musician he became even more powerful in Nigeria. You can say that to many people he gained the status of a king. And here was the big contradiction: Fela talked a lot about freedom, but he himself behaved like a slave master to us. I really must admit that he treated us very badly. There was a lot of brutality going on in Kalakuta. He had some thugs who would go and beat up people whenever anybody had disobeyed the king`s rule, or even when nothing had happened as was my case. Once, I was accused of stealing some shoes, which I hadn`t, but anyhow I was whipped severely. On another opportunity, he even hit me personally when I was tired while playing. Another issue was the money: he only paid us very little for each gig and recording session, but none of us would have a share of the huge success his records are having until today. But as there was not one single Africa 70 band member who was clean at that time this is really no wonder. You can`t think about royalties when you`re full of drugs. Except Tony Allen, who had a special relationship with Fela, almost all of the former Africa 70 members are poor today, or have died already. Look at me, I worked very hard for seven years with Fela and left with nothing. If I had taken care of my rights, I wouldn`t be sitting here today. But we couldn’t even afford a lawyer.

What about the troubles Fela had
with the Nigerian regime?

Fela`s music was all about politics. He was a revolutionary Pan-Africanist, and also got a lot of influence from the American Black Power movement. He was also one of the sharpest critics of the Nigerian military regime, challenging them with his provocative lyrics and attitude. This was why he was so popular among the people, because he expressed his radical messages and would not be afraid of the consequences. And this was also why the rulers hated him so much. The army attacked Kalakuta several times. In one of these raids in 1976, Fela and almost the whole Africa 70 including myself were arrested. The prison was a really dirty and stinky place, and I was strongly mistreated by the guards in there [shows some deep scars on his back]. It was only after nine months that I got out, and the only crime that I had committed was that I happened to be one of Fela`s musicians. I spent the worst time ever in there, an experience that changed my life, I can say. During another army attack in 1977, Fela´s mother was killed and I saw with my own eyes how the whole Kalakuta Republic was burned to the ground. Really hard times I tell you, man.

Was it this situation that caused you
to leave Africa 70 in 1978?

Well, besides the problems I and others had with Fela, this was the main reason, yes. In 1978, we came to Germany in order to play at the Berlin Jazz Festival. There, Fela announced that he would run for the presidency in Nigeria and challenge the regime one more time. We knew that this would mean more repression and insecurity, so I, together with Tony Allen, Oghene Kologbo – guitarist and son of my mentor Joe King Kologbo – and several other musicians took a very difficult decision: after playing the concert, we left Africa 70 because we didn’t want to go back to Nigeria. I knew one thing for sure: I never wanted to see a prison from the inside again, and Nigerian prisons are among the worst in the world I suppose. While Tony Allen moved to Paris and Kologbo to Brussels, I stayed just where I left the plane, here in Berlin. At my last concert with Africa 70, I met a German woman who would become the mother of my two sons shortly after.

Now please tell me about the record
Daptone is releasing in September.
How did this happen?

Well, last year this guy Frank tried to get in touch with me and wanted to know if I was the one on that album Na Teef Know De Road of Teef he had found. At first, I was a little wary but as he kept on insisting, I answered. Sure enough, I said to him, that’s me. Then he told me his opinion that this was hard-hitting Afro-Funk, that could easily match up with Fela and that he would like to take care about re-releasing it. How the story went on you can see in the record stores now!

What´s the story behind this album?
As it is from 1973 you must have
recorded it while playing
with Fela already.

It was just like that. I was playing and touring with Africa 70 a lot. When we came back from touring we always had some free time. This time I would use to play gigs and record with the Martin Brothers Band, a band from Portharcort, Nigeria I got to know shortly after starting to play with Africa 70. As the name says, it were three brothers: Nat on lead guitar, Jacob on tenor sax and Moses on alto and baritone sax. During the Biafra War they had lost some brothers and band members, that’s why they were lucky to find me as a singer. Before starting to work with me, they were playing Nigerian highlife and other stuff. As I had some experience in Soul, Funk and Afrobeat, I introduced these styles to them and we took this new direction together. In 1971/72, we recorded Mind your business, which was released as a Martin Brothers album for which I composed the titles and sang without asking much from them. That´s why, a little later, they wanted to help me recording an own album. They introduced me to Tabansi, the boss of the famous Nigerian contractor and label Tabansi Agencies. Tabansi and the Martin Brothers are from the Ibo tribe and they knew each other very well. Jacob Martin, my best friend, was able to convince him to sponsor my record so that we could get it started. Tabansi being a very rich man, the money was there now, we only needed a studio and musicians. The best equipped place to record in Nigeria at that time was Arc Studios, which had been opened by Ginger Baker some years before. By that time Ginger Baker had already left, but the studio had been bought by a Nigerian and was still working. With Africa 70 we also recorded there after Fela had broken with the EMI label.

What about the other musicians who appear on
Na Teef Know De Road of Teef?

As I wanted to have a big orchestra sound like I had known with Fela, I approached some of my comrades from Africa 70, if they wouldn’t join me and the Martin Brothers for this recording. Those were James Abayomi (sticks and backing voc.), Issac Olaleye (maracas and backing voc.) and Shina Abiodun( rhythm congas and backing voc.)  They helped me to convince six of Fela´s background singers to come to the studio. But, as you can imagine, it was very important that Fela would not know about this, so it was kind of a “top secret recording.”

And how long did you keep your secret?
What happened when the
record was released?

In fact, we did manage to keep it secret until it was released. In Kalakuta Republic there was a dance floor where they played music 24 hours. The DJs were all women - dancers and singers of Africa 70, most of them were also Fela´s wives. When Na Teef was released I gave it to one of the DJs. When she played the song, everybody in the room loved it and started dancing. At this moment, Fela showed up, approached the DJ and the music stopped. Afterwards, I asked the DJ what had happened. She replied that he had asked her who had that been singing. When he got to know it was my album, he said: “Don´t you ever play this record again.” That was it, since then they never played it again. I´m not sure, but I think Fela felt kind of challenged by me and thus used his influence to prevent the record from having any success. I had the feeling that he also warned Tabansi from taking me or other musicians away from his band, but I don´t have any proof for that. I only know that the record was never heard again in Nigeria and that never again Tabansi would work with Fela`s musicians. What I know for sure also is that I´m the first Africa 70 member ever to record a solo album.

What does the title of the album mean?

“Na Teef Know De Road of Teef” is an African proverb, it´s about someone who knows how to steal and can recognize another person who is also a thief. More generally, it´s about how people with special skills understand each other.  I, Nicholas, know de road of Fela, you might say.

Were the songs ones you had written
beforehand or did you write
them in the studio?

When I heard that Tabansi would sponsor the record I put all my talent and experience together and started to write down the songs that had been going through my mind before one by one. The idea was to pick up some of the Afrobeat I learned from Fela, and add some of the Funk and Soul and the Ghanaian traditional rhythms, which is where I come from, musically. I wanted to create something new and be even better than Fela (laughs).

How do you feel about the record
finally coming out now?

I´m really very happy that this is happening and that with Daptone Records everything is in good hands, because I know that they respect me and so I do respect them for what they are doing. This record had been lost for so long, not even myself have a copy of it. It is really a magic surprise that finally people get the chance to hear my music worldwide. After so many years of struggling in Ghana, Nigeria and Germany, I  finally got where I wanted to be.

What have you been doing in Berlin?
What are your plans for the future?

I´ve been working on several music projects here, for example with the Finnish musician and composer Jimi Tenor as a singer and percussionist. I also recorded two albums with him. Since 2003, I have a band called Ridimtaksi. We do modern Afrobeat mixed with traditional music, funk, soul etc. People love my music and whenever there´s a good opportunity, we are ready to play. We are still in the music and still have the energy to create more powerful sounds. I also do music workshops with kids, passing the message of the beat to the next generations. As for the future: in November, I´m looking forward to visiting my homecountry Ghana in order to marry a beautiful woman, who is waiting for me there. I also want to celebrate the release of Na Teef with her!

One last question, the name on the
record is Pax Nicholas.
What is that about?

Pax Nicholas is a nick name I started to use when I began my career as a Soul singer. It´s a Latin word I looked up in the dictionary, it means ´peace´. Why I chose it? Because I love peace.

Interview by DJ Matatu (blackatlanticbeatz)
Published by Wax Poetics (Januar/Februar 2010)
Issue 39 - Fela Kuti/Tony Allen [more]

Pax Nicholas And The Ridimtaksi | Afrobeat | Afrofunk | Afrosoul

Nach oben

Vita

1960 - Nicholas Addo-Nettey alias Bob Sky, started his music career, at the age of six during his schooltimes as a traditional dancer and a singer.

1965-1970 - He learned more how to drum, sing and dance.

Middle 1970 - He was invited by a musician called Joe King Kologbo: a famous guitarist, who released one of the best seller record in Nigeria "Baby Pancake". Mr. Joe King then asked Nicholas Addo-Nettey to join his great Afro-Boateng`s Hykkers Band, as a copyright soul singer, in Kumasi Ghana. Nicholas worked with Joe King K. untill 1971.

1971 -  Beginning of cooperation with Fela Anikulapo Kuti's Africa 70 Band.

1978 - Appearance of Africa 70 Band in Berliner Philharmonie at the Berlin Jazz Festival. Nicholas Addo-Nettey was working for recordings of more than 40 songs (background singer, percussionist). Of it are most of the bestsellers.

1992 - Foundation of Band "Still Dzen-Bii" (Afro Beat, Afro Pop, Reggae Groove) and appearance of Band "Stil" Dzen-Bii" at Open-Air-Festival "Sommer auf dem Alexanderplatz".

1995 - "Still Dzen-Bii" at Café Global (Haus der Kulturen der Welt) performing "Togetherness", Music/Lyrics by Nicholas Addo-Nettey. More Events with this group in this House followed in same year.

1996 - Recordings with the drummer group "Ekomefeemo" for the production "Global Sound" from "Haus der Kulturen der Welt" and broadcasting station "Sender Freies Berlin".

2002 - Appearance of "Still Dzen-Bii" at premiere party of the movie "Anansi".

2003 - Cooperation for studio recordings with the band "Tarwater" for the CD "Dwellers On Threshold". (www.tarwater.de)

2003 - Recordings with Jimi Tenor for the CD "Beyound The Stars". (www.jimitenor.com)

2003 - Ignition signal for the new, during december founded, afro beat band "Rhythmtaxi" by Nicholas Addo-Nettey

2003 - Appearance of Nicholas Addo-Nettey's afro beat band "Rhythmtaxi" at Radio Multikulti event "Global Player Club".

2004 - June 1st - Stubnitz - Rostock : Live with Jimi Tenor.

2004 - Appearance of Nicholas Addo-Nettey's afro beat band "Rhythmtaxi" at "Haus der Kulturen der Welt" on the occasion of "Radio Multikulti" 10th anniversary party. Appearance of Nicholas Addo-Nettey at Museums Insel Festival Berlin Dahlem "Junge Meister". Appearance of Nicholas Addo-Nettey's afro beat band "Rhythmtaxi" for radioshow "Global Player" at Funkhaus Europa Club, Stadtgarten Cologne.

2005 - Cooperation at projekt: Berlin 2020 (Haus der Kulturen der Welt). Nicholas live at Karneval der Kulturen (Berlin). Nicholas live at African Festival (Potsdam).

2005 - After differences with the management of "Rythmtaxi" Nic founded his own band with the name "Ridimtaksi".

2008 - Openingparty of the refurbished main concert hall of "Pfefferberg" in cooperation with "Black Atlantic Beats".

Pax Nicholas And The Ridimtaksi | Afrobeat | Afrofunk | Afrosoul
Nicholas Addo-Nettey - Pax Nicholas - Ridimtaksi
Photo: G. Rückert
Nicholas Addo-Nettey - Pax Nicholas - Ridimtaksi
Photo: G. Rückert

Nach oben