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Lijadu Sisters

One of the more popular acts in the Nigerian music scene of the 1970s, the Lijadu Sisters produced a handful of albums showcasing their tight harmonies and inventive incorporation of synthesizers and modern pop forms into funky Afro-beat grooves. Twins Taiwo and Kehinde were born in the northern Nigeria town of Jos on October 22, 1948. Second cousins of Fela Kuti, the two girls were drawn to music at a very early age, listening to records, singing, and writing songs together from their early childhood into their teenage years. Beginning as backing vocalists for studio sessions, the sisters eventually released a single under their own name, 1968's Iya Mi Jowo. In 1971, still working as session singers, the sisters met Cream/Africa 70 drummer Ginger Baker, and Taiwo and Baker soon started dating. The twins performed with Baker's band Salt at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games before the relationship fizzled out.

With the assistance of multi-instrumentalist and producer Biddy Wright, the Lijadu Sisters would make four albums for Decca's Afrodisia imprint: 1976's Danger, 1977's Mother Africa, 1978's Sunshine, and 1979's Horizon Unlimited. These vibrant collisions of pop, reggae, and Afro-beat influences defined the sisters' unique hybrid sound and rocketed them to immense popularity in Nigeria, as well as gaining them the attention of a broader audience internationally. Throughout the '80s, their reach grew overseas, including appearances on British television and a repackaging of earlier songs in the form of U.S. label Shanachie's 1984 collection Double Trouble, as well as numerous visits to the States for performances. By 1988 the sisters had relocated permanently to Brooklyn, with several offers of record deals on the table. Nothing panned out with any of these offers, however, and the two shifted gradually from a focus on music to deepening their practice of their Yoruba religion and the herbal remedies related to it.

In 1996, Kehinde suffered severe spinal injuries as the result of a fall down a flight of stairs. Recovery was long and painful, and all efforts formerly put toward creative endeavors were redirected to overcoming Kehinde's medical issues. In the years that followed, the sisters stayed out of the public eye completely, turning down all interviews and other press requests. Several of the duo's tracks popped up in the 2000s, including "Life's Gone Down Low," which appeared on a Luaka Bop compilation and was also sampled without clearance by New York rapper Nas. In the early part of the 2010s, after rejecting many labels seeking to reissue their work, the Lijadu Sisters agreed to work with Knitting Factory Records. The N.Y.C. label re-released all four of the sisters' classic late-'70s Afro-beat albums, and though it had been decades since their last public performances, plans were made for the sisters' return to the stage in 2012. ~ Fred Thomas, Rovi
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