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Pax Nicholas

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Nicholas Addo-Nettey Bio

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Nicholas Addo-Nettey: ACCRA-LAGOS-BERLIN

Nicholas Addo-Nettey was born in Accra, Ghana on August 7th, 1954. 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.

– Matti Steinitz


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