Joni Haastrup has one of the most fascinating stories in Nigerian music history. The scion of royalty (he’s literally credited on some records as Prince Joni Haastrup, and it’s not a self-selected title), he first came to public prominence in 1966, singing on Orlando Julius Ekemode’s amazing Super Afro Soul album, which is credited with lighting the fuse that launched Afrobeat. A few years later, he hooked up with former Cream drummer Ginger Baker and became a member of Airforce, before forming Monomono in 1971.
Wake Up Your Mind is Haastrup’s solo debut. It’s a much more Westernized album than even Monomono’s somewhat Anglophilic debut, Give the Beggar a Chance. Songs like “Champions & Superstars” and “Do the Funkro” have disco and funk grooves that are both redolent of 1978 (when the record was made) and American artists more than Nigerian ones, even if Haastrup’s thick accent makes his origins plain. The female background vocals in particular are more Chic than Afrobeat. The lyrics are less politically and socially engaged than on the Monomono albums, too — “Do the Funkro” is a dance track, no more and no less, while “Champions & Superstars” is a tribute to two African soccer teams. “Free My People” and the album’s title track are more conscious, but even at his most explicit, Haastrup never named names or called people out with anything like the strident rage of Fela Kuti. This is a fun album with a few potent lyrics, and some killer guitar on “Watch Out.”