Witchdoctor – Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers
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Witchdoctor – Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers

Witchdoctor – Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers

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Witchdoctor - Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers

For Record Store Day 2019, Freestyle Records are proud to release on a fresh vinyl 45, two 1970’s tracks by Ginger Johnson & His African Messengers that have been lost for over 45 years. ‘Witchdoctor’ and ‘Nawa’ (written by Dizzy Gillespie cohort Chano Pozo) demonstrate a musical progression as afro-funk had stamped it’s indelible footprint on Ginger’s ground-breaking afro-cuban and jazz hybrid style.
Back in 2015, Freestyle re-issued the groundbreaking ‘African Party’ album by the somewhat mysterious figure of Ginger (George Folunsho) Johnson. Recorded in 1967, almost 20 years after he first arrived in post war London and immediately began performing and recording with London jazz stalwarts Ronnie Scott and Pete King. He was also the featured percussionist in the barrier-breaking Kenny Grahams Afro Cubans in the early 50’s.
Credited by those in the know (including Gilles Peterson, Louie Vega, Fela Kuti’s drummer Tony Allen & writer David Toop) as the godfather of afrobeat, Ginger and his group, The African Messengers enjoyed a varied career as the go to afro-cuban percussion group for recording sessions in the UK, working with Georgie Fame, Osibisa, Madeleine Bell and Quincy Jones – as well as acting us mentor to a young Fela Kuti and members of Cymande who cut their teeth as members of his ensemble. They also performed at The Royal Variety Performance, Ginger’s music featured in the James Bond film ‘Live & Let Die’ and Ginger himself appears on screen drumming in the Hammer Films cult classic ‘She’, and famously performed with The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park in 1969.
Watch ‘The Story Of Ginger Johnson’ mini documentary by clicking HERE!
Aside from African Party, and several Hi Life singles released on the Melodisc label in the 1950’s, it was thought that there were no further recordings by this hugely influential musician. However, prompted by the attention afforded the Freestyle re-issues – Ginger’s son Dennis Dee Mac Johnson was contacted by Uchenna Ikonne, a renowned African music collector, who told him he had discovered one rather battered original copy of a 45 single, released in the mid 70’s on the short lived ‘Afrodesia’ label,
Thanks to Claudio Passavanti at Doctor Mix Studios in London, who has done quite an amazing restoration and re-mastering job on this long lost music.
“KILLER!” Gilles Peterson — BBC 6Music/Worldwide FM “Bangin’ 7” Paul Bradshaw — Straight No Chaser “Exciting and influential proto-Afro Beat from the legendary UK-based master drummer. It’s a real treat to have these club-essentials on a 45 for the first time.” Snowboy — “Heavy!” Alex Attias — Vision Recordings “Both sides truly blistering Afro funk!” Lois Wilson — Mojo Magazine “Nigeria’s Master Percussionist via London sounding Outrageously Heavy on the 45 Afro Latin Tip!” Harv Nagi — Outernational Sounds/Honest Jons “Ginger Johnson, one of the most talented & 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 & now it’s time for the world today to hear how timeless his music is!” Louie Vega — Nuyorican Soul

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