Ghetto Blaster


The story of Ghetto Blaster begins in 1983, in Lagos, Nigeria. “Ghetto Blaster” starts out by being the title of a musical documentary of 52 minutes, filmed in 16mm by Stéphane and Martin Meppiel. The film tells the story of a journey from Paris to Lagos made by Pascal Imbert, the band’s first producer, and the two musicians Stéphane Blaess (guitar) and Romain (voice). Upon their arrival, the musicians of Fela & Africa 70

Fela’s previous group: Kiala Nzavotunga (guitar and voice), Ringo Avom (drums) and Udoh Essiet (percussions) will join up with the French musicians, followed by Betty Ayaba (voice), Frankie Ntohsong (keyboards) and Willy N’Ffor (bass and voice). The co-creator with Fela of Afro-beat, the drummer Tony Allen, contributes to getting Ghetto Blaster on the road by giving guidance throughout the rehearsals.

So, it is from this Pan-African/European reunion that Ghetto Blaster (obviously a reference to the radios of the Black Americans at the time) is born. After some months of playing at the Black Pussy Cat club, a Nigerian bar where the night is spent dancing to Juju and Afro-beat music, Ghetto Blaster decide to try their luck in Europe.

They arrive in Paris in June 1983, and install themselves on a “peniche”, a house boat anchored next to the Austerlitz train station, which will become their living quarters as well as their rehearsal studio. The film telling their adventure is broadcast for the first time in 1984 on national tv station France 2. That same year, Ghetto Blaster release the EP “PREACHER MAN” on Island Records, Chris Blackwell’s label. It is a big success right from the week of release.

1985 sees the release of the album “PEOPLE” on French label Mélodie, which was re-released by the company Follow Me in 2002. This release brings their music to a wider audience. Ghetto Blaster embark on a tour of the USA passing through Boston, New York, Miami and Los Angeles where Bruce Springsteen comes to see them play and to meet them.

While touring, Ghetto Blaster open for great musicians : Manu Dibango, Archie Shepp, Fela Kuti, Kool & the Gang, James Brown and Maceo Parker.

At the end of the 80ies, the death of their singer Betty Ayaba, followed by that of their bass player Willy N’For in 1997, causes the group to disband for a while.

After a long silence, Ghetto Blaster are back lead by Kiala, Frankie and the singer Myriam Betty. Their return is celebrated by some concerts in Paris: several evenings at the Latina Café on the Champs Elysées, then opening for Maceo Parker, then a concert in Strasburg, in the East of France, at the ArtFack/ Laiterie, in October 2002.

In 2003, Ghetto Blaster celebrate their 20th anniversary (1983 – 2003) by releasing their most recent album, “RIVER NIGER”. Since then, they have been playing many exciting dates in the great Paris clubs (New Morning, Tryptique, La Scène…).

With a Kiala and Frankie in great musical shape, Miriam bring in her “joie de vivre” and her splendid voice, an enviable brass and rhythm section, Ghetto Blaster are ready for a great future – with their drive, with their concern for the people of Africa and with their musicianship, there will be many more anniversaries to celebrate !


River Niger

Label: Next Records
Distribution in France: Next Music
Release date: March 01, 2003

After a long silence, Ghetto Blaster has now reformed, lead by the trio of Kiala, Franky and singer Betty Myriam. Some Paris concerts and a recent opening stint for Maceo Parker in front of an audience of 2000 in Strasbourg are sufficient to re-launch the ‘Afro Beat machine” for Ghetto Blaster. Their new album, “RIVER NIGER” celebrates 20 years of music together. Produced, mixed and co-produced by Stephane Michaël Blaess, one of the original members, it is on release on Next Music. The 15 titles are 100% Afro Beat; the soul of Fela Kuti is ever present, and with the guest appearances of Princesse Erika, Cyril Atef (the drummer of the excellent “M” ), the wonderful bass of “Papa Noël” Ekwabi, and the contributions of saxophone player Sulaïman Hakim, the celebration is complete!

Ghetto Blaster - River Niger