Growing up in a royal household in Nigeria, Joni Haastrup began his musical journey performing for his brothers band Sneakers and was quickly snapped up as a vocalist for O.J. Ekemode and his Modern Aces’ ‘Super Afro Soul’ LP, one of Afro-beat’s formative LPs. Soon after, Ginger Baker of Cream fame replaced Steve Winwood with Joni on keys for Airforce’s UK concerts in ’71 and the success of the collaboration led to further shows with Baker as part of the SALT project before he returned to Nigeria to set up MonoMono.
Back in London in 1978, Joni recorded his solo gem ‘Wake Up Your Mind’ for the Afrodesia imprint. Laced with funk basslines, swirling keyboards and screaming guitars, this is Joni’s most ‘western’ record but at the same time unmistakably of the African origin. From the slow-motion disco of ‘Greetings’ to the stone cold groove of ‘Watch Out’ to the Rueben Wilson style funk of ‘Free My People’ Joni was soaking up the sounds of the times and blending them with the music of his roots.
Joni Haastrup ‘Soul Brother Number One’ Biography :
Joni Haastrup came of age in a royal household in the waning days of colonial Nigeria; his grandfather was a king in the Yoruba town of Ilesa in Western Nigeria. Joni grew up surrounded by music, local drummers would perform for his grandfather whilst a steady flow of old American 78’s and calypso discs were on rotation at the local record shop.
So it was little surprise Joni chose to become a musician. The burgeoning jazz tinged high-life scene he walked into was led by bands like the Abalabi Rhythm Dandies and Eddie Okonta & his Top Aces all basking in their country’s newfound independence after years of British colonial rule. It was in the midst of this a young Joni Haastrup made his debut singing in his brother’s band Sneakers at a 1964 New Year’s gig in Ondo.
Later in 1966, when James Brown was all the rage, O.J. Ekemode and his Modern Aces’ released their ‘Super Afro Soul’ LP, an album that many see as laying the foundations of Afro-beat. Featuring Joni Haastrup on vocals, an unknown Fela Ransome Kuti sat in on trumpet before taking up sax and forming the Koola Lobitos.
At this point Joni Haastrup tearing up stages across Western Nigeria and soon became known as his country’s “Soul Brother Number One”. Later that year the cover band Clusters International, seeking a dynamic stage presence took Joni as their front man, a role Joni flourished in for the next few years.
In 1971, an invitation from Ginger Baker was extended to Joni Haastrup as part of the Airforce tour and the success of the collaborations was to be a catalyst for Joni’s Nigerian exodus and the forming of MonoMono.
Joni Haastrup lives in Oakland California and is available for interviews.