Remembering Ambrose Campbell
The quayside was where most of the seamen hung out while on shore leave. From that section of the Lagos waterfront, you could see across the waters, from the marina, you'll see the docks where the merchant ships slept.
The pungent odour of palm wine, mixed with culinary aromas hung in the air. Occasionally a slight breeze would bring with it, a waft, a mild smell of weed, that would vanish as quickly as it came, it left you wondering if you smelt it to begin with.
Bawdy tales and laughter. Stories of triumphs and tragedies, seafaring adventures and other fascinating tales of the war preceded the music. The stories were coloured and constantly lubricated by the intoxicating liquor. It all made a great impression on him.
But he was there for one thing and one thing only...the music.
Ambrose would come after dark to sit in and jam with the men. Playing percussion on a tin can, or sometimes he would be playing the boxed instrument called Agidigbo as the travellers played on their guitars, mandolin and other instruments.
Eventually he got kicked out of the house when his father, a strict Victorian era church minister found out about where his young son went after dark.
That wasn't the life he wanted for the boy, he was totally unimpressed by his son's talent and although the boy sang in the choir during Sunday service, it never mattered.
Musicians had a bad rap in those days. They were perceived as negative stereotypes, and he probably disobeyed his father, one time too many....
Rescued and adopted by Herbert_Macaulay when he became homeless, Ambrose ended up in London at the end of WW2 and quickly became a resident artist at Abalabi Club in Soho. The club premises exist today as Ronnie Scotts.
Baba Rosie as I've heard him referred to by those who knew him, was a wise old sage. None had a bad word to say about him. Ambrose Campbell enjoyed the immersive life of a music maker with all of it's ups and downs.
In 2006, he passed at a time his music was just being rediscovered by a new generation.
The sprinkling of Baba Rosie's rhythmical and melodic magic lingers within and across musical genres today. From Highlife to Jazz and even Country music.
I give credit here because some of that magic touched me too.