Why you should care
Because its name alone is worth the visit to this shrine to Nigerian jazz.
In 2011, Salif Keita strode into Jazzhole, Lagos’ best-known record shop, to delighted screams from its owner, and longtime jazz buff, Kunle Tejuosho. For years, the shop had been stocking vinyl and CDs by the legendary Malian singer-songwriter and other greats, like Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.
A few other record stores dot Lagos’ landscape, but none have the extensive collection of Jazzhole. “If you’re looking for palm wine music from Sierra Leone, soukous from Congo, Afro-diasporan music like Afro-Cuban jazz, salsa, we have it,” Tejuosho boasts. And he has earned bragging rights. Last year, Jazzhole was listed as one of the world’s best record stores in Around the World in 80 Record Stores, a book by British journalist and DJ Marcus Barnes.
Jazzhole was born of Tejuosho’s experience working in his mom’s bookshop chain Glendora, and a boyhood dream of opening a record store. The shop opened in 1991, just months before the official relocation of the nation’s capital from Lagos to Abuja. The inspiration: “How can you come to Lagos, the largest Black capital of the world, and not have a decent record store to buy jazz and music from all of Africa?” Tejuosho asks rhetorically.
In its first years, Jazzhole moved around a lot. Its first location — true to its name — was a hole. It also happened to be a few doors down from Dodan Barracks, seat of power of the federal government, and where 12 years earlier, musician Kuti had placed a coffin to protest his mother’s death after a military raid.
In 1995, Jazzhole settled into its current location on Awolowo Road in the island suburb of Ikoyi, where it has since been holding its own as an island of funk in a sea of banks, gas stations and eateries. The one-room space, which smells of new books and old records, is decorated with jazz, conga and talking drums and a gramophone. What began as a collection of vintage and rare records from glorious bygone eras has evolved into a café and bookshop that hosts small performances by local and foreign-based Nigerian musicians like Asa, Nneka and guitarist Keziah Jones.
Our emphasis is on music of the past.
“What they’ve been able to do by creating, and sustaining, a tradition of music and culture is remarkable,” says Jide Taiwo, culture critic and executive editor of The NET, Nigeria’s leading entertainment newspaper, and Jazzhole patron. In the past three decades most record stores in Nigeria have disappeared — partly due to the economic climate. Jazzhole’s survival is a testament to the passion of Tejuosho and his relentless mission to preserve records from the past. “The whole world is looking for Nigerian music from the ’70s now,” Tejuosho says, and it’s becoming more challenging to find and expensive to buy. Customers, though, can find it at Jazzhole.
What you won’t find is the trendy stuff — no Afrobeats, the Nigerian genre currently hot in the U.K., Caribbean and parts of the U.S. What you will find is Kuti’s Afrobeat (no “s”), nestled prominently among the rare vinyl at the entrance of the store. There’s also Joni Haastrup’s disco, Aretha Franklin’s soul, Frank Sinatra’s swing, Ebo Taylor’s and Cardinal Rex Lawson’s highlife, King Sunny Ade’s juju music and Ismael Isaac’s reggae. Records from renowned musicians Richard Bona, Fatoumata Diawara and Ali Farka Touré are also on offer.
It’s a curation not subject to change — “our emphasis is on music of the past,” Tejuosho asserts. Nigeria is vast and culturally rich when it comes to music, he adds, “but people’s interests are so narrow.” His advice to younger listeners: Don’t follow the hype. While classic Nigerian jazz is being reissued abroad, “we are sleeping here and going extreme hip-hop and pop stuff,” Tejuosho laments.
It’s the iconic beats of the past that pulse inside Jazzhole’s heart. It’s also been responsible for relaunching careers, like that of veteran musician Fatai Rolling Dollar, who formed the group Faaji Agba Collective with other jazz greats in 2009. (Tejuosho and Jazzhole acted as a label, Jazzhole Records, for the group.) “This was a man who was missing for 30-plus years, and Jazzhole by and large introduced him to a new generation,” Taiwo says. In 2011, Faaji Agba Collective played a Brooklyn concert alongside Kuti’s son, Seun.
Love is also in the air at the shop. Minutes after I walk in on a sunny April afternoon to interview Tejuosho, he caresses a Sade Adu vinyl he’s about to package for a man buying it as a surprise anniversary gift for his wife. Jazzhole is also a fine place for a first date. Couples can vibe over romantic music analogue-style — and before the birth of Auto-Tune — while feasting on sandwiches and healthy juices from the café.
Go There: Jazzhole
- Location: 168 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos
- Hours: 9 am – 8:30 pm, Monday through Saturday; 4:30 – 6:30 pm, Sunday
- Pro tip: In the daytime, enjoy tea and perhaps even a chat with owner Kunle Tejuosho. In the evenings, catch a performance.
- Nearby: Across the road, a path leads to a small shopping complex where you can buy beer (300 naira, or 83 cents) so cold it is referred to as “mortuary standard” and spicy turkey or fish pepper soup (500 naira, or $1.40).