In an interview with The Guardian, the sisters (they were quoted as one) said, “Music teaches us to reach out and do something about what is going on, socially, morally, financially, spiritually and politically.”
As teenagers the sisters found work as studio backup singers. They recorded their first single as the Lijadu Sisters, “Iya Mi Jowo” (“Mother, Please”), in 1968. At first, their mother chaperoned them and sewed their stage outfits.
Audiences outside Africa first saw the sisters in the early 1970s, when the drummer Ginger Baker, best known for his work with the rock band Cream, came to Nigeria to work with musicians, among them Fela Kuti, the inventor of Afrobeat (and the sisters’ second cousin). The sisters toured with Baker’s African-centered band Salt, which took part in the cultural festival at the 1972 Munich Olympics. They were meeting Jimi Hendrix’s mother after their performance when they heard the explosions from a terrorist attack on the Olympics site.
The Lijadu Sisters recorded their first album, “Urede,” for EMI Nigeria in 1974. They then signed to the Afrodisia label, an affiliate of Decca Records, and made four albums aimed at both Nigerian and international audiences.
“Danger” (1976), with lyrics mostly in English, drew on Afrobeat, reggae and soul. “Mother Africa” (1977) turned toward Nigerian roots, featuring traditional talking drum, lyrics in Yoruba and highlife-style acoustic guitars. “Sunshine” (1978) reached outward again, with lyrics in English, synthesizer lines and infusions of disco, rock and reggae. Their final album, “Horizon Unlimited” (1979), was the culmination of their fusion of local and international grooves with urgent social commentary and romantic tidings.
But their record business experiences had left them feeling exploited. “They don’t care. They don’t give one fig about the artist,” Kehinde Lijadu said in 1979 in Jeremy Marre’s documentary “Konkombe: The Nigerian Pop Music Scene.”