Jazz 38 – Lagos, Nigeria

I scanned in some pictures form one of my favorite places while I was in Lagos a few days ago, posted on my flickr account. To the right is a scan of my original ticket, from my first visit to the club. Jazz 38 became a regular and common refuge from the insanity of trying to run a 24/7 computer room in Lagos, Nigeria. The N50 price was less than $1US, and once inside the club, local beer could also be had for even less.

After my first time there, I wrote down some thoughts in my journal, and I thought I'd transcribe them here, now.

Jazz 38, Awolowo Road
Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria
July 31, 1993

I finally got out to see some of the 'real' Lagos. I was itching to go out and have a few beer; not at the Eko, but someplace new and different. I asked around, and Jazz 38 was suggested.

Physically, the place is a hole. A ramshackle tin roof is held up by makeshift bamboo poles – It looks as though is could collapse at any moment. The tables are a standard wooden card table covered in yellow plastic tablecloths, and the chairs are simply plastic lawn chairs. It all sits on a bare concrete floor.

Like most everywhere else in Lagos, the club has no walls. A gentle breeze flows through, aided by several ceiling fans, to cool the customers and performers. The stage is little more than a hastily thrown together set of wooden planks.

But as bad as the place might be in the physical sense, its atmosphere is beyond compare, in a spiritual and musical sense. The staff is very friendly, and the beer is cheap (N30 for Star compared to N50 at the Eko). Three dogs roam the club at will, more part of the family than pets or protectors.

The house band, Fran and Tunde Kuboye and the Extended Family Band are, in a word, superb. Fran's voice is a masterful instrument, as comfortable with the softest ballad as that hardest blues. Her husband Tunde is an equally versatile bass player, and the whole band seemed very fine musicians, comfortable with a range of African tunes, through their own versions of rock classics. Fran does a haunting version of Moondance, only to belt out a version of Respect that would likely draw it from Aretha herself.

In short, it was an amazing experience, one that I intend to repeat.

It was an experience I repeated throughout my years in Lagos. I own a copy of their album Jisting, a full 10 original tunes, purchased at a VERY reasonable N500 on CD. I even recall a wonderful night spent socializing with the family after the club closed.

Sadly, Fran died suddenly in 1997, bringing to an end her singing. More than that, though, she was a well known youth leader in the area and a Dentist. From what I have heard, Tunde still runs the club … and operates it partly as a youth centre. I also know he opened another youth centre in Fran's honour after her death.

I do know they represent one of the true highlights of m time in Lagos. More than just one night, Fran and Tunde, and their club, gave me hours of fun, of wonderful music to escape an insane work environment, especially in my early years in Lagos. I still find myself loving their music … its currently on my iPod, and likely always will be. Definitely a highlight from Lagos, but one that, sadly, will never be the same. You truly can't go home again.


13 Responses

  1. Just to let mr tunde kuboye know he has done a great job in my life. he impacted me even within few days of knowing him and his late dear wife. i was introduced to you by mrs Animasahun[nigerwives]. you trained me for 4 days, gave me lunch, and i sat for an art competition and was am,ong the national winners. thank God ican say this on this medium. hope toi see you some day.
    All the very best.
    FAtoki Taiye Timmy

  2. iam trying to get contact with tunde ku boye.if
    you have his address, give him my email


  3. I too spent some time in Nigeria in ’91/’92 and found Jazz 38 a wonderful place to spend an evening and well into the early morning. Fran and her husband Tunde were very welcoming and I remember spending time in the house with them and my friends after the club closed “jisting”. I was very sad to learn of Fran’s untimely death and remember her and Tunde often and fondly.

    *Editors Note*
    I am happy to find someone else with such great memories of Jazz 38 and Fran and Tunde. I know what you mean about Jistin’ till all hours of the morning … I’ve never met a more hospitable bunch of people. I wonder if Tunde would mind if I posted an MP3 of their song “Jistin'” … I’d love to be able to share some of the music from their CD with the world.

  4. Uncle Tunde, am really sorry i’ve not gotten in touch with you for a while now, about Jazz 38, i hope you remember me, Toyin from volunteercorps, please let me know if you are having any programme.

  5. thank you to fran and tunde kuboye. i was too young unfortunately when i was in lagos (1992-1996) to remember your music very well, but i remember Jazz 38, my parents brought my brother and me there to hear you guys. it was magic, which is the only way i can explain tears in my eyes when i see these pictures at age 19, more than ten years later.

    lagos is always home to me. i will never forget ikoyi club and bar beach eleko beach where we’d run off to on weekends..or even the smell of leki and dad sitting drinking stout on the woodden bench as mom went to al haji to buy vegetables.

    is Jazz 38 still like it used to be?

    Editor’s Note: Thanks for the message … unfortunately, as far as I know, Jazz 38 no longer exists at all. After Fran’s death in 1997, the bar on Awolowo closed down. I gather Tunde opened a centre for youth out on the Peninsula (near the Chevron compound if I remember correctly). Last I heard, Tunde was doing some charity work with kids, and some music instruction for them, but beyond that, Jazz 38 was gone. Its VERY nice to see others with the same sorts of memories of Fran and Tunde that I have 🙂 Thanks for the comment …

  6. I am an undergrad student at an artsy, smooth school in the Pacific Northwest of the US. I have recently decided to go on a study abroad in Africa with music as the basis of my travels. Initially I wanted to go to Mali to learn African style guitar and the Kora. I have a contact there by the name of Paul Chandler but I am thinking I may want to expand my horizons and travel to Lagos too since Lagos is the other home to the music I love from Africa. If you have any contacts for me it would be wonderful. I’m either traveling this fall or the one after depending on how well I can organize myself.

    Thank you

    Austin Freese

  7. Hello…
    I am a student of the university of ibadan. I grew up with great passion for music.I use to reside in lagos where i got to find out about jazz 38. I had a convinction in my mind wen i was moving with my parents to Ibadan that ill change the concept of music in business.Nw i am goint to be starting a Jazz club in Ibadan very soon….It has been registered with the name JAZZ AVENUE. i hope ill have ur support to achieveing my dreams…………… tanx.

  8. Hello Sir,
    How are you, ur family and work?, I am so happy to get onto your website.Please if this is not Mr Tunde Kuboye please kindly link me up with him.
    My name is Segun Osunla B, I am the son of the photographer of the (late) Fela Kuti, Late (Femi Bankole Osunla). My mobile number is 08059758283.
    Hoping to hear from Mr Tunde Kuboye.
    Thanks Osunla Segun B.

  9. I remember when Fran and Tunde operated every Friday night out of the Museum Kitchen. Then we took our own drinks in a cold box. Driving back to Ikoyi very late one night, we were stopped at a police checkpoint at the top of Kingsway. All the Star and Gulder was gone but the constables were delighted to enjoy Maltina and Green Sands shandy, by the roadside, under the moon. How to make friends and influence people!
    No. 38 became not only the new jazz Mecca but housed Tunde’s coldstore and AV business and Fran’s Dental Clinic. My last memory is of Fran and Tunde attending my farewell party when I left Nigeria. Great people, great music and a great time in Nigeria.

  10. Terry: Thanks for the comment … you reinforce a lot of my memories of 38 and the Kuboye’s … for sure, a high point of my Lagos days 🙂

  11. I am so touched to read such wonderful comments about my parents…real memories of happy times.

    Jazz 38 doesn’t operate as it used to for now but it will be revived. It’s following a different direction focusing on youth and youth development programmes…loads of charity work from which alot of kids from underdeveloped communities are benefitting from.

    All I can say is…watch this space! 🙂

    Editors Note: Tami, thank you so much for writing in … you must have been one of the little girls running around the club when I was there in 1993-1994. Your parent’s club is one of my strongest memories of Lagos … glad to hear it still lives on in some form 🙂

  12. Tunde and Fran Kuboye were a very loving couple. I did not meet them physically, but I’ve read a lot of good things about them . They are really nice and I’m proud that they are Nigerians. I hope to meet Tunde Kuboye very soon. Cheers.

  13. hi ev’rybody, I’ve been at 38 on ’94 and I had the great pleasure to meet Fran, wonderful voice, Tunde wonderful bassist, and all the bend. They called me on stage to play something with them. A blues in Bb that I will never forget.

    Editors Note: Thats cool Stephano … if you were there in ’94, it’s entirely possible we were there on some of the same nights … I spent a LOT of 1994 listening to Fran and Tunde 🙂

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