A Sierra Leonean, Geraldo Pino is the godfather of Afro-beat, not Fela Kuti

This article is not in any way authorized to discredit the widely commended musical delivery of Fela Kuti but to give an insight on someone who Fela Kuti seemingly considered an icon. A Sierra Leonean who sailed through funk and afrobeat with a unique style of rhythm and mix.

Gerald Pine was born in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone on February 10th, 1939. He was the son of a Nigeria-based attorney. In a sad twist of life, he experienced the sudden death of his mother and sister. Adamant against his father’s wish to pursue music, he co-founded the musical group, the Heartbeats, at the start of the 1960s.

His stage name Geraldo Pino was inspired by the famous Congolese musicians’ Franco and Doctor Nico. The Heartbeats furthermore founded their own Pino Records label in 1963, releasing series of masterpiece singles like “Maria Lef for Waka”, “Heartbeats Merengue”, and “Zamzie”. The Heartbeats went on to emerge as one of the highest-paid bands in West Africa, making hit shows across Freetown nightclubs like the Flamingo, Palm Beach, and Tiwana. The band subsequently toured West Africa almost continuously between 1965 and 1967. And without any spec of doubt, these experiences and mouthwatering performances skyrocketed Pino into an enclosure of fame and enviable reputation across the continent and beyond.

Fela Kuti drooled in admiration of Pino that he stated, ” He had all Nigeria in his pocket. Made me fall right on my ass man”. “I was playing highlife jazz when Geraldo Pino came to town in 66 or a bit earlier with soul — that’s what upset everything, man”. Young Fela Kuti (then still Ransome Kuti) further asserted.

Geraldo Pino’s songs were described as an addictive James Brown vibe with a wild spill of funk and jazz. Pino could woo fans on stage with his style and charisma. He was often seen as a charming playboy with taste in fashion and grace. It was no doubt that Pino had unquestionably torn Lagos into pieces with his music. Hits like “Power to the People”, “Give Me Ganja”, “Let Them Talk”, and “Make Me Feel Good” solidified and uplifted Pino’s celebrity persona.

Gerald Pino on stage

When the Heartbeats split in 1969, Pink recruited members of the Ghanaian psychedelic band, the Plastic Jims, to serve as his new backing unit. He spent a long time in the city of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and purchased his television station and hotel. He only took few exceptions when he occasionally travelled to feature in live dates alongside sensations like Jimmy Cliff, Rufus Thomas, and Manu Dibango.

The heightened success and upward musical trend of Fela Kuti and other Afrobeat pioneers eventually overshadowed Pino’s latter-day music. Consequently, he was largely forgotten until some of his classics resurfaced on CD in 2005.

His last comeback on stage was in London in 2007. Geraldo Pino lost the battle to cancer and diabetes on November 10, 2008.

Gerald Pino was the major influence on West Africa’s soul, funk and the Afrobeat scene in the 1960s and 1970s.

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