Kijana The Soul of Kijana Unfolds In Music (Mahdi Records, 1976)
One of the coolest DIY album covers in COB's collection is courtesy of a suave California crooner named Kijana. We've had this record for some time, and have always wondered who this guy was. "Kijana" is a Swahili word meaning "youth"... we thought perhaps it might mean "giant white bow tie," but were mistaken. A faded autograph graces the front cover of the record: "To Thomas, your brother for ever, Kijana Mahdi." So that would explain the record company name! Most of the clues about this guy come from the back cover liner notes. Born in New Orleans, Kijana moved to Los Angeles, "studied opera for one year at U.S.C., vocalized with Anna Zen for another and even learned a few 'tricks-of-the-trade' from Bumps Blackwell." According to Wikipedia, Bumps was a songwriter and producer responsible for Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally" and "Good Golly Miss Molly."
The notes say Kijana recorded with Pzazz Records, a small R&B label featuring Misty Moore and an elderly Louis Jordan. A discography shows a 1969 release, "Did You Really Choose Me," a song included on this album. (For an audio clip of the tune, visit BizarreRecords.com.) Next came an album, From Kijana With Love, we can find no record of. The next paragraph of the liner notes is the kicker:
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"In addition to his musical abilities, Kijana owns the most famous black hair styling shop in the world - 'Magnificent Brothers' - in Los Angeles. He also managed to find time to patent his own scented hairspray."
Now, putting the patented hairspray aside for a moment, a quick check finds that Magnificent Brothers is still around. At the same address as on the record! Why, here it is on Google Street View. It would seem Magnificent Brothers is a classic old-school black barber shop, and as far as COB can tell, Kijana is still the owner.
"Now Kijana is doing what his heart felt when he was younger. He is just singing standing up, hoping that someone will hear and love his soul. He wants to thank everyone who has purchased his album and hopes that they will follow him closely in his musical climb."
Unfortunately, Kijana's musical climb didn't seem to go very high. Where's all of his records? There's barely any documentation of them. We did find a 45 of his from 1980 on eBay. In 2005, he released a CD. The tracks seem to be a selection of old standards, with a big-band backup group. Unfortunately, the track previews don't play, but you can buy the disc if you're so inclined. Maybe there's an order form inside for Kijana's patented scented hairspray.