Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Happy Independence Day, Ghana!

Today, March 6th, marks the 55th anniversary of Ghana's independence from British colonial rule.  Let us celebrate with this classic highlife album by B.B. Collins, featuring master guitarist Sammy Cropper and the beautiful lead vocals of Baffour Kyei.  


B.B. Collins & the Powerful Believers - Adjoa Abene

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Flood Disaster at John Collins' Bokoor House in Accra

Hello. Very sad news today from preeminent highlife scholar/musician John Collins, whose Bokoor House and BAPMAF highlife archives were recently damaged during severe flooding on October 26th, 2011. Please take some time to read the statement below by Collins, originally posted on Afropop Worldwide. Collins welcomes suggestions, letters of sympathy, and donations (a mailing address is listed below). Also, a short BBC news story about the aftermath of the flood damage HERE.

Dear colleagues, supporters, fans, friends and well wishers,

As you know I have been operating the BAPMAF music archives since 1990 which was partly opened at my Bokoor House to the public in 1996 and more fully in 2007. However, devastation struck in the middle of the night of 26th Oct, 2011 in the form of a flood. This occurred over many parts of Accra due to more and more people building in or blocking water ways - so that rivers could no longer easily run into the sea. In our particular Taifa-Ofankor area this was compounded by the construction of a 3 mile section of the Kumasi highway (from Achimota to Ofankor) without adequate gutters - and also saw-millers who have been dumping sawdust in rivers and wetlands.

We residents have complained to both the Ghana National Highways Authority and the Ga District Assembly (Council) over the years to no avail Indeed the National Highways Authority told us residents that they had to build the road first before constructing the drains and that these 2 projects even fell under 2 different ministries. Furthermore, the saw-millers in the MUUS next to us, who are relative newcomer to the area, did not allow space on their adjacent land to ours for a gutter. In fact, by dumping sawdust on the drainage river (Brenyah River) they re-directed part of this river though my house and garden – which broke my wall – they are even now claiming my garden is their ‘natural’ gutter.

The resulting flooding on the 26 Oct. was unprecedented with almost 6 feet of water entering our land and 5 feet into the downstairs house and premises where some of the BAPMAF archival holdings are kept. I was in Mali at the time at an African popular music conference organized by the French Institute in conjunction with and the Malian Ministry of Culture. On returning to Ghana on the 29th I met my family perched upstairs in the BAPMAF exhibition space. They had escaped drowning by 2 minutes due to a timely call from a neighbor upstream who noticed the water build up and got them to leave the house and flee upstairs.

Some of the losses are as follows:

• Approx 10-20% 0f BAPMAF archival holding lost. Some we are still
trying to dry and salvage.
• Loss of all electronic equipment including materials donated a few
years ago to the BAPMAF archives by the German Goethe Institute for a
digitization project.
• Loss of car, backup generator, various pumps, etc.

The house and area is now too dangerous for human habitation (i.e. residential purposes ). All this due to the short sightedness of the government in not insisting the National Highways Authority build storm gutters alongside the highway they have been constructing for seven years (which incidentally also went under water on the 26th Oct). And also the government’s inability to stop individuals or saw-millers etc from building on or blocking natural water flows.

As this is not likely to be resolved in the near future I have no recourse but to remove myself and my family from the house that myself and my father before me have been living since the 1970’s – and find rented property where we will not be drowned like rats.

Bokoor Band - Yaka Duru

So my immediate plans are as follows:

- Find temporary storage space for the BAPMAF archives so that at some point in the future these can become available again to myself and the general public.
- Find temporary accommodation relatively near the university at Legon.
- Build circa 200 feet of reinforced concrete wall with gravel embankment to protect the Bokoor/BAPMAF proper from future flooding – so I and the BAPMAF archives can move back to upstairs properties. This alone will cost around 7000$.
- To replace lost equipment, computers, car, scanners, cameras, digital record player, stabilizers, chargers and 12 volt battery backup system, slide projector, etc.
- At some point I will write to various individuals and organizations that donated general books, videos and DVD’s and music materials to BAPMAF to send me, if possible, copies.

- To replace the broken wall and add an embankment to it - or possibly even build a wall and embankment closer to my house and the BAPMAF premises. Even though I will lose my garden this will keep the building premises intact - so that in the future and the government demolishes obstacles to the water course, stops the saw-miller dumping saw dust in rivers and get the Highways Authority to build a storm drain alongside the Achimota-Ofankor Highway --I could at least use the BAPMAF premises again.

If you have any suggestions as how I could proceed – including any agencies, individuals, organizations who could assist financially or by replacing lost books and music this would be most appreciated. Letters of sympathy would also be most welcome.

Yours sincerely John Collins (Prof).
POSTAL ADDRESSP.0 Box LG 385,  Legon , Accra, GHANA
EMAIL: newbapmaf@yahoo.com

If money is sent to help rebuild please send it to my UK bank account at follows.
NATWEST, Tottenham Court Rd Branch
P.O.BOX 2EA 45 Tottenham Court Rd. London WIT 2EA
Reward Reserve Account of E .J. Collins
Account number 26592258
Sort Code 56-00-31
Swift code NWBK GB 2L
IBAN number GB16 NWBK 56003126 5922 58

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Atakora Manu - Pim No Bi (1981)

Composer, guitarist and sound engineer Atakora Manu released a large catalog of albums through the 1970s and 80s characterized by a sound that's best described as smooth, groovy, and certainly unique within the context of Ghanaian highlife. Manu's 1981 Pim No Bi is no exception. Here we have two medleys (each over 10 minutes in length) which feature interlocking guitar lines, playful synthesizers, and the distinctive singing of lead vocalist S.K. Amoako Agyeman. Below you'll find Atakora Manu's bio. Enjoy!  Download

Atakora Manu - Sunkwa (excerpt)

Mr. Atakora Manu was born at Toase in Ashanti in 1940. He had his Elementary School Education at both Toase Roman Catholic and Amoako Local Authority Middle Schools. After leaving school in 1956 he joined the Ministry of Agriculture as a Motorblow Machine Operator stationed at Brofoyedru in Adansi. The Gang Leader of his group was a good guitarist and the music instinct in him was roused and so became an ardent follower.

The Spraying Surerintendnt at the station, the late Mr. B.D. Prempeh who was also a brother, encouraged him with a promise that souuld he become perfect he would purchase a set of musical instrumnets for him. Before the promise could be realised, Mr. Prempeh died suddenly in a mortor accident in 1961 and his heart's desire was dashed.

Mr. Atakora Manu resigned and came back home where Mr. B.K. Amankwah of Toase bought a set of musical instruments for him to be based at Toase as resident band. He formed a Concert Party known as the Princess Trio and toured the whole country with a big bang. Between 1963 and 1966, he was a guitarist of the United Ghana Farmers Council Drama Troupe and with the staging of the 1966 Coup, the Troupe was disbanded and he came back home again.

In 1967, he together with Kakaiku formed KAKAIKU No.2 Band with him as the Lead guitarist. Some of their hits are: OHOHO BATANI, KOOKROKOO, AKWANTU MU NSEM, AKYINKYINA AKYINKYIN etc.

In 1970, he resigned from KAKAIKU No.2 Band and did not join any band until 1973 when he was employed as Studio Attendant by Ambassador Records. With the goodwill of Mr. A.K. Badu, Managing Director, he was encouraged to use the studio to enhance his ability with the hope of recording in the future. As a result of this good gesture, he regrouped his Princess Trio. The other members of the Trio are C.K. Mensah, S.K. Amoako Agyeman, Agyei Kyeremanteng and Atta Fofie. They are all from Toase with the same family base.     - by D.F. Boateng

Some great lps by Atakora Manu are already available online at Globalgroove and Afroslabs:

Afro Highlife
Disko Hi-Life
Bre Bre Na Eye

Monday, September 19, 2011

African Brothers Band - Have African Feeling

"Nana Ampadu wo he?" (Where is Nana Ampadu?) the Manager Rover Amo, asked Joe Dee. The time was exactly 7:45 a.m in that Summer morning. The recording was billed to commence at exactly 8 a.m., but Nana Ampadu I, the Leader, was not in the Studio. Rover Amo was wondering what had become of him. Donkor, Joe, Asare and others were discussing the issue. An unmistakable sign of dejection and consternation began to show up in their faces. The studio had been booked for only an hour and it was just a few minutes to 8 a.m. The studio manager had arrived, followed by the producer, Mr. Akie Dean. The instruments had been fixed and just as they were tunning their guitars, Nana strutted in, looking cheerful and feeling on top of the morning. 

"Me ma mo Akye ooh" Nana said, 
meaning (Good morning). Exhiliration filled in them and hilarious smile began to steal up in their faces. Nana strapped his guitar and fixed the wah-wah peddle. Rover Amo then whispered to Nana Ampadu, "Just give me a meddley LP, and give me the best, Okey?"

"Right, Amo" Nana Ampadu whispered back. Nana Ampadu turned to the Guys and enunciated,  

"You all know we are Africans, play with an African feeling, Okey?"

Mr. Akie Dean took his mic and the electronic device  b o o m e d .........

D o w n l o a d

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Koo Nimo Interview with Christopher Lydon & Radio Open Source

I've been on a bit of a Koo Nimo kick lately! If you have a chance, check out this fascinating 2010 interview with Koo Nimo by Christopher Lydon for Radio Open Source. The recording was made at "7:30 a.m. on the last Saturday in January, a warm winter morning in Ghana, and we are privileged to be hanging out for an hour of music and a few well-chosen words with a aristocrat of sound and four accompanists in his studio in Kumasi, the old Ashanti capital." Here, Lydon and Agya Koo discuss the history of highlife/palm wine music, jazz, globalization, the African diaspora, and musical cross-fertilization among other things. In addition, Koo Nimo offers some beautiful (although short) musical performances throughout the interview. I've made the performances alone available for download below.

Koo Nimo - Nwomkro Song

   Okomfo Anokye
Koo Nimo - Akomfo Anokye (Odonson)

Download interview performances

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sunsum Band - Disco Spiritual

Here we have a short religious themed album by the great Sunsum Band entitled Disco Spiritual, released in 1981 on Gapophone records. The heart of the Sunsum Band consisted of guitarist, composer & singer Smart Nkansah (pictured on left) and treble singer Agyaaku (on right), who met while both were members of Yamoah's band in the 1960s. You can read more about Sunsum at this earlier post.

Sunsum Band - Ahoboa

I've also included a Youtube video featuring a "sermon" of sorts by none other than Smart Nkansah at the Pentecostal Baptist Church in London. Here, Smart discusses some of his religious themed compositions with the Sweet Talks (Spiritual Ghana), as well as the song "Ahoboa" off the Disco Spiritual Album. This song states: "In case you are called, or you die today, what preparation have you made for yourself? How was your judgement?" Nkansah describes "Ahoboa" as the "number one track" of his career, a song that "speaks to you direct anytime you play it."

On a side note, I'm frustrated by the preacher who introduces Smart Nkansah at the beginning of this video. He states: "You [Smart] were populating the kingdom of hell with your music. Now thank God you've met the Lord on the way to Damascus and you've changed." I like PREKESEMedia's reaction to this type of attitude on the Youtube page:

"I dont agree with the Pastor's assertion that U were leading people to Hell. No, your music was more than about what he is saying. You educated and promoted social virtues and NEVER promoted vices. Ghanaians need to change their mentality where they stereotype every secular musician as someone who is a SINNER. Who is perfect in this world? Ask the pastor to listen to some of your music to know whether u were promoting SIN as he said."                
                                                     Download Disco Spiritual

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Palm Wine Music: Koo Nimo and Osei Korankye at Afrikafestival Hertme

This great 2008 performance by Koo Nimo at Afrikafestival Hertme in the Netherlands has been around Youtube for a while, and now we have another recently posted Youtube video which presents a more complete version of this performance. The always incredible Koo Nimo is joined here by members of his Adadam Agofomma group as well as the seprewa virtuoso Osei Korankye (whose collaboration album with Koo Nimo is available on this blog). The set begins with a seprewa/guitar piece "Abube ne atebe" that features Osei, followed by a beautiful song entitled "Death is everybody's business." The performance concludes with a version of the Ghanaian standard "Yaa Amponsah" that quickly turns into Koo Nimo's own tune "Aburokyire Abrabo" (Overseas Life). In case you're interested, I've posted a full recording of this tune below, along with a translation by Joe Latham from the booklet Ashanti Ballads of Koo Nimo.

On the subject of Koo Nimo, you might like to check out this beautiful, handmade book honoring Agya Koo that was recently acquired by the Smithsonian.  The book is called Listen, listen : Adadam Agofomma : honoring the legacy of Koo Nimo, a collaboration between artists Mary Hark, Atta Kwami, and Koo Nimo himself. An article about the book is on the Smithsonian site here.

Koo Nimo - Aburokyire Abrabo

Aburokyire Abrabo (Overseas Life)

Mother, Oh Mother, your son has made a terrible journey.
Now I am stranded overseas.
Darkness has encircled me.
There can be no witness to what I endure alone.

An unsuccesful mission is a disgrace,
So how can we come hone?
If you fail, no child is named after you.
Death is preferable to shame.

Everyone has reasons for leaving his native land.
Some travel to study, or to marry.
Some go as tourists, some look for jobs.
Some seek medical treatment.

Some return, but others die overseas.
What a tragedy that is.
Why should this be?
It is our individual destiny.
Life has its bad times we have to pass through.

The cold weather gets so bitter men lose their senses.
Poverty, family problems, illness and accidents
All aggravate the stranger's sad state.
Married or single, life is not pleasant in a foreign land.

Bad company, gossip, rumours, misunderstandings,
So many troubles could be settled by speaking to the family.
There is but one consolation:
Namely that travel brings wisdom to men.

Spirits of our Ancestors,
Gods of our Ancestors,
Watch over our brothers abroad.
Let them return home safely.
To live in Europe is to understand this lament. 


Monday, August 8, 2011

Uhuru Dance Band - The Sound of Africa (Agoro, 1975)

The Uhuru Dance Band's rare, 1975 album The Sound of Africa was recently posted in full by an ebay seller last month. Released on Kwadwo Donkoh's Agoro label, this unique album blends funk, American soul/jazz, highlife, and dance-band music much in the same vein as the Ogyatanaa Show Band (you may recongnize the Uhuru's "Yahiya Mu" which was featured on the Ghana Special compilation). Accordingly, this unique sound was largely driven by saxophonist George Amissah (Uhuru's then band leader) and Kwadwo Donkoh, who worked as a composer, arranger, and musician on this album as well as Ogyatanaa's Yerefrefre and Obra Mu Asem. At the same time, much of the lead singing on The Sound of Africa (as well as the two Ogyatanaa albums) is recognizably performed by the same individual (see "I Know My Mission" for an example). Unfortunately this singer's name remains a mystery, as does the actual relationship between this album, Kwadwo Donkoh, and the Ogyatanaa Show Band. Of course, any additional information would be greatly appreciated.

Considering the high prices that old, rare & funky Ghanaian records routinely fetch on websites like ebay (anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars), these low-quality sample recordings may very well represent the only opportunity for most of us to hear albums like the Uhuru's The Sound of Africa. Here, I've posted the album in full for your downloading convenience as offered on ebay, with track titles added and problematic clicks/skips cleaned up. However, some questions remain. For one thing, what is the correct order of the eleven tracks? Secondly, are any readers able/willing to submit a photo of the album's back cover? This would certainly clear up the question of the track order and potentially provide some additional background info.

In the meantime, take some time to enjoy this unique and diverse album.

Update: Thanks to Akwaboa, here's a scan of this album's back cover. Track order is now revealed, along with song translations and background info about Kwadwo Donkoh/Uhuru. Excellent!