Thursday, September 9, 2010

Palmwine Music: Ayonko Asiwa Group - Koobi Awaree

Here's an album of beautiful "palmwine" music by the Ayonko Asiwa Group.  The record features two twenty-minute-long tracks in medley style, simple and perfect with just a few singers, guitar, and light percussion.  

You can download it here .

If you're interested, here's a brief bit of historical background on Ghanaian palmwine music from scholar John Collins:

In Ghana it was the Kru-taught musician Kwame Asare (Jacob Sam) whose Kumasi Trio made the first recordings of "palm wine music" in 1928 when they went to London to record for Zonophone. This session also included the first recording of the famous song "Yaa Amponsah" which provided one of the most enduring and important melodo-rhythmic riffs found in Ghanaian highlife.

When the costal Fante-style music moved inland into Asante and Kwahu during the 1930s it blended with the music of the local seprewa harp-lute. The result was a more Africanised or rather Akan variety of palm wine guitar music known as "Akan Blues" or "Odonson." It was sung in a recitative way rather than in structured verses using African modal progressions (between two tone centres a full tone apart) rather than the western harmonic progressions (I, IV, V chords) of the earlier costal style. These small palm wine guitar bands consisted of just one or two guitars accompanied by "clips" (i.e. claves), "Adakam" (wooden box as drum), and Gome (giant bass frame drum) or "Premprensua" (hand-piano).  

Koo Nimo, one of the truly great living palmwine musicians, gives his own perspective on the origins of this genre:

"Palmwine is a local drink. In villages you find, under a shady tree, in the afternoons old men would relax and be telling stories about life. Marriage experiences, disappointments. Now, at that time seprewa was the instrument, the African harp-lute. And the seprewa player might be sitting around, then a palmwine tapper would bring a pot of palmwine, usually identified  by the foam on top. Then the calabash is passed round and they drink of palmwine. Now the music that is played under that environment was called palmwine guitar music. In this way, acoustic and folklore Highlife music inherited its name from the fact that it gained its popularity at Palm Wine bars, which symbolically represented music of the masses."

If you're further interested in this music be sure to check out the "Vintage Palmwine" album (recorded and released by John Collins) featuring classic palmwine musicians T.O. Jazz, Kwaa Mensah, and Koo Nimo. 

Also, this album  by Kwabena Nyama will simply blow you away!

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