Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ebo Taylor...and Usher?

I think highlife (& African popular music in general) has been making a serious comeback over the past few years both internationally and within the continent. Compilations and reissues just keep coming, while musicians themselves are going back to their roots. I was happy to read that music legend Ebo Taylor is planning to release his first "international" album later this year. Here's a excerpt from record label Strut :

Interest in Ebo Taylor’s music has grown in recent years with a series of Ghanaian compilations on Soundway Records and Analog Africa and an unexpected sample as Usher lifted a riff from ‘Heaven’ for his hit with Ludacris, ‘She Don’t Know.’ A new Ebo Taylor album was a natural progression. "For new album, I wanted to advance the cause of Afrobeat music. Fela started it and we shouldn’t just abandon it. We should push it so it is a standard form of music." The result is a firing new set backed by Afrobeat Academy, a Berlin-based collective of international musicians. Tracks include new versions of Taylor classics ‘Victory’ and ‘Love And Death’ and a selection of new compositions including ‘Kwame,’ celebrating Ghana’s late, lamented leader Kwame Nkrumah.

I'm sure the new album will be great.

But can you believe this Usher business!!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Soul Winners - Wala Aboloo

Anyone who thinks highlife music is dead and gone need only listen to the latest gospel music coming out of Ghana.  It seems to me more and more that these gospel musicians have created a style that is at once fresh and contemporary, while rooted in the tradition of classic highlife. Chord progressions, structures, and melodic/vocal elements of the latest gospel song may very well appear in anything by the African Brothers, City Boys, C.K. Mann, etc. Some might disagree with me, but I really believe in this close connection.

"Wala Aboloo" by the Soul Winners comes from a few years back.  This "traditional gospel" group (as they  describe themselves) is somewhat unique, as they depart from the usual synthesizer driver sound, combing atenteben flutes, trumpets and guitar with clapping and a more traditional set of percussion instruments (rather than a kit drum). The song is sung in Ga, and several specifically Ga instruments appear, including Kpanlogo drums, Gome (a box-like frame drum played while sat upon), and Osrama (a long, high pitched type of talking drum that is played with sticks).

Really, it's a nice song.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

This is Marijata!

Very funky music that pretty much speaks for itself. Many people would consider it a top favorite.

-No Condition is Permanent-
-Break Through-
-I Walk Alone-
-We Live in Peace-

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The First One: Agoro Nkoaa, Simigwa, Gbo Ofɔ Minɔ

The deeper I go into this music, African music, the more I fall in love, and the more I want to share it with as many people as possible.  This blog is an attempt to do just that.  Here, my posts will focus mainly on Ghanaian music in its many rich forms, from Highlife, Gospel and Hiplife to the work of composers like Kwabena Nketia and the tremendously diverse array of traditional music styles.  In addition to old albums I plan to post videos, photos, text from books, and any other small findings from the net you might find interesting. 

I've started by posting three albums from the '70s, none of which are particularly related to each other. The first, "Agoro Nkoaa: Party Time Africa," is a compilation by Agoro Records featuring the likes of Ogyatanaa, Ambolley, Wulomei, Eddie Donkor, Houghas Sorowonko, etc.  Also, the cover is one of my all-time favorites!  Here's a nice description from the back:

"Agoro Records provides on this album a non-stop medley of entertaining and exciting HIGHLIFE music -- particularly prevalent along the West Coast of Africa -- at its best.  It is surely the music that should make your 'life' go 'high' ; the type of sound you are bound to hear wherever two or three of the folks are gathered -- for what is a party? Every such time is Party Time in Africa -- as long as there is a sound to arouse that inborn rhythmic feeling."

Gyedu-Blay Ambolley's "Simigwa" is a classic that makes you feel like dancing right away. It's not exactly afrobeat (at least not Fela style), but there's something about Ambolley's own unique brand of funk (with a bit of James Brown thrown in) that grabs me more than most similar artists. You can read more about him here if you'd like. Listen to it.

I think this album by The Ashiedu Keteke Cultural Group is amazing, one of my favorites in the Ga cultural style played by groups like Wulomei, Suku, Dzadzeloi, etc. (there are dozens more). "Ashiedu Keteke" is one of Accra's eleven sub-metro areas, containing the dynamic neighborhood of Ga Mashie in "old Accra, the historical center of the capital city of Ghana."  This Ga area is rich in history, encompassing places like Jamestown, Ussher Town, Bukom and others.  It is where the Ga cultural style was born during the '70s (and continues to flourish) along with somewhat older "traditional" styles like Kpanlogo, Gome, and Kolomashie.  Ga Mashie currently faces some economic hardships in terms of development and poverty alleviation, yet this area remains beautiful, vital and inspiring.  I'm sure I will go into more depth about Ga Mashie, cultural highlife, and Ga music in the future, but for now check out John B.'s  great post "Ga Cultural Highlife" at Likembe if you haven't already.

Also, please enjoy this giant billboard of Gyedu-Blay Ambolley 
next to the post office in Accra!