Friday, December 31, 2010

"Miss African Brothers Band"

Interesting history about Ghana's legendary African Brothers Band from leader Nana Kwame Ampadu's personal website:

"Since 1969, the African Brothers Band organized a yearly “Miss African Brothers Band Int.” which was very highly patronized. The criteria for the competition was not so stringent but was limited to females who were not above 25 years only. Any contestant who won was crowned Miss African Brothers Band for that year, won a cash prize and records of the band, and was also privileged to attend any of the band commercials or private functions free of charge. The 1st and 2nd runner-ups were also given befitting prizes. The contestants prepared themselves well, especially with hairdo, make-ups and dresses where some were proudly sponsored by designers. The competition was carried on for 9 years from 1969-1978."

Emelia - African Brothers Band

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vida Rose & the Cool Guys - 7" (Gapophone)

I am rather fascinated by old-time highlife music featuring female singers, perhaps because these recordings are so difficult to come across. Female highlife singers in Ghana were largely marginalized through the first half of the 20th century due to social taboos and public perceptions of sexual promiscuity and impropriety. To quote concert party pioneer Bob Johnson, "A girl on stage would be branded a girl without morals." So, male actors took on the role of the female impersonator in the concert parties, while male "treble singers" strained to reach high, female-like vocal ranges. The few female singers who did make successful careers for themselves in the 1950s, '60s and '70s included Julie Okine, Charlotte Dada, Adwoa Badu, and Janet Osei, and these women surely faced some tremendous adversities.
Here we have a 7" single by "Highlife Sister no. 1" Vida Rose, released on the Gapophone label. According to John Collins, Rose was a guitarist in addition to being a singer, setting up her own concert party group in the late sixties. I've been intrigued by Rose since Voodoo Funk's "Big Mama Unice" mix back in 2007, and I humbly offer these two additional songs by the very cool Vida Rose.

    Vida Rose Single

Note: Vida Rose photos kindly borrowed from Voodoo funk.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Funeral of Kakraba Lobi

Xylophone-shaped coffin of Kakraba Lobi

Kakraba Lobi was one of Ghana's truly great gyil (xylophone) players, introducing musical innovations while working within traditional, "highlife," and "art music" styles. Recently I've enjoyed watching a short 10-minute film entitled "A Great Man Has Gone Out" by ethnomusicologist Brian Hogan, which documents Kakraba's 2007 funeral. Here we see some fantastic xylophone performances by such artists as Aaron Bebe, Hewale Sounds, SK (Kakraba's son), and others, while learning about the cultural context surrounding Ghanaian funerals and the complex gyil music of Northern Ghana. If you have ten minutes to spare, take a moment to watch this nice film all the way through. Watch it HERE

Kakraba Lobi - Funeral for an Old Man (aka Gandayina)

"A Great Man Has Gone Out: The Funeral of Kakraba Lobi" by Brian Hogan

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Joe Mensah - "The Afrikan Hustle"

Here we have a classic album from "Bosueman" Joe Mensah. Recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, "The Afrikan Hustle" features Mensah's hit tune "Bonsue." This 17-minute long track incorporates elements of jazz, dance-band, and funk, all built over a Yaa Amponsah riff. I love this song for Mensah's rhythmically spoken outbursts (Bo Bo Bo Bo Bonsue!), but also for its unique opening. Here, each instrument enters one after the other, creating the effect of layers being built upon each other (a process which lasts for over two and a half minutes).

The other three songs on side two of this album are just as good, no surprise considering that Mensah is backed by none other than the Sweet Talks! Smark Nkansah & A.B. Crentsil appear here as guitarists, while providing backup vocals throughout the album. Who knew!

Joe Mensah - Rokpokpo

Here, we also have a rendition of "Bonsue" performed live by Ebo Taylor and Gyedu-Blay Ambolley, via Youtube. I think Ambolley is perfectly suited for this song, with his own interpretation of the tune's signature spoken sections (Bo Bo Bonsueee!).  This performance looks like it was a blast, and its a shame that this video ends prematurely as the group is about to launch into "Yaa Amponsah." Enjoy!


                        "The Afrikan Hustle"