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!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Alex Konadu - Mewu Ama Wo

More great music from one of my favorites, legendary highlife musician Alex Konadu AKA "One Man Thousand," who passed away earlier this year.  Beautiful singing, intricate guitar work, and deep Akan harmonies here on Mewu Ama Wo. You can read more about Konadu's life and music HERE at ModernGhana.com.

Alex Konadu - Nsem Nyinaa Nyame