Monday, April 9, 2012

Rest in Peace Jerry Hansen

Jerry Hansen, founder of Ghana's influential Ramblers International Dance Band, passed away in Accra Saturday, April 7th. He was 85. Besides leading the band and composing many of its hit songs, Hansen was a founding member and President of the Musicians Union of Ghana

The Ramblers, the last of Ghana's great "danceband highlife" orchestras, were founded in 1961 when Hansen left King Bruce's Black Beats. Their innovative sounds held them in good stead through the political upheavals of the 1970s and ínto the '80s when the band finally expired thanks to changing tastes and poor economic conditions.

Jerry Hansen was one of the last giants of the classic highlife sound and will be sorely missed. Remember him while listening to Ramblers International (Decca WAPS 334), an album from 1976:

Ramblers International - Akwanuma Hiani

Ramblers International - Dear Si Abotar

Ramblers International - Megye Wo

Ramblers International - Inemesti

Ramblers International - Maye Maye

Ramblers International - Mbre Ofiong

Ramblers International - Awusa Dzi Mi

Ramblers International - Esa Ni Otse Ohie

Ramblers International - Dodzi

Ramblers International - Ao Danye

Ramblers International - Highlife Medley

Download Ramblers International as a zipped file here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Alasa of Ibadanland

To an outsider, Lanrewaju Adepoju's Èwì would seem to be just another one of the many Yoruba percussion styles that are so popular in the southwestern corner of Nigeria: Fújì, Wákà, Àpàlà and the like. I've come to find out that èwì, properly understood, is not "music" at all but a chanted form of epic poetry, and that Adepoju is considered one of its greatest practitioners.

This by way of a fascinating essay, "Lanrewaju Adepoju and the Making of Modern Yoruba Poetry," by Oyeniyi Okunoye, which you can read in its entirety here. Okunoye marks the development of modern  èwì  around the time of Independence in 1960 and the broadcast of poetry in Western Nigeria. In 1964 Adepoju, who is proud of his status as a "self-made man" despite his lack of a formal education, began reading his poetry on Tiwa n Tiwa, a program on the Western Nigeria Broadcast Service in Ibadan, and went on to produce such programs as Kaaaro o o Jiire? ("Good Morning"), Barika ("Blessing/Greetings") and Ijinji Akewi ("The Poet at Dawn").

Born into a Muslim family, Adepoju dabbled for a time in mystical doctrines, associating with a group called the Servers of Cosmic Light for some years, returning to mainstream Sunni Islam in 1985. Okunoye writes:

Although Adepoju has emphasized the impact of his return to a conservative form of Islam on his poetic imagination, it is projected only superficially within the broader theistic vision that emerges in his work as a whole. With the obvious exception of poems in which he sets out to propagate particular Islamic doctrines, the vision that pervades his work constantly shifts between the Islamic and the ecumenical, blending Christian, Islamic and traditional Yoruba outlooks. This suggests either a split consciousness underlying Adepoju's work or a deliberate strategy aimed at popularity and relevance in a multi-religious society. His "Oriki Olodumare," a work that conceptually integrates Islamic, Christian and traditional Yoruba theistic visions, testifies to this.
The 1993 cassette Ìrònúpìwàdà ("Repentance," Lanrad LALPS 150), which I present here, is apparently one of Adepoju's works in a more "orthodox" Islamic vein. If anyone out there would care to provide a translation of the lyrics, I'm sure we'd all be interested:

Chief Lanrewaju Adepoju - Àsà Burúkú  

Download Ìrònúpìwàdà as a zipped file here.