Showing posts with label Ghana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ghana. Show all posts

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.

Monday, February 14, 2011

African Divas Vol. 4




Once again I'm forced to apologize for the infrequency of my posts lately. As usual, I have several projects in the hopper, but all kinds of personal business has intervened to prevent me from finishing them.

Fortunately, what should come over the transom but a fine new compilation by our friend Ken Abrams, who was responsible for a couple of installments in the fondly remembered African Serenades series a few years back. Ken calls this collection of tracks by female artists "African Woman is Boss" (a play on a calypso, "Woman is Boss") but with his permission I'm rechristening it African Divas Vol. 4, since I've been wanting to put together another installment in that series for some time.

Mostly off the World Music™ radar, these chanteuses are testimony to the talent and artistry of Africa's female singers. Enjoy!

1. Deka - Ade Liz (Cote d'Ivoire)
2. Fide (Le Repos) - N. Lauretta (Cameroun)
3. Mumi We Njo - Cella Stella (Benin)
4. Je Caime Larsey - Lady Talata (Ghana)
5. Oa - Betuel Enola (Cameroun)
6. Time - Sissy Dipoko (Cameroun)
7. Shameributi - Oyana Efiem Pelagie & Soukous Stars (Gabon)
8. Komeka Te - Pembey Sheiro (Congo)
9. Mu Mengu - Itsiembu-y-Mbin (Cameroun)
10. Mbo Ya? - Lolo (Cameroun)
11. Gbaunkalay - Afro National (Sierra Leone)
12. Gnon Sanhon - Rose Ba (Togo)
13. Djombo - Hadja Soumano (Mali)
14. Kanyama - Amayenge (Zambia)
15. Mesa Ko Noviwo O - Okyeame Kwame Bediako & his Messengers (Ghana)
16. Mede Yta - Yta Jourias (Togo)
17. Play Play - Wulomei (Ghana)
Download African Divas Vol 4 here (and you can get Vol. 1 here, Vol. 2 here, and Vol. 3 here). Be advised also that in addition to his musical interests, Ken Abrams is a talented artist. Check out his work here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

One Man Thousand




The 1976 album Asaase Asa (Brobisco KBL 016) was a breakthrough hit for Alex Konadu, establishing him as Ghana's foremost exponent of "roots highlife." The title song is based on a true story about Mr. Asaase Asa, who lost both his wife and sister when they were killed by a falling tree. It is dedicated to all who have lost their loved ones.

Konadu had been singing since an early age, and became a leader of the Kantamanto Bosco Group before moving on to the band of the well-known Kwabena Akwaboah for three years and then to the Happy Brothers Band. After going solo he was discovered by the producer A.K. Brobbey and the rest, as they say, is history.

His ability to draw crowds wherever he goes has given Konadu the appellation "One Man Thousand." Withstanding the vicissitudes of fame and fashion, and staying true to his vision of pure, unadulterated highlife music, he has been an inspiration to Ghanaian musicians for years. While Konadu has issued many wonderful recordings over the decades, Asaase Asa is still considered one of his most noteworthy achievements. Enjoy!

Alex Konadu's Band - Obi Aware Wo

Alex Konadu's Band - Me Ne Me Aserene


Alex Konadu's Band - Obiri Pajampram

Alex Konadu's Band - Owuo Mpe Sika

Alex Konadu's Band - Emum Aso Dae

Alex Konadu's Band - Asem Ne Me Ara

Alex Konadu's Band - Asaase Asa

Alex Konadu's Band - W'awu Da Ho No

Download Asaase Asa as a zipped file here. For a taste of Alex Konadu recorded before a live audience,
be sure to check out his album One Man Thousand Live in London.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Heads Up




A big "thank you" to Zim Bida, who tipped me off to this great mix of classic Nigerian highlife (and one track from Ghana's Professional Uhuru Dance Band) from the Washington City Paper here. It's awfully tasty! The tracklisting:


1. Easy Life Dandies – “Oko Dotunla”
2. Godwin Ezike & The Ambassadors – “Gboli We”
3. The Magnificent Zeinians – “Ngozi Chukwu Ka”
4. Oriental Brothers International – “Ihe-Che-Nyerem”
5. Anyamel & His Okuato Band – “Uwa Ka Njo”
6. Eastern Minstrels Guitar Band – “Akwa Onwu”
7. Celestine Obiakor & His Entertainment Group – “Echendu Nwa Eze”
8. Godwin Ezike & The Ambassadors – “Mini Gown”
9. Eastern Minstrels Guitar Band – “Ogbu Nwa Ya Ogu Agarala Ya”
10. Easy Life Dandies – “Gbami Gbami Baba Gbogbo Oni”
11. Anyamel & His Okuato Band – “Jumbo Kedi Nnegi”
12. Professional Uhuru Dance Band – “Ewu Ngyadze”
13. Eastern Minstrels Guitar Band – “Aka Kpara Ngaji Uregbue Onu”
14. Celestine Obiakor & His Entertainment Group – “Piter Mighasi Nma Na Obo”
15. Cardinal Rex Lawson & His Majors Band of Nigeria – “Abasi Ye Enye”
16. Oriental Brothers International – “Uwa-Atualamujo”
17. Eastern Minstrels Guitar Band – “Echehula Nwa Nne Gi”
18. Easy Life Dandies – “Iyawo Madale”
19. The Magnificent Zeinians – “Good Luck To You My Girl”

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Roots of "Art Music"




I didn't know what to expect when I posted a recording of Fela Sowande's African Suite a couple of weeks ago, but the reaction has been surprisingly positive, not only in comments and emails but in the the number of downloads.

I say "surprisingly positive" because I didn't know what people would make of this effort to fuse African traditional music with European classical forms. Turns out that African "Art Music" isn't the obscure back ally that I thought it was. Not only is there a lot of it out there, it is the subject of a surprising amount of scholarship. Andreas Wetter directs us to two articles on his website Ntama, and the internet offers up considerable analysis for those who are interested.

Reader/listener

George Williams Aingo - Akuko Nu Bonto

Ghanaian composer Ephraim Kwaku Amu was a trail-blazer in the field of transcription of traditional African songs. He was born in 1899 and began teaching in 1920, contemporaneously with his musical education under the Rev. Allotey-Pappoe.

Soon he had composed a number of popular songs, including "Mawo do na Yesu" ("I Shall Work for Jesus"), "Onipa," "Da Wo So" and "Yen Ara Asase Ni." His cultural nationalist tendencies led to a break with the Church, and he left for London in 1937 to study at the Royal College of Music. It was here that he learned to fuse African polyphony with European forms of music. In the late '60s Amu was the director of the University of Ghana Chorus, which recorded the LP Ghana Asuafo Reto Dwom (Ghanaian Students Sing) for Afro Request Records (SPLP 5027). Amu's composition "Ennye Ye Angye Da," included on the album, was the basis for "Joyful Day" in Sowande's African Suite. From the liner notes, the lyrics are as follows:


This is a joyful day.
Why be sad, when all around is happy and merry?
Work and merrymaking alternate each other to make life enjoyable.
We pledge to engage in both, work and merrymaking, each in its appropriate time to make life happy and merry.
University of Ghana Chorus - Ennye Ye Angye Da



Miles Cleret of Soundway Records asked my wife Priscilla to translate some Igbo-language songs for inclusion on the upcoming Volume 2 of the amazing Nigeria Special. Interestingly, in light of our subject matter, one of those songs, "Egwu Umuagboho" ("The Young Maidens' Dance") is by Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko (above), one of the leading lights of Nigerian Art Music. Ms. Nwosu was born in 1940 and has lived in the United States since 1996. In 1961 she journeyed to Rome on an Eastern Nigerian Government scholarship with the ambition of becoming an opera singer. Here she studied in several conservatories for ten years. Returning to Nigeria in 1972, she became Producer of Musical Programs for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation and became a Musical Lecturer at the University of Lagos in 1975, holding a number of posts in that institution until 1992.

Ms. Nwosu has recorded several LPs in Nigeria and is responsible for numerous popular compositions. "Egwu Umuagboho," recorded with Dan Satch Joseph's band, is quite unusual for an Igbo song, reflecting her operatic training. It is based on the traditional girls' dance of Nwosu's Enugu region. Lyrically it is more of a "tone poem" than a straight narrative, adress to a girl named Agnes: "Beautiful Agnes. . . what slight is done to another person? . . . peace, peace Udoegwu. . . anger and quarrel. . . Agnes, it's me talking, Agnes, it's me calling:

Joy Nwosu & Dan Satch Joseph - Egwu Umuagboho

"Egwu Umuagboho" is unavailable for download at this time. Many thanks again to

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Africa Roots Vol. 4




I'll be out of town for a week and don't expect to be able to blog, but I wanted to get something in, so this one's a quickie.

I never managed to snag Vols. 1-3 of the legendary Africa Roots series, recorded at the Melkweg in Amsterdam in the early '80s. I did get hold of the fourth and final (?) installment, and what a wonderful recording it is!

Click on the picture below to read about the artists and the songs. The standout here is Mali's legendary Salif Keita along with the equally fabled Kante Manfila and Ousmane Kouyate, who deliver a scorching rendition of the Ambassadeurs classic "Primpin." Senegal's Baaba Maal, Algeria's Cheb Mami, Angola's Bonga and A.B. Crentsil from Ghana don't disappoint either with inspired renditions of some of their greatest songs. It's all good!

Listening to these tracks will take some of you back to the exciting days of the '80s when every day brought a new revelation for us African music fans and World Music™ had yet to be conceived. Enjoy!

Salif Keita & Les Ambassadeurs - Primpin

Baaba Maal & l'Orchestre - Dental

Baaba Maal & l'Orchestre - Yela

Baaba Maal & l'Orchestre - Lomtoro

Cheb Mami - Sanlou Ala Enabi

Bonga - Kua' Sanzala

Bonga - Camin Longe

A.B. Crentsil - Osokoo

A.B. Crentsil - Atia


A.B. Crentsil - Ahurusi




Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's Highlife Time




I've been on a Ghana kick lately, digging out a lot of semi-forgotten vinyl in my collection that I haven't listened to in years. I know you won't mind if I share it with you!

Other than falling under the general rubric "Ghana Highlife," the tunes in this post don't follow any particular theme - I more or less pulled them out at random. There's the classic danceband sound and the more stripped-down guitar highlife style, and even an example of the controversial "Burgher" highlife genre. I've left for future posts some of the big names - the African Brothers, Alex Konadu, A.B. Crentsil and Jewel Ackah - as well as the multitude of Ghanaian artists who made careers in Nigeria during the '70s and '80s.

Yamoah's Guitar Band, based in Kumasi and led by Peter Kwabena Yamoah (right), emerged from the Ghana concert party scene in the 1950s and has been one of the most influential Ghanaian music outfits ever since, which makes its lack of recognition outside Ghana all the more unjust. Nana Ampadu of African Brothers fame got his start there, as did guitarist Smart Nkansah and the sublime vocalist Agyaaku, who later formed the Sunsum Band (more about which later). I'm not sure when Yamoah's Special (Motorway MTL 3001) was released, nor does it feature any credits, but I suspect it came out in the early '70s and does feature Nkansah and Agyaaku. "Saa Na Odo Te/Otan Gu Ahorow" is a killer track, and "Suro Nea Obesee Wo" is almost as good:

Yamoah's Band -
Saa Na Odo Te/Otan Gu Ahorow

Yamoah's Band -
Suro Nea Obesee Wo

Pat Thomas served as a vocalist with the Broadway Dance Band, the Stargazers and the Uhurus before False Lover (Gapophone GAPO LP 02, 1974) introduced him to the world fronting the Sweet Beans, official band of the government Cocoa Marketing Board. He went on to became one of Ghana's most popular vocalists, and while his star has dimmed somewhat since, his sweet voice and sparkling arrangements are hard to forget. Not content to dip his toes in the reggae sound then sweeping Africa, Thomas jumps in head-first in the first four songs on False Lover, notably this one:

Pat Thomas & the Sweet Beans - Revolution

The rest of the album, billed as an attempt to revive the danceband sound, succeeds admirably:

Pat Thomas & the Sweet Beans - Don't Beat the Time

Pat Thomas & the Sweet Beans - Merebre

Pat Thomas & the Sweet Beans - Wabe Aso



I mentioned in my last post The Guitar and Gun (Sterns Earthworks STEW 50CD, 2003), which collects tracks from The Guitar and the Gun Vol. 1 (Africagram A DRY 1, 1983) and The Guitar and the Gun Vol. 2 (Africagram A DRY 6, 1985) John Collins' groundbreaking collections of Ghana highlife. Inexplicable to me is the exclusion of the African Internatonals' "Noko Nya M'akire" from Vol. 1, probably the best track on either record. To correct this oversight, I make it available here:

African Internationals - Noko Nya M'akire



Smart Nkansah and Agyaaku became friends when they were part of Yamoah's Band in the late '60s. A few years later Nkansah went his own way, eventually forming the immortal Sweet Talks Band with A.B. Crentsil in 1975, which recorded such classics as Adam and Eve and Hollywood Highlife Party before falling apart.

Nkansah & Agyaaku later reunited to form the Black Hustlers before founding the Sunsum Band in 1981. Their album Odo (Love) (ASA Records ASA 1001, 1984) features an exciting blend of guitar highlife, the classic danceband sound and the vocal stylings of Becky B, Smart Nkansah's sister-in-law. The title track was included in my compilation African Divas Vol. 1. "Mensee Madwen" is a medley from Side 2 of the LP:

The Sunsum Band - Mensee Madwen



Over the years thriving Ghanaian communities have developed in the United Kingdom, Canada and the U.S. Interestingly, because of relatively liberal immigration laws at the time, a sizable Ghanaian population emerged in Germany during the 1970s, and this community gave birth to the so-called "Burgher" highlife phenomenon.

Excoriated and loathed by purists, Burgher highlife, along with Hiplife, has come to define the modern-day highlife sound in Ghana. George Darko's "Akoo Te Brofo," released in 1983 with its funkified beat and heavy reliance on electronic instrumentation, is generally considered the first Burgher highlife hit. Musicians like Kantata, Rex Gyamfi and McGod were quick to follow in Darko's footsteps.

Charles Amoah's Eyε Odo Asεm (Cage Records 01-18957, 1987) is pretty much your archetypal Burgher highlife record, recorded in Dusseldorf and featuring mainly German musicians, German producers, even a German art director! Amoah himself started out playing straight-ahead highlife music in the '70s with the likes of the Happy Boys led by Kwabena Akwaboah and Alex Konadu's Band. He ended up in Germany in the late '70s where he bounced around various bands before releasing Sweet Vibration in 1984, the first of his many hit records.

Amoah has since returned to Ghana, where he has a prosperous career touring and recording. Here's a tune from Eyε Odo Asεm:

Charles Amoah - Di Ahurusi



If you'd like to hear some more contemprary examples of Burgher highlife, go here. Many thanks to Akwaboa of Highlife Haven, who provided useful information.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Exploring Ga Cultural Highlife




I often tell Priscilla that if I leave this mortal coil before her and she's hard up for cash, she can raffle off my record collection on Ebay. Some of the prices people are getting for their old African vinyl are astronomical and mind-boggling. $300 for a scratchy old disco record by Christy Essien-Igbokwe? Come on, people!

Some of you may remember the old alt.music.african usegroup back when the internet was first catching on big-time (and is it still around?). I used to be a pretty active participant back around 1998. At one point a record dealer in North Carolina or some place posted a list of some records he wanted to unload. This guy didn't specialize in African music but he had come across about twenty or so primo West African pressings that he was auctioning off to the highest bidder. There were a few Fela records, a couple of Sonny Okosuns, and most intriguingly, a number of LPs labeled "tribal vinyl from Ghana." I hadn't heard of any of the artists mentioned, but the minimum bid was $5, so what did I have to lose?

As the auction proceeded over the next week, it became apparent that while there was a healthy interest in the Fela and Okosun records, I was the only person who wanted the Ghanaian LPs, so I obtained these mint-condition pressings for five dollars each!

On first listen it was obvious that I had come into possession of some rare gems. These records were in a style about which I had heretofore known very little, "Ga Cultural Highlife," a mainly acoustic, perscussion-based genre described by musicologist John Collins as originating in the early '70s among the Ga people around Ghana's capital city Accra.

A record reviewer I read once made a derisive reference to Ghanaian "Jug Band Music." I think she was referring to those Makossa Records pressings that came out in the late '70s (and if you've been collecting for a while, you know what I'm talking about), but the label could more accurately describe these wonderful recordings.

Take the Suku Troupe, whose home-made instrumentation and heartfelt enthusiasm blow some of the more professional highlife combos out of the water! The group was founded in 1976 by Nene Acquah and featured vocalist Maa Amanua (above left), quickly achieving fame throughout Ghana and other parts of West Africa. Here are two tracks from their second album, Ye Wanno Komm (Donno WADLP 002, 1978):

Suku Troupe - Awonye Lee

Suku Troupe - Hwe Wo Ho Yie

I've been unable to find out anything about the Ashiedu Keteke Cultural Group led by Nii France, but here's some wonderful music from their 1978 album Gbo Ofo Mino (Polydor 2940 015):

Ashiedu Keteke Cultural Group - Ake Me Aya

Ashiedu Keteke Cultural Group - Edo Mi



Likewise the background and history of the Adzo Troupe, led by Amartei B.C., are a mystery to me, but listen to these tunes from their 1979 LP Siolele (Essiebons 1277938). Interestingly, the group was managed by Stan Plange, who also led the popular Uhuru Dance Band back in the day:

Adzo Troupe - Siolele

Ado Troupe - Kerodze



Akwwetey Wallas had a peripatetic musical career before founding the Gaamashiebii Cultural Troupe in the mid '70s, starting out in the band led by his brother Oko Jack Bay. He went on to join the Obadzen Cultural Troupe led by Renaissance man Saka Acquaye. His musical itch then led him to found the Blemabii and Obuabedii Cultural Troupes in quick succession.

The liner notes of Gamashiebii's debut LP Ebaa Gbeee (Obuoba JNA 10) state,". . . For its twelve months of existence the Gamashibii Cultural Troupe has established itself as one of the best exponents of traditional music and has therefore earned it a participating place in most social activities in the Gamashi area. . . It cannot be gain said that this musical masterpiece will for some time come to liven up many homes." Hear for yourself!

Gamashiebii Cultural Troupe - Wuobi (Akroma)

Gamashiebii Cultural Troupe - Faale Ke Mi Ya (Pt. 2)



Of all of the groups featured in this posts, Wulomei, led by Nii Tei Ashitey, is the only one that has achieved a measure of fame outside of Ghana. Indeed, the name in practically synonymous with Ga Cultural Highlife. Under the name Sensational Wulomei, the group is still in existence and still perforforming in the Accra area after 36 years.

Here's some music from Wulomei's 1978 album Kunta Kinte (Philips 6354 022):

Wulomei - Aplanke

Wulomei - Kwani Kwani



By the way, if you like the music in this post, I can't recommend enough The Guitar and Gun (Sterns Earthworks STEW 50CD), which puts back into circulation John Collins' seminal highlife recordings from the early 80s. It's not all Ga Cultural Highlife, but it's all wonderful.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Red Spots, Black Beats and Stargazers




Reader/listener Malam Bala, in a recent comment, reminded me that this blog is long overdue for a posting of good old Ghana highlife music. And what better way to correct this oversight than to post the LP Akom Ko (Decca WAP 281)? This fine compilation features the down-home sounds of guitar highlife on Side One, while Side Two showcases the more sophisticated danceband sound.

Back in the 1990s John Storm Roberts' Original Music label released a series of
Ghana highlife CDs that are eagerly sought out by African music aficionados, being as they are long out of print. Giants of Danceband Highlife (OMCD 011, 1990), I've Found My Love: 1960's Guitar Band Highlife of Ghana (OMCD 019, 1993) and Telephone Lobi: More Giants of Danceband Highlife (OMCD 033, 1995) cover much of the same musical territory as Akom Ko, but there is very little duplication of the music itself. So, if you are fortunate enough to own any of the Original Music compilations, consider this another volume in the series.

I suspect these recordings were made in the 1960s or at the very latest, the early 1970s, but Akom Ko itself was apparently pressed sometime in the '70s. I've tried to find out as much about the musicians as I could, but some artists, as talented as they are, dwell in obscurity. I'm passing on what information I have. If you'd like to pursue further studies, John Collins' "Musicmakers of West Africa" (3 Continents Press, 1985) is a good place to start, as well as a number of very informative articles he's written for Afropop Worldwide.


Royal Brothers - Anamon Nsiah

Boaken Stars - Medze M'awerεho Bεko

Bob Kwabena Akwaboah, founder of the band that bears his name, passed away January 2, 2004, leaving a legacy of numerous hit songs and LPs recorded during the 1960s and '70s. His son, Kwadwo Akwaboah, founded the Marriots International Band, which had a burst of popularity in the early 1990s:

Akwaboah's Band - Osu a Mesu

Awesome Tapes From Africa calls Yamoah "one of the greatest highlife singers ever," and I don't doubt it. I've been unable to find out much about this musician and his band, other than the fact that Nana Ampadu, founder of the African Brothers Band and a giant of the 1970-80s highlife scene, got his start with them:

Yamoah's Band - Nkrabea

Oppong's Band - Assaase Nkyiri Fun

Akwaboah's Band - Adeakye Abia

M.K. Manson - Nkokohwedeε Mienu

The Black Beats Dance Band was founded in 1952 by King Bruce and Saka Acquaye. Bruce, born in 1922, had already played with a number of the giants of the Ghana danceband scene like E.T. Mensah and Kofi Ghanaba, and the Black Beats were a very influential group for their time, recording innumerable hits and giving birth to several other outstanding orchestras including Jerry Hanson's Ramblers Dance Band and Acquaye's African Ensemble. A very informative article about King Bruce and the Black Beats by John Collins can be found here:

Black Beats - Medo Wo Sε Wote Yi Ara

The Red Spots, popular from the '50s through the '70s, were founded by Tommy Gripman, who got his start in E.T. Mensah's Tempo's Dance Band:

Red Spots - Oyε a Kae Me

The Broadway Dance Band, based in Sekondi-Takoradi, was led by a Nigerian trumpeter, Sammy Obot and included many great musicians like Stan Plange, Joe Mensah and Duke Duker. Following a legal dispute in 1964, it changed its name to the Uhuru Dance Band and continued to play a vital role in the Ghana music scene until the Seventies:

Broadway Dance Band - Menua

Black Beats - Anibre Sεm

Stargazers Dance Band - Owu Ayε Me Ade

Black Beats - Me Yε Ayera



Update: Akwaboah, who hosts the excellent new blog Highlife Haven, writes: ". . . please let me correct your remark about Kwabena Yamoah: he is the bandleader and guitarist, not the singer. The 'treble singer' on Yamoahs albums is the great Agyaku, who later recorded with Eric Agyeman and Smart Nkansah's Sunsum Band." Thanks, Akwaboah!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

African Divas Vol. 1




With the kids back in school and monopolizing the computer, and me swamped under a ton of overtime, I just haven't been able to give this blog the attention it deserves. As usual, I have several posts in progress, which I'm putting the finishing touches on, but I haven't wrapped things up yet.

Still, I want to put something up, so here goes:

You're probably familiar with Matt Temple's blog Matsuli Music. Last year, shortly before I started Likembe, I compiled an installment in his great "African Serenades" series. It was Volume 47 in two parts, subtitled African Divas 1 and African Divas 2, a selection of great female vocalists from across the continent.

I'm really proud of the work I did on this collection, but it was only online for a week or two on Matsuli Music. So I'm bringing it back into the light of day here. Here's the tracklist for Volume One:

1. E Beh Kiyah Kooney – Princess Fatu Gayflor (Liberia)
2. Haya – Khadja Nin (Burundi)
3. Ndare – Cécile Kayirebwa (Rwanda)
4. Du Balai – Angèle Assélé (Gabon)
5. Kalkidan – Hamelmal Abate (Ethiopia)
6. Ezi Gbo Dim - Nelly Uchendu (Nigeria)
7. Odo (Love) – Sunsum Band featuring Becky B (Ghana)
8. Dikom Lam La Moto – Charlotte Mbango (Cameroun)
9. Kuteleza Si Kwanguka – Lady Isa (Kenya)
10. Vis à Vis – Monique Seka (Côte d’Ivoire)
11. Femme Commerçante – M’pongo Love (Congo-Kinshasa)
12. Fe, Fe, Fe – Tina Dakoury (Côte d’Ivoire)
13. Koumba – Tshala Muana (Congo-Kinshasa)
14. Fote – Djanka Diabate (Guinea)
There are a few tracks you will recognize if you've been following Likembe for a while, but most may be new to you. In a departure from my usual practice, I'm posting this as a zipped file (108 MB) rather than as individual tracks, as it was meant to be listened to as a unit. An inlay card has been included as a Word file if you want to make your own CD. Volume 2 will follow shortly:

African Divas Vol. 1

Thursday, December 20, 2007

This One's For You, Jamie Lynn


(Note: This post was updated on December 21, 2007.)

The African Brothers Band International, led by Nana Kwame Ampadu I, are a Ghanaian institution, having been in existence since 1963, and have upheld the Guitar Highlife standard through assorted fads and vicissitudes. They are distinguished not only by their professionalism and innovation, but their lyrics, which often address social problems, as in this selection:

African Brothers Band - Teenage Pregnancy

I haven't heard much from the Brothers lately, but I believe they're still plugging away. "Teenage Pregnancy" is from their early '90s cassette release, Kukrukukru (Akuboat Music).

After first posting this, and listening to the African Brothers for the first time in a number of years, I realized once again how much I enjoyed their down-home vocals and simple, unaffected stylings. The Brothers are not unknown to African music fans who've been around for awhile. Several of their LPs were released by Makossa Records in the U.S. during the '70s and '80s, as was Me Poma
(Sterns 1004) in the U.K. in 1984. These are now all long out of print.

Here are two more African Brothers tracks, both from Tunes to Remember (Akuboat CAB 029), a "Greatest Hits" CD issued around 1992:

African Brothers Band International - Somu Gye W'akrantee Ntoaso

African Brothers Band International - Yenwiee Abrabo

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Some Recent Tunes From Ghana


If you're a homesick Ghanaian who's hungry for the taste of Banku, Kenkey or Shito, Makola Super Market in Chicago (1017 W. Wilson Ave., 773-935-6990 or 773-878-3958) is the place to go. In addition to its culinary offerings, Makola has a nice selection of Ghanaian DVDs and CDs, almost none of them available through the usual World Music™ sources.

I've been wanting to do a post on Ghanaian music, and since I'm a bit pinched for time, it seemed easy enough to rip some tracks from a few of these CDs. I got these the last time I was in Makola, which must have been four or five years ago, as they're all dated around 2002. So, they're not the very latest thing from Ghana, but they do give one a decent idea of what's been going on musically in that country recently.

Those hoping for the sophisticated sounds of classic dance-band highlife ala the Ramblers or Uhurus, or the down-home guitar stylings epitomized by the African Brothers Band are in for a disappointment. These tracks are all in the synthesizer-heavy "Burger highlife" style that started among Ghanaian musicians in Germany twenty years ago and has been so popular of late. I'm a bit distressed about the eclipse of the classic Ghana guitar sound myself (and if it hasn't been eclipsed, please school me; I'm not as up to date on these matters as I should be!), but I have to say that for synth-pop, these tunes pretty much hit the spot for me. The cheesiness quotient is low, the arrangements are top-rate, and the vocals are mighty fine indeed.

I can't tell you much about the artists, nor anything about the lyrics. If anyone out there is familiar with Twi or whatever language(s) these are in, please enlighten us!

Nana Tuffour is the only one of these musicians that I was familiar with. He is said to have been born on Valentine's Day 1954 and has been recording since at least the 1980s, having released numerous LPs, cassettes and CDs. "Abeiku" is from his CD of the same name (Owusek Productions OW 66-2, 2002). The prolific Oheneba Kissi has been recording since 1990 and has put out 13 albums. I was kinda knocked on my heels by the opening notes of "Wogya Me Ho A," a fine tune from his 2002 release ABC of Love (Owusek Productions OW 65-2).

Nana Tuffour - Abeiku

Oheneba Kissi - Wogya Me Ho A



It just goes to show how out of it I am that I'd never heard of Kojo Antwi - he's released at least a dozen CDs. His voice has been compared to R. Kelly's, and he looks a little like him, too. "Eva," aka "Sista Sledge," accompanies him on "Odo Ano Wappi," from Densu (Freedom Family Music FFM08152002-12, 2002). I can't tell you much about Nana Acheampong other than he was one of the famous Lumba Brothers back in the '80s before going solo
. He has issued numerous cassettes and CDs on his own and recently re-united with his partner Daddy Lumba (Charles Kwadwo Fosu) for a Lumba Brothers reunion tour. "Gyegye Meso" is from XXL (Owohene Productions MOR 0210).

Kojo Antwi - Odo Ano Wappi

Nana Acheampong - Gyegye Meso



London-based Kwaisey Pee has several CDs to his credit and has been making inroads in the home market. "Enye Agro" is from Krokro Me (New Era Productions). I was quite impressed with Kaakyire Kwame Appiah's Eye Gye (Tropic Vibe Productions 2002-2003). Not only does Mr. Appiah pay tribute to Nico Mbarga's "Sweet Mother" in this tune, "Kono Saa," he also references the Mahotella Queens' "Kazet" on another track, "Shubidu." Catch the video here.

Kwaisey Pee - Enye Agro

Kaakyire Kwame Appiah -
Kono Saa



If you're interested in obtaining any of this sort of music, try Ghana.co.uk. I've not had any dealings with them, so I can't say how reliable they are, but their website features an excellent selection.