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.