Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

African Records (Hi-life) Review

Kwabena Mensah

GEORGE DARKO & "BUS TOP": 'Hi-Life Time' (Okoman Records DA2) ('Kaakyire Nua' 'Odoyewu'/ Children's Song' 'Highlife Time'.

'Kaakyire Nua' which should have been the title track has the melodic expansiveness of a classic number - a good follow-up to 'Akoo Te Brofo'. It might frustrate you if you are a hi-life traditionalist but you could be subdued by the opening synthesizer of the ubiquitous Bob Fiscian which continues apace, otherwise wait for the keyboard or Lee Duodu's voice to give you the key to the track.

The chorus is harmony itself so is the German's alto saxophone phrases in the vein of 'Akoo Te Brofo'. You can be overwhelmed by George Darko's guitar if the heavy synthesizer and Keyboards fail you. The controversy is which is better: 'Kaakyire Nua' or 'Akoo Te Brofo'?

'Odoyewu' begins with drums calling for attention and putting you on synthesizer and keyboard arrangements (reminding you of Rodney Franklin) beautiful enough to switch your mind to the track, even far away. It allows Lee to really stretch out vocally and sentimentally to give you goose pimples. Your soul is lifted to listen to guitar approaching George Benson on acoustic guitar. But the guitar has originality and uniqueness especially backed by full orchestra and of course Sommetimer's bass guitar, and dies off gradually and smoothly. The musician's track - a professional work.

'Children's Song' is funkish right from the beginning. The vocal work and the alto saxophone do equally well to enliven the tempo and to encourage you (if you are a parent) to let the children play and dance.

The alto saxophone is at its best to help you spread your love around indeed. Half way through the track Lee raps the audience and the beat gradually goes up-tempo (completely danceable) to the sympathy of Pagger's drums while the guitar is forthcoming. One big happy family dancing.

The ghost of 'Akoo Te Brofo' lingers on in Highlife Time' except that this is sung in English. You are invited to get on the beat after Bob Fiscian. The track punches into action and is irresistibly itchy. If it does not turn you on you are a devil? Because it is sunshine music. Do not raise your hands when you are dancing, wait for the guitar, saxophone and all especially the drums which permeate the album. Lee raps the audience once again, teaching you singing. The favourite track of London Radio DJ's.

ARIC AGYEMANG; 'Wonko Menko'? Modern Highlife (Essiebons EBLS 7111) 'Wonko Menko? 'Nya Abotare Ma Me'/'Odo Bra' 'Men Koaa'

'Wonko Menko?' forcefully begins with the horns section calling for attention and there goes the smooth hi- life always associated with Eric. His guitar sounds Zairean. The very rhythmic 'Mmatutu Mmrika' style creeps into it and half way through the track the organ is simply soothing.

The vocal delivery by Agyakku (formerly of Yamoah's Band) will invite you into listening but you cannot stop dancing. Why? Because the hi-life element is tempting especially when Eric gives you more Zairean guitar solos. Finally, you re-unite completely with the tune as Agyaaku asks you 'Wonko Menko'.

'Nya Abotare Ma Me' begins with a organ orientated punch which could have come in from time to time to complete the beauty of it. The good voice of Thomas Frempong does come in well, of course, don't forget the flavour of the horns section which allow the trumpet and alto sax room for solos familiar with the Kokroko Band. The beauty of organ and horns and it all.

Love is expressed in 'Odo Bra' but not at the expense of smoothness which abounds in the track especially when the horns take up the story again. Don't be put off by the sudden jump into higher pitch half way through by the singers because you are quickly invited to bear with the good hi-life. There is perhaps too much improvisation.

Traditional improvisation nearly takes us to Zairean soukous in 'Men Koaa'. The chorus is bearable. The African drums are powerful and the lyrics are pitiful.

The album is generally good and is indispensable if you want to have a collection.

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