Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Music And Arts Scene

African Records Review

By Kwabena Asamoah

GEORGE LEE'S ANANSI: 'Anansi' (EBUSIA EBUS 1) 'Nakinye' 'Big G' 'Simone' 'La Ila Ila'/'Song of Peace' Funky G' 'Mamadupe' 'Mozambique'

Talking about African musicians who have been long in the London circuit, George Lee's name will come up as one of those who have helped others to record music in the studio. Punters and critics have both wondered why Lee himself has not tried to record his own music rather than resort to almost full-time sessions work. But here he comes with a bang after more than 20 years music experience in the UK not to mention his heydays as the leader of Messengers Dance Band of Ghana in the sixties.

If there is any African musician who has received wide press coverage in the recent weeks it is certainly George Lee for this debut album with his Anansi - a group which has recently thrilled London with Afro jazz music.

Music enthusiasts will definitely find it difficult to classify George Lee's music but they will realise one thing: Lee is firmly in the jazz mould but with a bias towards his roots. 'Nakinye', 'La Ila Ila', 'Song of Peace' and 'Mozambique' are all in the agbadza vein but with a touch of jazz 'Mamadupe' too, has a hi-life fee ANANSI 'Big G' and 'Simone' move beautifull towards Latin funk while 'Funky G possesses feverish funky elements to make a dance floor swoon with joy.

George Lee is of course a instrumentalist-tenor/alto/soprano and flute and therefore knows his limits. He sings only a little and his lyrics are not necessarily coherent as you will find in 'Mozambique'.

The music on the album is not necessarily novel but the arrangements, harmonies, orchestration and production are of superb quality. It i hardly surprising because you have the cream of some of the best African instrumentalists in London in this outfit: Kofi Adu (drums and percussion), Nana Tsiboe (congas talking drums and bongos), Ernes Mothle (acoustic and electric bass) Other influences lend a hand to the harmony: Robert Payne (acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes), Winston Delandro (guitar) and Paul Hirst (guitar).

The stand-out tracks will certainly be 'Simone' and 'Mamadupe' tunes which flow with hypnotic appeal for you to enjoy ad infinitum. I will leave George's sax playing for your own judgement. Happy Listening.

Channel 4 preview Repercussions

Much of the 20th-century popular music has its roots in a tradition springing from the union in the New World of the old-world music of Africa and Europe. Jazz, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, disco, reggae and many other kinds of popular music owe their origins to a fine, living tradition of musical culture, which has never been coherently explored on TV, nor linked to the communities producing it.

In seven one-hour programmes Repercussions explores the dazzling diversity and overwhelming energy of this Afro-American music from which so much has sprung. Directors Geoffrey Haydon and Dennis Marks from Third Eye Productions have spent several years filming in seven countries in West Africa, North America, the Caribbean and Europe. In planning the series they have drawn on a commanding body of research from a network of expert musicologists and anthropologists - though the completed films are deliberately constructed to let the music and musicians speak for themselves, without the intervention of western experts.

Says Haydon: "Throughout the series, three principles guided us. The music had to be presented as a thing in its own right, not just as evidence in a historical argument. The music had to sound at its very best (which resulted in a film crew travelling 400 miles to Northern Ghana over impossible roads with the kind of rig normally provided for the London Symphony Orchestra). Most of all, we wanted to share what had for us been a unique journey of discovery.

Many of the musicians in the series are at the same time legends and virtually unknown to audiences in England. Sadly, at least one of the 'legends' the powerful BIG MAMMA THORNTON, died shortly after the filming was completed. So Repercussions, if it has made a deliberate choice not to be history, has ended up being in every way a testament."

The series, which starts on Monday February 18 at 9.00pm was produced by Penny Corke, and directed by we live together lovely. Geoffrey Haydon and Dennis Marks for Channel 4 by Third Eye Productions.

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