Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Music And Arts Scene

African Records Review

By Kwabena Asamoah

PAT THOMAS: 'Mpaebo' (NAK 00) 'Mpaebo'/'Gyae Su' 'Gye Wani' 'My Star Will Shine'

There was talk of Pat Thomas having become deeply religious during the last few months. If it is true the title of this new LP Mpaebo ('Prayers') can only be appropriate. Whether the music and the lyrics are 'religious' enough is something which I like to leave for your own judgements.

With his voice Pat Thomas has kept the hi-life flag flying for years even in the face of apparent problems within the music industry in his native Ghana. He shuttles between Europe, the Ivory Coast and Ghana but seems to have settled in Accra to plod on with music.

The A-side is a long non-stop hi-life aimed at praising God and raising hopes for mankind. There is nothing obvious about both the music and lyrics in 'Mpaebo'. The background is filled with sweet keyboards delivered by Abee Mensah while Ebo Taylor intermittently introduces his usual guitar chords at strategic points. Assiee's drums though gentle ply between bars with such clinical precision that it makes dancing easier. But can we dance to God's song?

'Gyae Su' begins the B-side with a typical Ebo Taylor horns arrangement which soon gives way to Pat Thomas to sing his song of hope. Chikinchi's fat bass lends support to the background keyboards which has smoothness and freshness.

In every sense 'Gye Wani' (enjoy yourself) sounds particularly different from all other Pat Thomas/Ebo Taylor arrangements. The feel and the orchestration border on freshness which Ebo Taylor is now battling to achieve. The lyrics sound simple but Pat Thomas infuses perfect vocal mutations dynamic enough to make the track the most outstanding on the side.

The controversial reggae addition of 'My Star Will Shine' which appears to have already been done on a previous release in Ghana will generate another round of debate whether Pat Thomas will be better off concentrating on his hi-life. In any case this album will satisfy the majority of people especially 'Mpaebo' and 'Gye Wani'. Try them.

SOMO SOMO: 'Somo Somo' (STERNS 1007) 'Mosese 2000' 'Masikini Ya Molu'/'Jammy Jammy' 'Mele' 'Cheko'

This London-based Zaire/UK outfit has become one of the most popular African groups in the UK within a short time thanks to their dynamic and compelling music which heavily relies on Fan Fan's Franco-style guitar.

It is extremely difficult to select the tunes on this debut album which are worthy of mention because none can be discounted. The highlight however, is on the opener 'Mosese 2000' in which the horns and the guitars blend Ghanaians with so much precision and perfection. The resourceful Fan Fan has certainly taught his British friends to sound Zairean even in their notes picking. The dance attack begins in earnest mid- way through the track where the horns again respond admirably to Fan Fan's guitar licks. Guest trumpeter Stu Hamer's solo would have bewildered and encouraged dancers but left too long a gap in between to achieve the desired effect.

The forte of 'Masikini Ya Mola' lies more in the vocal harmony than the usual guitars which characterise Zairean music. Only superficial music lovers are likely to ignore the B-side which begins with a mixture of hi-life a la Nigerianne and soukous in 'Jammy Jammy'. Fan Fan's voice occasionally sounds like failing him but N'simba and Doreen do not let him down with their vocal support. Both 'Mele' and 'Checko' possess something fresh and beautiful apart from the urgency of the rhythms.

Special mention must be made of the contribution of the hornsmen on almost all the tracks. But to ignore the guitars completely is to miss the point in Zairean music.

RAUF ADU: 'Human To Human'/'Gravy Train' 'Gravy Train (Instrumental)' (ADU 12)

Listening to this first single from Rauf Adu's pen and brain, I am again confronted with the definition of what constitutes 'African music'. Although the mysterious Adu sounds bluesy with reggae and modern soul concoctions, he keeps his Asante language (he comes from Asante Bekwai) in 'Gravy Train'. I then feel that this record can slot into this column as something which has something African.

My first exposure to Rauf Adu's music was almost two years ago when B. B. Ossei (ex-George Darko manager) introduced me to Adu's 'Zigi' a beautiful tune fitted with a humorous lyrical content.

Described as a poet, writer and a musician Rauf Adu presents only one picture: a creator. On 'Human To Human' he creates a blues rhythm with a classy reggae and pop feel without losing his African identity. His female vocal back-up singers are a summary of what most African musicians might wish to copy. The guitar and the keyboards tune up to Rauf Adu's unique and imposing voice to give the track a pleasant feel.

Ghanaians are more likely to discover a new talent in Rauf Adu via 'Gravy Train', a track in which the female vocal line produces an extraordinary effect on the listener while Adu advises against sadness and despair. The jazzy piano and Roddy Matthews' rock guitar might attempt to remove the music from 'Africa' but Adu's lyrics and above all his fetish priest hair retain 'Africa' in there.

On the whole this debut single might do well in the pop and blues world while Ghanaians and other Africans begin to discover Rauf Adu through 'Gravy Train'.

Dzikunu's ceremonial dance music

In several African countries, there have been dedicated attempts by nationalists and scholars to study and record the traditional music and dances, confer respectability upon them and gain them national and international recognition. In Ghana, the work of Professor J. H. Kwabena Nketia and the University of Legon has achieved this to the extent that, assisted by the presence of a large (and musical) Ghanaian community in Britain, Ghanaian social and ceremonial dances form the main repertoire of the Afro- Caribbean dance companies resident in this country today.

George Dzikunu social and ceremonial dance music from Ghana

A series of cassettes, texts and photographs "Social and Ceremonial Dance Music from Ghana" made by Inter-Vox productions is the most advanced and exciting training project ever attempted in non-Western arts. African music is achieving massive popularity in this country. Britons of Caribbean origin are, in large numbers, coming to see it as their cultural heritage, taken from them by the slavery and transportation of the colonial era. The majority of popular musicians in the Western world have their roots in Ragtime, Blues, R&B, Soul, Jazz or Latin musics: all fusions of African and Western traditions.

George Dzikunu, who arrived in Britain in 1976, has played a vital role as human carrier of the Ghanaian tradition from Africa to this country. He was born in the Ewe-speaking Volta region of Ghana (in the village of Keta, near Togoland), son of a master drummer from whom he learned the Ewe music and dances. In his twenties, selected by the University of Legon as a young performer of exceptional promise, he became a dancer- instructor with the University's Ghana National Dance Ensemble, where he was able to learn the music and dances of other Ghanaian, as well as some Nigerian traditions.

In Britain, George joined the Steel 'n' Skins company, which won Arts Council, Regional Association and local authority support for workshops throughout Britain to teach this pan- Ghanaian repertoire. This led to new African drumming and dance companies becoming established and carrying on the work of training - for example, Ekome in Bristol, Delado in Liverpool, Lanzel in Wolverhampton and Danse de l'Afrique in Birmingham.

George Dzikunu is probably the most sought after performer and teacher of African drumming and dance in this country. We have recorded him performing the six items of his repertoire for which the greatest demand exists. Side A of our 80-minute cassette (IVX-1) consists of these recordings. They have been mixed-down in full stereo. This enhances the separation between the different instruments, the interplay between lead voice and master-drum and the soundscape quality of the recording.

Side B uses the same tracks without the voices but it is not just the "dub" version of Side A it is a major achievement in music education through aural learning.

We recommend the 80-minute cassette (IVX-1) for those wanting to hear and appreciate the music. Most people wanting to learn to play the music will need to purchase our range of Learning Cassettes. The first of these deals solely with the Kpanlogo music and songs (IVX-2). It is designed as a self-contained, 40-minute training session. It contains individual parts, parts played in twos, parts played against all the other parts, exercises to recognise parts previously learned, isolated songs with the voices prominent, instrumental accompaniment for singing the songs and the complete master-drum part put together into an integrated learning/practise session. Teachers and education specialists have piloted it in classrooms in various parts of the country and report enormous interest from schools, community centres, colleges and teacher-training institutions.

Adisadel Old Boys' convention

The long-awaited convention of Santaclausians in the North American region kicks off on May 24, 1985 in Washington, according to "The Owl" newsletter which has published details of the activities to mark the occasion.

The programme is as follows: Friday May 24: arrival in Washington DC, (members must telephone George Williams (751 0051) on arrival), Saturday May 25- Convention at the school of Architecture, Howard University: Saturday (evening) May 24 Disco Dance (proceeds to go to Adisadel Fund) at the Grand hobby, School of Architecture and Planning and finally a "Cement Party" to crown the events on Sunday May 26.

At the convention, many important decisions crucial for the future of the Santaclausian family will be discussed, particularly North-American associations contribution to make the forthcoming celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Adisadel College a success.

The convention promises to bring together Santaclausians, old and new for fun and in the interest of the alma mater.


talking drums 1985-05-20 ghana must go the hazardous exodus from Lagos