Sunday, May 28, 2006


Alhaji K. Frimpong - "Kyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu" from Kyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu

This song is essential. It was only a matter of time before I posted this song. "Kyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu" is unquestionably one of the most vital and funky of Ghanaian songs from the highlife era.

"Kyenkyen" was versioned for two major hiplife hits. Both rappers, Reggie Rockstone and Omanhene Pozoh, employed Frimpong's groove to drive their respective anthems, "Keep Your Eyes on the Road" and "Kyenkyen Bi Edi Me Ewu." The latter features a guest vocal performance by K. Frimpong (and a different spelling of the song title). Comparing the original and hiplife versions of "Kyenkyen" demonstrates the complex relationship between highlife and hipife today. The elder musicians often find themselves at odds with the younger ones coming up. Lyrically, stylistically, and commercially, the two camps have plenty to argue about.

K. Frimpong's original is an afro-funk classic that's been well-documented on recent UK and US compilations. In the years since it's release circa 2001, Omanhene Pozoh's rendition hasn't aged that well in commercial hiplife terms. But as for me, I'll take old school hiplife over most of the current stuff any time!

Highlife is no longer the music of the youth. Today's youth sounds more like "Kyenkyen Bi Edi Me Ewu", Omanhene Pozoh's hiplife version.

Well, actually, hiplife these days really sounds more like VIP's "Ahomka Womu."

For more on hiplife, stop by my other blog.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Seck, Dianka, Dandi Diarra - "Nagana" & "Hone Soida" from the album, Sounké Vol. 1

These two cuts rollick along with that complicated melismatic twang found in many parts of the Sahel.

"Nagana" pairs sublimely stuttered, kora-informed electric guitar phrases with an electro-tastic percussion effect set on autopilot throughout.

"Hone Soida" kicks it more straightforward, though by no means dull. Check out the iimplausibly-behind-the-beat flow of the backing rhythm and the vintage guitar tone.

This is Soul music.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Boubacar Traore


This entire cassette is sick. Most of Boubacar Traore's work is often under-appreciated but so much more raw and expressive than many of the big name stars of West Africa.

If you have not checked some Boubacar cassettes (or CDs), get to it.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Masekela introducing Hedzoleh Soundz - "Adade" from the album Repkete

Hugh Masekela, the South African trumpter, did a record in Ghana with Accra afro-rock band Hedzoleh Soundz.

This music sounds deep. Hedzoleh Soundz were supposed to get big like Osibisa. They didn't. Nevertheless, we got this tape, a stoned trumpet masterpiece. Just listen.

I met Faisal Helwani, the man who produced Rekpete. He was involved in many other essential Ghanaian highlife, afro-rock, and afro-pop albums through the 60s, 70s and 80s. A sort of impresario back in the day, Helwani had brought Fela to Ghana for the first time. He promoted shows and organized tours in the region between Ghana and Nigeria.

Helwani had this sick nightclub in his house in the 70s called the Napoleon Club. Live shows featuring all kinds of bands, from traditional drum and dance groups to rockin' psych-highlife, often went all night at this backyard club three blocks from the sea.

Today the nightclub is no more and the pillared balconies of the once grand home are literally crumbling, the coconut palms dying.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Yeleen & Pris'K - "La Marraine" from the cassette single, Parlons d'amour

There are a surprising number of rappers in Burkina Faso, especially in the capital, Ouagadougou. A cosmopolitan oasis on the edge of the Sahel, Ouaga is home to a relatively progressive bunch of motorbiking hipsters. Cigarettes, Nescafe, and baguettes against a backdrop of street vendors, dusty boulevards and hustlers trading in everything from bicycle parts to stolen credit card numbers. The French colonial roots of this relaxed nation are apparent. Satellite TV beams in French, Moroccan, and Malian hip-hop videos, all in French.

This cassette is all in French, but there are some Burkinabé rappers who incorporate local languages like Mossi and More. Yeleen (the male duo) don't rap much on this track. It's all about Pris'K. Her flows here are so tight over the beat (which reminds me of Outkast or something).

Learn more about hip-hop in Burkina Faso at this French-language blog by a regular Burkinabé dude.

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