The historical fact is that most of the world music find strains from African rhythms and rock is no exception. In the mainstream, Africa echoed rock’s presence particularly when Senegalese Youssou N’Dour, in 1986, collaborated with British rock star Peter Gabriel. Critics would go on to mention that the singer and band leader’s music had sprinkles of ‘western influence’ in it.
A few years after N’Dour’s take, Baaba Maal with his 10-piece band, Dande Lenol appeared in the New York Times on August 18, 1989 when he performed in New York injecting internationalized Senegalese rock – aside leaping acrobatic dances – from both band and audience members.
Today, we are proud to see the first ever contemporary rock band in Ghana; Dark Suburb! The band played at last Saturday’s outstanding event at the Alliance Francaise d’Accra. The name of the show “The Awakening” rather reminds us of the musical project founded in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1995 by vocalist, songwriter, guitarist and producer Ashton Nyte.
The epic sounds of Dark Suburb, formerly known as Faint Medal, registers prominence in the burgeoning alternative scene. Ghana’s indie music is still gaining higher greener grounds, accessing indefinite creative acmes pitched with solid uniqueness. The Dark Suburb music aside their incognito status finds traits bound in the hybrid of gothic rock, metal, and new wave – a combination that was described once by Nyte as “dark future rock”.
The show began with featured rapper Rocky as well as Terah. AJ Nelson did justice with the mic. Also HayWaya served some hausa verses to the packed house of music lovers. Vocal executions by Worlasi backed by the ever therapeutic sounds of Musical Lunatics resonated melodic brilliance too. Expectations even went higher after some mind-blowing poetry by Kacey Moore tilled the eerie setting of the stage and received a standing ovation. Lioness of Africa- Noella Wiyaala, is one to talk about for days! Her music ranges from Afro-pop or Afro-rock with elements of tribal folk music. Her Sisala name meaning “doer” was evident in her performance, as she laid down her single “Rock My Body”, which was released in June 2013.
Who says Ghanaians couldn’t make rock music? A night with the Dark Suburb would melt all the joined beards of the killjoys. Great rock music was top on the menu and the audience rocked too. Having Ghanaian language woven into a 4/4 time signature inspired by a verse-chorus form added on the diversity. It was interesting sitting back while listening to lyrics that expressed the bitter aftertaste of romantic love gone sour in a track about “wishing death” to an ex.
Other pieces addressed a wide variety of other themes that were social in emphasis. A Billie Jean cover exposed the intriguing performance skills of the lead artist of the band. “I Dey Feel You Die” vibrated the walls of the venue spaces and audience hearts. The dominance of rock by white, male musicians has been seen as one of the key factors shaping the themes explored in rock music. But here black male artists explore their musicianship, live performance, and ideology of authenticity through the same genre which had Elvis Presley‘s “That’s All Right (Mama)” (1954), first single for Sun Records in Memphis, being recognized as the first rock and roll record, while at the same time, Big Joe Turner‘s “Shake, Rattle & Roll“, which was later covered by Haley, topping the Billboard R&B charts.
Other artists worth mentioning with early rock and roll hits included Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Gene Vincent. I believe Dark Suburb will mark their own tent in the rock charts if they keep up with what they’ve started. Rapper Jay So appeared on stage in the middle of Dark Suburb’s performance and delivered some remarkable 16s to put a hat on the intricate art. But even before that, opening the Dark Suburb’s set was a fusion of a Gothic choir with a choreographed piece by 4 ghostly figures springing to the seemingly extra-terrestrial voices. Never to forget, the touching poetry butting out the opening to ring in the instrumental cadence by the Dark Suburb band.
If you missed The Awakening Concert, you could catch Dark Suburb at The Republic Bar & Grill on the 18th of this month.
~ by kwame aidoo.