FOKN BOIS TO DROP A TRIBUTE TO HIGHLIFE, HIP HOP AND AFRO-JAZZ FROM GHANA

FOKN Bois just jumped on the Hobo Truffles instrumental compilation and the rest is history! Fans have been keeping up with the duo persistently, waiting for yet another dope pack of sounds merging the two voices which together add the necessary spice to pitch Ghanaian hip hop to that acme it deserves. FOKN Dunaquest in Budapest EP shook through sound boxes and melted ear wax in April, 2011.  Ten months later, the duo known for their satiric twist with music that mostly touches on socio-political issues released FOKN Wit Ewe.

In the midst of the stiff-stale smack set of cliché themes being used in music from this space and the myriad of ‘flashy’ music data dying out quicker than one could say ‘eh’, FOKN Bois write works which are nothing like the everyday tunes- digging rhythms like black gold for the Ghana streets and beyond as well as lifting the bar on each stroke.

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Album cover

If you’re yet to catch the vibe, it’s not too late to join the tribe- it is the FOKN Ode to Ghana LP dropping on June 30th. Our prediction is that the collection of 21 well-knitted pieces would reek of Ghanaian spaces, Africa’s carefree neglect, springing or watered-down dreams, soft screams, loud silence, combustion of colours, rhythm which walks under the skin, vibes which fill the stomach and lines which cling to the mind, and of course amazing home-brewed music! But hey this team is known for surprises! It’s great to know the album; “a FOKN tribute to highlife, hip hop and afro-jazz music from Ghana” will be released from none other than the warm portals of Ghana’s biggest hip hop promoters- Yoyo Tinz.

Wanlov opens up about the process behind the production, that it all started in 2014; “M3nsa and I were inspired by the beat collection of Hobo Truffles and decided to work on the whole compilation, originally called Ode to Ghana.” In connection to keeping the substance that the afro-musical beat package was made of and for, the duo decided to not change the titles which each beat had already been given and rather work around the themes.

“The entire work was recorded between Budapest and Accra;” Wanlov echoes. Aside audio, the duo come with entertaining visuals like Coz Ov Moni– the first pidgen musical film in the world released in 2010, produced and featured in by the FOKN Bois and directed by independent Ghanaian filmmaker King Luu. The spectacular Coz Ov Moni 2 was released in 2013.

Critics say there’s never been such a unique socially-conscious at the same time musically talented duo in Ghana ever so vivid with their descriptions and open with their thoughts. So while you’re flooded with the currents of humour and tossed by the tides of sarcasm pouring from the FOKN music, don’t forget to find the enlightenment in between- the music is made to speak to and through you.

Check out gimme pinch and let us know what you think.

 

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STANZAS STOLEN FROM TOGO: CATCHING UP WITH ELOM20CE

“Hands in pockets, Addis Ababa in the arms, I walk, swallowed by the night. Fallen for a moment, she is now comfortable on the new flower. On the sidewalks; shadows, bottles in hand, lazily waddle. The smell of sewage violently debates with that of coffee and incense that adorn these dark bars. The music that escapes them is strong. Bob Marley featuring Meiway and Dawit Frew Hailu. Mix of colours and scents shout to be heard. I let myself get sucked into a bar. A woman in the light of a candle as makeup. She smiles in the face of a mirror injured like Somalia. I put away some time for a beer: Habesha cold gold.”

These are words cut out from a real time chapter in the page of Elom20ce‘s(pronounced Vince) life as father, wanderer, contemporary griot and hip-hop afro jazz blender. He speaks to an Africa debating reformation like an emotional night buried in several happenings with a keen message for the subset of a germinating world of dreamers and branching alternative path scrapers:

“I come quietly to swallow me into another hole attracted by Burning Spear: Slavery days. Battle of Adwa to the Towers of Babel, what has really changed? I ask myself by fixing the photo of Emperor Haile Selassie on the wall. Dj minces his Khat with peanuts. Makes good reggae as not to let me go. Guiltiness to Mr. Cheeks of the Lost Boyz sauce was the icing on the cake. Tomorrow I take the road, I have to go, go bury my dead body. Night found me in these shabby streets, surrounded by more imperfect men who teach you life we do not learn in university. Taxi drivers, drug dealers, prostitutes, bouncers or corrupt cops … When the sun rises, find me under those trees, listening to the old men who speak to you of what the world has been, and perhaps will be. Life happens outside, away from the likes, lol, and lmao’s.”

During his travels earlier this month, touchdown: Somalia, he carves out a reflection of the mirage that is, displaced in the home of un-bandaged jaws of the economy in social space and a government with a walking stick patched at the wrong places:

“Stoning the sky, rain down angels. Pick up their rings and attach them to your heads. But the street remains deserted, populated by ghosts, pharaohs who are unaware …”

He plunged into the guts of Dakar in May and felt its entrails bleed concerns like a lost child finding himself but confused if what he beholds is really himself, is really all of himself or there’s the need to dig deeper, reach further, discover the hidden treasures away from a fraction of a disturbed past and the present story woven like a lace work of a labyrinth:

“The engorged land where landmines have been sown broadcast life. The fratricidal wars with uncertain future: Africa, a beautiful lady crippled, advances with dentures.. We spit lava! Let us not open our spirits to the vultures who have made their nests in our skulls and savor our brains to escape forever! Here, there, I saw the mentally disabled, face to face with their past, ruminating bitter memories, before vomiting endless sighs …but flowers are ephemeral, ancestral suffering …”

In Dakar, he spent magical moments sharing the stage with Keziah Jones and visual artists who immortalized rhythm; INA Makosi, JBJ Photography, Sopsiak Photography, aside DJ Cortega, Erwan, S’killaz, Mc Mo, Gislas, Dj Pol and Public. He as well had the honor to accompany a great guitarist on stage; Amen Viana a.k.a The Name at the French Institute later on in Togo with Adjo’a Sika Ajavon, Ali Bawa, and others.

“I have cleansed my feet on the mystical land. These places where pure souls tell stories that we listen quietly, breathing. I read on a wall in Ngor that small people are substantial people. They do not even have bank accounts. Some flowers have no fragrance. I walk by feeling, feet covered in blisters. Close your eyes if you want to see clearly. This is the night that the stars speak. Goree is not Ngor… All the warriors of light know that knowledge is more powerful than the economic and political powers…”

The artist’s second album Indigo turns 6 months and his message for all is simple: “Don’t agonize, organize!”

 

 

 

REBIRTH OF FELA: AS VILLY & THE XTREME VOLUMES DROP HUMANIMALS EP

The dominant scene of commercial music sees artists walk in and out each passing month with touted promise of longevity and consistency as it is easier to “make a hit” with technology-empowered mixing or sound mastering and internet-tweaked virtual social presence presently. This was not so a few decades ago when a legend like Richard Bona had to play several instruments for entire days and teach himself to read and write music till his breakthrough in 1989, when he began working with leading musicians; violinist Didier Lockwood and bassist Marc Ducret at the age of 22. We find a similar strain of dedication in Villy & the Xtreme Volumes; a Nigerian Afro Fusion group presently based in Ghana, as they count the results of about 7 years of getting the beam into their art.
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Over the years, African rhythms through stages of evolution have been used by performers to engage the realities of socio-political dynamics. Fela Kuti‘s timeless sway is a strong example, and it gets more interesting because Villy and his team have been compared on several platforms to markedly stand out with such momentum that reminds us that Afro protest music with substance is here to not only stay but make an impact. In a conversation, Villy, the leader of the band points out that; “the message is especially for the African mind. [It] simply questions everything about the world we live in today to achieve self realization as Africans. In this EP, I make myself an example of what I think in my own opinion the lay man should be- how to fight for his or her rights and also how to demand answers.”

Omonblanks, who works very close to the band discloses that, “it is an EP with 6 songs; Alarm, Runaway, Which Way, Humanimals, Wia My Moni and No Way.” A further breakdown by Villy was that; “they are connected as an interaction between the people and the various societies they live in-an institution of mind programming and control. So the idea is that we should understand that we are humans first before any other thing; statuses, political positions, religious leadership, rebels, terrorists, sinners, etc.” The group sounds like a construction of rhythms smearing African home-soaked vamps in cooperation with wild percussion and horns aside splendid vocals to form interlocking grooves.

The band shares their immense gratitude on their Facebook as follows: “We want to sincerely thank Kyekyeku for helping us record the EP on short notice, Kofi B-Ansah; our in-house sound engineer and collaborator, Mensa Ansah & Márton Élő for the dope sound engineering of the EP, Aimuan Ogboghodo for the cover art, Freeman Daniel Ame for vocal coaching, The Republic Bar & Grill for being our favourite test ground, Kunle for blessing us with his harmonica skills, Yetunde Orungbemi for the beautiful voice as well as Francis Kokoroko & Daniel Quist (The Grammy Voices) for their solid backup singing.
If you’re in doubt of the power of Afro jazz and fusion, let me remind you of Manu Dibango and how his Soul Makossa was sampled in Michael Jackson’s You wanna be startin’ Somethin’. It goes to say Villy & The Xtreme Volumes are actually starting something with their fresh EP full of juicy originality and guess what, it drops in a few hours from now!

ZOHRA OPOKU’S SOLO SHOW: SASSA AT GALLERY 1957

Zohra Opoku‘s solo show Sassa, curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim/ANO shows at Gallery 1957 today June 9th 2016 at 4.30pm. The exhibition’s opening and performance which will leave you awestruck takes place in the confines of the gallery this afternoon and it is open to all and sundry.

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Sassa continues till 10th August, 2016. It explores the role of textile culture in the materialization of concepts beyond the individual’s corporeal reality. Based in Accra, and of German and Ghanaian descent, Opoku’s versatile work expands across installation, performance and lens-based media. Her indepth examination of textile culture considers fashion’s political, psychological and socio-cultural roles in relation to both African history and individualistic or societal identities.

In Sassa, the artist draws on her month long stay in the Ashanti region of Ghana – as part of a recent residency with the cultural research platform ANO – as well as her past portrait series, in order to explore cultural philosophies, trajectories, and aesthetics across the country. As Nana Oforiatta Ayim, founder of ANO and Creative Director of Gallery 1957, explains: “through the exploration of the Ashanti concept of sassa – described by art historian Ladislas Segy as ‘the soul that can also lie outside of the body and that flows through all things’ – Opoku’s work is in constant interplay with this notion of the unseen and the immanent.”

One of the works include an Ashante queen mother’s cyanotype prints which were printed in Zohra’s garden under the sun on bed sheets which were given by her grandmother. The content involves sun-prints, video, collages, mixed media and collected sounds with a DJ Stelo collaboration in the creative mix.

A month ago, Zohra indicated on her Instagram that she was working on four images of Akan queen mothers she had visited in the Ashante region and these works had been sun-printed for her upcoming show.

Accra[dot]alt crew will be speaking at the event at Gallery 1957 in Accra ‪about the upcoming Chale Wote festival‬ and the concept of engineering new imaginations through collapsed myths and histories. Essentially gearing us up for the Spirit Robot vibe of the festival this August in Jamestown. Join the family at 4:30pm.

We look to the future to more collaborations inspired by Zohra with DJ Stelo, Theresa Ameka and Nana Osei. It is intriguing and inspiring to see artists build on the contemporary process with crunchy African cultural information driven by human connections in the process of making their works- from the production to the realization stage, even through the mounting and checking of lighting, discussions of projects and so on.

Zohra with her always calm focused self tells us “I’m always enjoying the different layers of Accra’s creative scene and preserving those good energies for times when I will be away from Ghana.”

SCENES FROM GNAOUA AND TWO AMAZING GHANAIAN MUSIC ICONS WHO MAKE US PROUD: KYEKYEKU AND BLITZ

Take a ride with us on camel backs or let’s just trek into the magical cosmopolitan Sahara dunes that Moroccan spaces offer. From the hazy or hippie surf turfs to the very tops of the Atlas mountains where the  laced or loose intricacies of untold magnitudes explode, merge or conform to the country folk life remote from the sophisticated scattering of urban strife, there’s one thing you can’t miss there- nature’s glow! Kyekyeku; splendid guitarist, profound palm wine high life brewer, producer and ideas man from Ghana explores these otherwise less known stretches and sums the still stir in a few lines: “high up in the Atlas mountains of Morrocco, lies beauties of untold magnitude; misty mountains, cascades and riverines. Berber villages on cliffs and minarets of earth perched on rocky pedestals. I had to make a stop and say a prayer!”

Kyekyeku on the Atlas altitudes

It’s mostly a sleepy fishing port plus whitewashed houses decorated with the trademark blue window shutters that make up Essaouira, but in June annually, the town swells to accommodate half a million people thronging in to experience the Gnaoua World Music Festival. This year U.S.-based Ghanaian hip hop mogul known to “send messages through committed texts;” Blitz the Ambassador, was one of the main artists adding colour to the festival. Also a producer, songwriter, singer and percussionist, Blitz who was born in Accra, Ghana has developed his art into a force with an incredible energy on stage, aided by a groovy band that sounds like an Afro-ethereal classic jazz and Motown fusion music movement. Other amazing artists on the bill were Christian Scott, Hassan Hakmoun, Songhoy Blues, Las Migas, Omar Sayid, N3rdistan, etc.

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Blitz the Ambassador at Gnaoua Festival. photo credit: Hakim Anthony

How far away is contemporary high life from hip hop? We identify the transformations through migration, collaborations and the African rhythm inspirations that are significant and common in both Blitz and Kyekyeku’s work.

Even the food and fashion affects human connections one way or the other. Kyekyeku documents his experience in Morocco with photos, reflections and texts. “From Marrakech to Essaouira, I have fallen in love with Morrocco; steeped in colourful history, music that actually has offshoots of my forefathers in Gnaoua, clothing that inspired Yves Saint Laurent and food that graces the taste buds;” he says.

Kyekyeku and the “Essaouira massive”
Kyekyeku and the “Essaouira massive”
a camel load of cheers

Kyekyeku shares his personal experiences with us in layers where we find a civilization built over the years out of influence by a mosaic of traditions, a labyrinth of colours, design and oppidan textures aside a spiderweb of the tang of colonization: “In Essaouira, I see a bit of Elmina in my home [country]; Ghana, which means Portugal left an aftertaste here as well. The connections are endless, a complex network that connects us all together from the past through this present and into the future.”

Presently, the artist is in performance and collaborative residency with the collective; Framewalk touring Düsseldorf and Prague and can’t wait to return to Ghana for homemade fufu, the Stanbic Bank Jazz Festival, and preparation for his Europe Tour this summer.