Raw and celebratory funeral music from northern Ghana.
Hypnotic kologo excursions. Pulsing percussion. Enraptured voices.
Recorded 100% live and outdoors by Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Ustad Saami).
Sixth release from Glitterbeat’s acclaimed Hidden Musics series.
Still buzzed at 9am on Pito (millet beer) from the night before, the fra fra quartet proclaimed that they play better when they are drunk. This was telling as they seemed plenty inebriated already.
On the dusty-road outskirts of Tamale (Ghana) near the School of Hygiene, the group says they prefer to use the name given to their tribe by colonialists (Fra Fra) rather than being commanded what to correct after the fact; a retraction made on their behalf.
The group is led by Small, a man who celebrates his diminutive size rather than seeing it as a lack. He picked the two-string Kologo ‘guitar’ with dog-tags fastened at the head as rattles.
As funeral songs are often done in procession, I took the mics to the group since they seemed reluctant to enter the compound. Instead they gyrated in circles on the gravel outside. In recording, coverage is more important than precision. Every microphone tells a slightly different version of the truth, so I quickly threw up as many as possible.
I’ve often wondered: What is the tensile limit of cohesion culturally? How far can geography stretch – scaled for cities and nations – before a culture fractures?
Ghana struggles with its own north/south divide.
This northern zone was a wellspring of the Blues, a land where they emanated and never left.
Rather than resembling deathly dirges, these funeral songs were largely celebrations.
As so often is the case, literacy in no way interfered with creativity. Small was able to riff almost endlessly. In fact, his performances grew freer and s....... więcej