Legendary South African trumpeter and anti-apartheid movement figure, Hugh Masekela has died at aged 78, after a battle with prostate cancer, according to his family and the government.
Born on April 4, 1939, Masekela first picked up a trumpet after seeing the film “Young Man With a Horn” and encouraged by activist Father Trevor Huddleston. Often described as the “father of South African jazz”, Masekela was an icon of South Africa’s Sophiatown, the political and cultural enclave of Johannesburg that was razed by apartheid police but remains a symbol of black freedom.
‘Masekela introducing Hedzoleh Soundz’ is probably one of the most impressive excursions of a jazz trumpeter into the deep heartlands of Africa; Hugh Masekela meets Nigerian band Hedzoleh Soundz.
After his big hit success with ‘Grazing in the grass’, which went to #1 in both the pop and R&B charts in 1968, Masekela joined his former wife Miriam Makeba in Guinea, Africa for a tour. It was there that he met the Ghanian band Hedzoleh Soundz, an extremely talented band known for blending the ancient rhythmic traditions of their native Ghana with American jazz and Latin music.
At the time Fela Kuti was taking Africa and the world by storm with his brand of Nigerian Jazz Funk. The interlocking rhythms over which his saxophone could endlessly groove were reminiscent of the style of funk patterns that James Brown pioneered in the U.S.
Hedzoleh Soundz combines the rhythmic traditions of their native Ghana while Masekela adds the improvisational drive of jazz. The album ‘Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz’ was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria in 1973 and features such tracks as ‘Languta’, an irresistible chunk of infectious Afro beat with an inspired Masekela singing and blowing on top.
Originally released in 1979 in Nigeria this album remains one of the highly prized ‘holy grails’ of African music. Basa Basa Experience – Together We Win Label: Take Your Choice Records (TYC) – TYC 115-L
Both albums by Piliso and Basa Basa Experience were produced by Themba Matebese, a member of Nigerian band T-Fire. Other members are Igo Chico, Kenneth Okulolo, Lekan Animashaun, Mike Collins, Tobahoun Abalo, Tunde Williams. In T-Fire Themba Matebese was responsible for the vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards and percussion as well as for the composition of most of their songs. He also wrote ‘African Soul Power’, the standout track on ‘Together We Win’. The album got repressed on Peach River Records in Holland in 1983 under a new title ‘Homowo’, the group name was shortened to Basa Basa.
Liner notes; Basa Basa is a highlife band, the nuclues being the Nyaka Twins from Accza, Ghana, West Africa. They both play guitars and drums and compose their own songs. Recorded at Decca Studios, Lagos, Nigeria. Classify under tight funky disco high life afrobeat.
Basa Basa–Homowo – Highlife Music
Peach River Records – BB SP LP 03 -The Netherlands 1983
2018 reissue by Vintage Voudou The Netherlands with extensive liner notes and fold-out poster. Available here
Thumbs up to reader Afrikola for his valuable information on the origins of this rare record.
Take the beat of Ghana’s traditional sound, add some American flavor, and mix it with Paa Kow’s stellar drumming chops. That is the musical recipe for a flavoursome sound, a “new” sound as Paa Kow (pronounced Pah – Ko) describes it. Whatever you call it, Paa Kow’s blend of traditional West African styles with American and Caribbean music surely is a highly danceable sound driven by intricate rhythms. After all, the man is known as a world-renowned percussionist, bandleader, composer and teacher born and raised in Ghana.
Due to its cosmopolitan geographic position on the African continent Ghana has always been a melting pot of many styles of traditional and modern music. The best known modern genre is Highlife until the introduction of Hiplife in the late 1990s. The originator of this style is Reggie Rockstone, a Ghanaian musician who dabbled with hip-hop in the United States before finding his unique style. Hiplife basically was hiphop in the Ghanaian local dialect backed by elements of the traditional High-life.
While living in Accra, Paa Kow had a chance meeting with a traveling student from CU Boulder (CO, USA) named Peyton Shuffield. He was looking for a highlife drummer to study with and, after talking with various Accra musicians, all roads led to Ghana’s best and youngest talent. The friendship was instantaneous and Paa Kow was invited to the University of Colorado as a guest artist and teacher.
His musical and cultural exchange with musicians in the U.S. gave rise to his Afro-Fusion sound. With his group, Paa Kow put together materials for his debut album “Hand Go Hand Come.” The material was an early masterpiece of rhythmic precision, talented lyricism, and original fusion of West African Pop with Jazz impressions.
Paa Kow is currently touring across America and will release his second studio album ´Ask’ in August of 2014.
Inspired by his musical and cultural exchange with artists in the U.S., Paa Kow and his orchestra fuse traditional rhythms, time signatures, and the Fante language from Ghana with funk and jazz to create an Afro-Fusion sound set apart by its “flexibility and finesse” (Modern Ghana).
Maske is a Haitian kreyol word, meaning to wear a mask. Todays selection of text and some of the most stunning pictures of Haitian Vodou comes from the book ‘Maske’ by Phyllis Galembo.
This acclaimed book with thrilling photographs, showing masquerade performers in Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Zambia and Haiti is a celebration of African art, and a work of vivid artistic imagination. Photographs of carnival characters, mostly rooted in African religion and spirituality, are presented in chapters organised by tribal or carnival tradition each introduced by a short text by Galembo about the characters and costumes portrayed. The art of masquerade is introduced by art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu, (himself a participant in masquerade events during his childhood in Nigeria).
Within the African Diaspora, Haitian culture is known for its strong connection to Yoruba, Congo, and other Cross river cultures which, over centuries, slaves combined with influences from local Taino Indians and Europeans, and from Vodou.
For these photographs of traditional religious rituals Galembo went to Haiti, where she documented the traditional priests and priestesses of Vodou during Jacmel Kanaval, when troupes of musicians and dancers fill the streets. A wonderful yet dangerous event, the mood can swing wildy from exuberant joy to defiant aggression. Today, after the catastrophic earthquake of 12 January 2010, Jacmel Kanaval was cancelled and, as I write this, much of Haity including Jacmel, remains in ruins.
Published by Ten Speed Press; ISBN: 1580086764; 2005
and just one more Voodoo photograph, from Togo…from the book ‘Faces Of Africa’ by Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher -National Geographic Society USA
A Voodoo devotee from Togo surrenders himself to the spirit of his personal deity. His eyes roll upward and his pupils disappear, leaving only the whites. Depending on which direction they eyes roll, observers can tell what spirit has possessed him. This man, with his eyes rolled toward the sky, is possessed by Hebioso, the thunder god.
This seminal volume first published in 2009 is a landmark. The award-winning team of photographers Carol Beckwith / Angela Fisher and authors of African Ark present a stunning selection of 250 full-color portrait photographs from across Africa, spanning every region of the continent, from the Islamic Africans of the North, to the tribal cultures of sub-Saharan Africa, to the people of the South, in a compact edition of their acclaimed book.
Faces of Africa: Thirty Years of Photography
Beckwith, Carol / Fisher, Angela
Published by Natl Geographic Society 2009-01-06, 2009
ISBN 10: 1426204248 / ISBN 13: 9781426204241
one of the most fascinating books about African masks that I own must be ‘Maske’ by Phyllis Galembo, a professor of Art at the State University of New York whose pictures are frequently exhibited in museums around the world. Her work is also collected by all major institutions such as the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the MOMA in NYC etc.
Galembo’s previous books include “Divine Inspiration; From Benin to Bahia” (1993), ‘Vodou, Visions and Voices from Haiti “(1998) and” Dressed for Thrills, 100 Years of Halloween Costumes and Masquerades “(2002). From Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Benin to Haiti “Maske”(2010) showcases the most beautiful photographs of masquerades from Africa and its diaspora. A well recommended photobook!
For over two decades, Phyllis Galembo has documented cultural and religious traditions in Africa and the African diaspora. Her subjects are participants in masquerade events-traditional African ceremonies and contemporary fancy dress and carnival-who use costume, body paint and masks to create mythic characters . Sometimes entertaining and humorous, or dark and frightening, her portraits document and describe the transformative power of the mask. With a title derived from the Haitian Kreyòl word ‘maské’, meaning ‘to wear a mask’, this album features a selection of over a hundred of the best of Galembo’s masquerade photographs to date. Organised country-based chapters, each with her own commentary.
With Bernard Akoi-Jackson, Dorothy Akpene Amenuke, Serge Clottey, Zachary Formwait, Iris Kensmil, Aukje Koks, Navid Nuur, Jeremiah Quarshie, kąrĩ’kąchä seid’ou, Katarina Zdjelar.
A most remarkable and charming exposition organized by the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam in collaboration with the Nubuke Foundation, Accra, Ghana just opened last weekend here in Amsterdam.
I was mostly intrigued by the photographic work of Bernard Akoi-Jackson and by the video ‘My Lifetime (Malaika) by Katarina Zdjelar. The video is neither a portrait of the musicians, nor is it a documentary about the National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana. With great sensitivity Zdjelar rather deploys the orchestra in order to draw a sketch of a complicated state of affairs in which grand ideas and the mechanism of a nation state takes root in and affects individuals. Zdjelar’s ‘My Lifetime (Malaika) video directs attention to the discrepancy between the fact that, on one hand, the Western musical tradition has never fully become part of Ghanaian culture and, on the other, the fact that the Ghanaian state continues sponsoring a national symphony orchestra.
Most musicians are working hard to scrape together a living during daytime so it’s hard for some to keep up with the intense rehearsing schedule after work. The images of ‘My Lifetime (Malaika)’ show musicians sometimes so tired that they doze asleep during their long wait to blow a few notes on their shattered instruments. Funny and tragic at the same time…
The song ‘Malaika’ is a African song written by Fadhili Williams and made famous by Miriam Makeba, Boney M and most recently by Angélique Kidjo who sang it at the kick-off concert of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Malaika, nakupenda Malaika
Malaika, nakupenda Malaika
Ningekuoa mali we, ningekuoa dada
Nashindwa na mali sina we, Ningekuoa Malaika Nashindwa na mali sina we, Ningekuoa Malaika
Pesa zasumbua roho yangu
Pesa zasumbua roho yangu
Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio
Nashindwa na mali sina we Ningekuoa Malaika.Nashindwa na mali sina we Ningekuoa Malaika
Kidege, hukuwaza kidege
Kidege, hukuwaza kidege
Ningekuoa mali we, ningekuoa dada
Nashindwa na mali sina, we Ningekuoa Malaika
the complexities of global exchange
Grouping the works of Dutch and Ghanese artists under the sweeping exhibition title ‘Time Trade & Travel ‘ is a curatorial decision that points to the collaboration’s extended focus on the complexities of global exchange fostered by capitalism and its effects on life and art.
‘Time Trade & Travel ‘launched the participating artists on a quest into the historical encounters between Europeans and Africans, a quest in which trading and the cultural exchange receive particular attention. The exhibition functions as a platform for the presentation of their artistic inquiries into pre-colonial trade and colonial legacies and their traces in continuing imperialistic relations. The exhibition does not shy away from looking at the harrowing aspects of these relations, but does not focus solely on them. In the works of Iris Kensmil and Bernard Akoi-Jackson for instance, the practice of slavery is consciously touched upon from an accentual temporal distance.
Just like Iris Kensmil and Bernard Akoi-Jackson, who indirectly deal with the legacy of slavery in divergent ways, Serge Clottey and Jeremiah Quarshie, the youngest participants in this exhibition, touch upon the issue of slavery as a present-day phenomenon. They presuppose that forms of slavery continue to take place in form of dubious employment contracts from which the one party profits more than the other, and under which people are evaluated differently on the basis of their descent. In this sense, the colonial system that divided people into civilized and uncivilized continues to exist, albeit in altered, contempary forms.
Just look at the most recent bloody uprising of miners in South Africa or the inhuman treatment of Indonesian house-servants in countries like Saudi-Arabia. Various forms of slavery still take unexpected turns even in our modern ‘liberated’ times.
The exhibition ‘Time Trade & Travel’ not only shows the result of a soul-diggin’ journey throughout Ghana and it’s former colonial oppressors but touches the difficulties that are grounded in the fact that colonial and local structures have become intermingled in such complicated ways that at times it is impossible to distinguish them from each other.
Time Trade & Travel -25th August – 21 October 2012
Rozenstraat 59 1016 NN Amsterdam, The Netherlands
‘Time Trade & Travel’ is to be seen at the Nubuke Foundation, Accra, Ghana from 25th November 2012 to February 2013
One of the rarest and most treasured finds of my recent Tokyo safari is this original album by Atakora Manu & His Sound Engineers, released mid-70’s in Accra-Ghana on Ambassador Records.
Between 1963 and 1966 Atakora Manu was a guitarist of the United Ghana Farmers Council Troupe and with the staging of 1966 Coup, the groupwas disbanded and came back home again.
In 1967, he together with Kakaiku formed Kakaiku No2 Band with Atakora as the lead guitarist. Some of their hits are; “OhohoBatani”, “Koo-Krokoo”, ‘Akwantu Mu Nsem”, “AkyinkyinaAkyinkyin”.
In 1970 he resigned from the Kakaiku No2 Band and did not join any band until 1973 when he was employed as a studio attendant by Ambassador Records. With the goodwill of the managing director Atakora was encouraged to use the studio to enhance his ability with the hope of recording in the future.
As a result of this good gesture, he regrouped his Princess Trio, a group he had formed in the early years of the 60’s. They have so far released two LP’s “Odefedefe” and “Me Ne Odo Beda Mpapa Dan Mu”. The other members of His Sound Engineers are C.K. Mensah, S.K. Amoako Agyeman, Agyei Kyeremanteng and AttaFofie. They are all from Toase, Ashanti with the same family base.
Excerpts from the original liner notes by D.F. Boateng
Atakora Manu & His Sound Engineers -Odefedefe
Ambassador Records, Accra-Ghana, released mid-1970