That Sweet Ghana Sound

27 06 2007

Bokoor Beats

BOKOOR BEATS: VINTAGE AFRO-BEAT, AFRO-ROCK & ELECTRIC HIGHLIFE FROM GHANA
Otrabanda

One never knows where a passion will lead. It was his love for Ghanaian music that led John Collins to co-found the Bokoor Band in 1971 alongside local guitarist Robert Beckley, which then set these upstarters off performing regional highlife alongside Carlos Santana and James Brown covers. This cross-pollination of musical styles between Africa and America continues to this day through hip-hop, even fusing that into highlife a la hip-life. Reading through Collins’ musical history is a bible of following your bliss, despite circumstances. The band was so poor that he would rub pumice stone over rusted guitar strings, and more than one political overthrow led to the shutting down of nightclubs (and hence his paying gigs). In 1982 he opened Bokoor Studios and went on to record over two hundred local acts of many genres. Doubling as professor and musicologist, Collins releases a dozen treats from those studio days, focused on five bands: T.O. Jazz, the Mangwana Stars, Oyikwan Internationals, Brekete & The Big Beats and, of course, the dominant figure, the Bokoor Band. While you won’t hear any James Brown songs, you will find the influence of American funk and soul on the harmonica blares, bass beats and smooth hooks throughout these tracks. Front and center is the guitar work, of Collins and other six-stringers, leading the melodic and soulful rhythms that are underscored by the heavy use of percussion. The subtle and overt become sublime in these twelve dance tracks that stand the test of time on club sound systems. The analog, gritty flavor adds ambiance, for one can only imagine the hypnotic frenzy these players were engulfed by during those memorable sessions at this small studio in Ghana. And remembered they shall be – it was Ghana’s musical satellite to the outside world, one still beaming broadcasts anywhere ears are open to listen. Derek Beres

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