Interview: King Ayisoba [April 2017]

King-Ayisoba

King Ayisoba, as his name states, is the king of Ghanaian music. He plays his sacred kologo, a two-stringed wooden instrument, like no one else does and the energy and power of his singing are able to reach everyone indiscriminately.

On March 31st he released for Glitterbeat Records his latest work 1000 Can Die, an album in which the influences of contemporary music meet to reinforce his compelling and traditional sound. His music is the medium to talk to his people, to advise and encourage them with the ancestors’ wisdom that never grows old.

King Ayisoba is currently bringing his bright sound to venues across Europe, on a tour that will last until June. Between gigs, he took the time to have a chat with us to tell us more about his ambitions, the power of his music and the future of Ghanaian people. 

When and why did you decide to be called King Ayisoba? What is the meaning behind your stage name?

“My Frafra name is Asoodobadoro, and it means King, so that is why I call myself King Ayisoba, Ayisoba is my father’s name”.

Is the King Ayisoba we see onstage different from the man who plays kologo in his home village?

“I am always King Ayisoba, there are not two”.

How do you feel when you play abroad? You could be considered a Ghanaian music Ambassador… what does that mean for you?

“We bring Frafra music, from the North of Ghana, to Europe and to the world. Yes, we present Ghana, the world should know about our music. I want to make the world love kologo music like Bob Marley made the world like reggae music”.

Your music is permeated with tradition. Are you afraid that Ghana is losing its roots? 

“In Ghana, we struggle. We are modern Ghanaians but we should not forget our traditions. Our grandfathers, we honour them. People have to keep Ghana close to their heart”.

What can tradition bring to the life of contemporary Ghanaians?

“That is the way we live and we learn and what makes us. We are not American people. We are not European people”.

How and when did you and Zea start working together? What is his contribution to your music?

“Zea came to Ghana in 2012. Then he invited me to Europe to tour with him. I heard his music and we would play some songs together, His “Song for Electricity” is now a hit in Ghana. Zea brought my band to Europe and we toured plenty of times. Every year. Then we made “Wicked Leaders”. For the new album, I wanted to chop his beats. So in the studio, we worked together and then Zea produced the album, put beats inside and fire”!

From Lee “Scratch” Perry and Big Gad to Orlando Julius and M3nsa – working with other musicians seems to be an important part of your music. How did you choose your collaborations?

“We met Lee Perry at the airport, and then we took pictures. Mad Professor knows my music. So we talk. Orlando Julius, I have known for a long time, he is a legend in Ghana. M3nsa and Wanlov The Kubolor are my brothers, from Ghana, we have worked together a long time. It’s good to meet people, and then you see what can happen”.

Each of your songs has a meaningful message, sometimes advice. Do you see yourself as a “musical preacher”?

“I cannot sing about love or fucking. We are supposed to tell people what is the good and what is the bad”.

Is music still a strong medium to sensitise and move people?

“Music is a gift from God. You cannot just sit and play and spoil people’s ears”.

In “Africa needs Africa” you speak to all the Ghanaians who left their country in search of a better future. What are your thoughts on this issue?

“When we travel in Europe we see African people, they are suffering, and they do not find what they want. They dream too much. They should come back and help Ghana grow”.

What are your future hopes for Ghana?

“Ghana will always be Ghana. We have to make peace, never fight”.

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This year, we only got a glimpse of the music bonanza offered by the Womad UK weekend. Our stay in Malmesbury consisted of a hit-and-run or a ‘toccata-and-fugue’, in-keeping with the musical topic, and saw us pay a visit to Charlton Park on the last day of the event. Still,…

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Album Review: King Ayisoba – 1000 Can Die [Glitterbeat Records, 31st March 2017]

It’s very interesting to observe how contemporary sounds meet the heritage of tradition, especially in African countries, which are rapidly embracing the advantages of modernity, while still enjoying deep ties to their ancestral cultures and customs. Ghanaian singer and kologo player King Ayisoba does exactly that, but inverts the formula;…

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