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; bringing his tradition upfront, onstage, unveiling the richness and wisdom that are rooted in the past, yet essential for the shaping of the future.
Born in a rural village in the northern part of the country, at an early age Apozora Ayisoba was a prodigious kologo player, a two-stringed wooden instrument with a loud and neat sound with which he has gained national and international recognition in the past decade, bringing the tradition back into the mainstream. His new album 1000 Can Die, out on Glitterbeat Records on March 31st, has a strong message for his people; tradition is not simply something to be cherished and remembered – it is a fundamental resource for everyday life.
In many of his tracks he is calling forth the names of the forefathers, like in “Wekana”, a song praising the idea of people coming together in peace. The song features the voice of Zea (Arold De Boer), mer member of Dutch post punk band The EX, who also produced the album.
With his manifold voice, at times a roaring chant and others a loud hypnotic screech, the King of Kologo brings a rich texture to his music. In 1000 Can Die – a rousing political track about the wars and conflicts dividing Africa, his voice is accompanied by those of Jamaican dub pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry and Ghanaian rapper/producer M3NSA advising to “get rid of the wicked leaders” and to keep peace and freedom.
These are just two of the many collaborations featured in King Ayisoba’s latest work, ranging from instrumental contributions such as the drumming of Cassa Cultural Group in “Yalma da Wanga”, to the voice of Ghanaian-Romanian singer Walov The Kobulor or Orlando Julius‘s soulful and raw saxophone featured in Dapagara.
All the tracks of the album feature the kologo except “Wine Lange”, in which the ancestral sound is lead by the gonju: another traditional one string-instrument played by Sakuto Yongo.
But the real highlights of the album are the tracks in which Ayisoba’s ancestral melodies meet the influence of electronic music, merging into an exciting musical Chimera while never compromising the prominence of the traditional sounds. Both “Africa Needs Africa” and “Anka Ten Tu Kwai” are the perfect syntheses of the two- warm, groovy and highly rhythmical, they cheerfully drag you into the music while the vocals address the diaspora of Africans around the world.
King Ayisoba is a preacher, and he wants to be heard. His rebellious voice is a powerful weapon for the people, wherever it reaches, to feel empowered. A power that comes from the dry soil, from the strings of his sacred kologo, from the ancient stories he sings. With this combination of power of tradition he is giving a new, exciting shape to the future. No wonder he has become the King of music in Ghana.
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