Interview: Q&A with Ayuune Sule – Kologo Motive Power (June 2021)

Ayuune SUle pic by Dodo Schuster

Kologo is far more than a two-stringed traditional lute from North-Eastern Ghana. It’s one of the most eloquent cultural expressions of the Frafra people and, to some extent, a way of life.

In 2014, Arnold de Boer, music enthusiast, singer, guitarist (The Ex/Zea) and founder of Makkum Records, who arguably introduced Western music listeners to kologo thanks to the compilation Kologo Power, affirmed that only the town of Bolgatanga, which comprises around 70000 inhabitants, could boast 85 kologo players! Each of them with his own distinctive voice and stories to narrate.

Through his label and many collaborations, Arnold supports and spreads kologo power outside Africa. One of his latest discographic efforts (co-released by Rebel Up! Records) is Putoo Katare Yire, the brand-new album by Ayuune Sule, who was one for those 85 musicians. 

Despite being born in the Southern city of Kumasi, 500 km far from kologo traditional region, Ayuune has grown into one of the most established interpreters of the instrument and style, becoming a good and proper celebrity in his country. A few weeks ago, thanks to Arnold, we got in touch with Ayuune to discover more on his new album, kologo and Ghanaian music.

We know that you’re quite a star in Ghana. So, how do you feel about bringing your music and kologo outside its traditional region and abroad?                                                    

I live outside the traditional region, in Kumasi, Ashanti region. As a young boy I lived in the North and played. Kologo is my talent and my gift. My tradition is playing for funerals, we can be very spiritual, but we can also play in bars, for people to dance. So we tell the people the meaning of our tradition, and then we play. Kologo has evolved, the world has learned about it. We even mix it with hiplife and hiphop. Still we can explain the tradition. I am happy to share the tradition.

How do people react when they listen to your music for the first time?

I play everywhere. People like me and my music. People start dancing! They love the songs, they all dance. My song “What a Man can Do” they sing the song with me.

As much as traditional Ghanaian elements, your music also features plenty of other West African influences and styles. When did you start blending them together and how does the ‘brewing’ process work?

I understand Ashanti, highlife music, hiplife, azonto-beat, I live there so I can mix. We musicians know each other, so we mix.

You just released a new album… How would you introduce it and what was it like to record it in these mad Covid-19 times?

It collapsed everything, no music, no traveling, no anything, only problems, plenty of problems, but we hope all will be ok. We try to survive. My bar is running small small.

The songs in your new album, as well as the ones in your debut LP, give a genuine and honest representation of the everyday life in Kumasi and possibly Ghana at large. How do you feel about Ghana today and how much does your country inspire your music?

All my songs are about my life. I sing also to give advice and tell people to do good. I advise politicians too.

Each chapter on Putoo Katare Yire has its own personality and character. Is there any song that has a particular significance for you, or you feel more attached to?

The song “Life is a Journey” is my favourite. Anything can happen now, I can die now, or one day, life is a journey, we don’t know the distance, no one can tell.

What can you tell us about the music scene in Kumasi? Is there any musician/band in particular we should listen to from your city and region?

Kumasi – artist – Shatawali, Stone Bwy, Sarkodie, —– Kojuentie,   DK work with me, Atimbilla is great, King Ayisoba.

Musically speaking, you grew up playing together with King Ayisoba, who’s possibly the most respected kologo player in Ghana. What’s your relationship with him and is there any other musician you look up to when it comes to kologo and frafra music?

Atimbilla, Bola, Amuru, Prince Buju, Atamina, Agongo. 

Who are your music references and inspirations outside Ghanaian music?

Reggae – Bob Marley is my favourite,  love his music. Fela Kuti is a master. Zea, from Amsterdam. James Brown, fantastic.

What are your music plans for the future? Are we going to enjoy your music live in the UK any time soon?

Who knows tomorrow. No one knows. I will do my best, I will try whenever they allow me, I will be there. I am on stand-by.

How would you introduce your music to someone who’s never listened to it before?

I’m supposed to tell them I’m a human being from West Africa, from Ghana. My name is Ayuune Sule, please go to youtube and write “Kologo Power” then you will see me.

 

Photo ©: Dodo Schuster

 

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