Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Afro-rock - finding records in Africa.
Duncan Brooker compiled Afro-rock back in 2001, and its getting a reissue on Strut shortly (out March 9) - I posted a free download courtesy of Strut the other day, go grab it here.

I remembered a really good article that Brooker wrote for the Guardian back when the album first came out, and hunted it down. The Guardian, July 2001.

"...In west Africa, I found I was dealing mainly with producers - frequently the rights to a piece of music revert to the producer after a period of time. In order to trace music by the Ghanaian great K Frimpong, I needed to trace a producer called James Ofori and went to visit a man I knew, AK Brobbey, who styles himself "Africa's number one producer". Brobbey told me he knew Ofori well and that he would take me to him.

I jumped in the car with his driver, his daughter and two or three people that we were just giving a lift to. The village was a two-hour drive from Kumasi but it took us all day because the car broke down a lot and - because I was Brobbey's guest - I wasn't allowed to help push, though his daughter had to. In the end, I climbed out and pushed anyway. We got the car patched up at a garage and bumped on over the potholes to Ofori's village.

Ofori has become a poultry farmer. He lives in a two-storey house - the lower level is taken up by chickens while he and his family live upstairs. He was amazed to see me, telling me he hadn't talked about his music with anyone for seven or eight years, and started getting out all his photos of his studio and musicians in enormous flares and Afros. I told him I was looking for music by K Frimpong. "I have a copy of the cassette here somewhere," he said.

He found it and put it on, and his seven children came running in. They stared at me for a little while - I was, I suppose, the first white man they'd ever seen - then started dancing around. I told him I wanted to license the music, so that it could be heard outside Africa. "No, no. Come with me," he said, and led me downstairs into a room full of chickens. He started pulling out bags and reels of tape crusted with a thick layer of chicken shit and dust - everything in Africa gets coated with dust. "My God," he was saying, looking into cans of tape. "I don't know what's in this one. I haven't looked in here for 20 years. Which track were you after?" he asked. "Kyenken Bi Adi M'Awu," I said (which means Come Back My Love in the local language). "I can't believe you've still got it."

"It's lucky because Frimpong came here about seven years ago and took it away. But he came back. It's been in this room ever since." I told him I needed to take it away to get it recorded on to digitial audio tape. Fine, he said, bring it back when you've finished with it. I thought it would be completely shot, unusable, but in fact it was really very good, very clean stuff. I had another track...."

1 comment:

MikeE said...

very cool, just sent the link to kola..