Sunday, April 30, 2006


l'Ensemble Instrumental National du Mali -
Side A:"1ere Partie (First Part)" and "2eme Partie (Second Part)" from l'Ensemble Instrumental du Mali

There are not many clues as to the origin of this Bamako street market pirated tape. No telling what year it was made. From the looks of the photo, we're talking a while ago, I think.

The song names on both sides are the same, though the music is completely different. Maybe I'll throw Side B up here eventually.

Other than that, I'll let the music and cassette cover speak for themselves. This is real.

UPDATE: A couple folks have let me know about this site, where you'll find a bunch of info on West African music . It's a mini-revelation, in fact. Look out for the implausibly thorough Malian vinyl discographies.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Karamoko Keita - "Fouroui Kadi Ni Kanouye"

This music is from Mali, I believe. It's sublime in its simplicity.

I bought this tape in a neighborhood in Accra, Ghana. Known for its high concentration of people from other West African countries, Nima is one of the busiest, and toughest, places in town.

Several tape shops lie along the main road that bisects this enormous slum. The shop where I found this Karamoko Keita recording has tapes you can't find anywhere else in the city, tapes from Nigeria, Mali, Ivory Coast...that shop is chill.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Tic Tac - "Philomena" from the cassette, Philomena

Tic Tac is one of Ghana's most visible hip-hop artists. Originally touted as Ghana's answer to Busta Rhymes, Tic Tac has evoled into a frosty-tipped, micro-dread with the husky, but smooth voice that waxes romantic to a plastic beat. More recent albums depart from his intital penchant for hardcore rapping, instead working with highlife and slicker production. He teamed up with another frosty-dreaded singer/rapper from Nigeria named Tony Tetuila on his last album Wo Pe?.

Tic Tac then...

And now.

"Philomena" is a classic that may now be considered old school hiplife (if there is such a thing). It's the Tic Tac of old: rapping over minimal beats with witty, creative ideas.

Philomena is a girl who happens to have bad personal hygiene. She's got hair in her armpits and in her private area. This is gross (to most Ghanaians). Therefore, Philomena is gross.

There's a dance that motions to these areas during the part that goes, "Nwie waha, nwie waha, nwie waha, OH! [Hair here, hair there...]".

This song was huge for a while when it came out in 2001. Tic Tac remains huge.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Sony Achiba - "Nipa Boniayefoo," from the album, Indian Ocean.

Ghanaian hiplife meets Bollywood on this tape. The results are scary. Listen.

Sony Achiba is the originator, and sole practicioner, of hip-dia, the fusion of hip-hop and Indian music. Considering the nature of commercial hiplife production style and the type of Indian music Achiba draws from, hip-dia takes on a singularly bizarre quality.

I've heard Sony Achiba alternately described as a visionary and an artist "completely lacking in talent." You decide. No one can deny the fact that, in early 2004, this song was as criminally over-played on Ghanaian radio as the singles from gospel chanteuse Esther Smith's Gye No Di cassette. All of these songs still get plenty of spins to this day.

The screeching car tires before each rap verse are a nice touch, bringing that true Bollywood chase scene element into this surreal collage of influences. Vocoder-laced vocals, Sade-esque make-out music beat, and synthisized violins enhance this temporarily ubiquitous oddity.

This was also inside the tape:

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Megborna - "Yehowa Nye Kplolanye" from the cassette, Anloga Special.

I bought this tape at a streetside shop on the corner of a big junction in southwestern Ghana (known as the Volta Region), near the border with Togo. The people here call themselves Anlo Ewe. As in most parts of southern Ghana, there are a lot of churches and church music groups around here. There are also a lot of fishing boats and seaside villages made of natural materials.

The Ewe language sounds particularly snappy to my ear. On this recording, the slow, polyrhythmic saunter of bells, handclaps, and choral harmonies echo the sounds of overnight village prayer meetings that would often keep me awake in Ghana.

Church-related music is some of the most exciting in Ghana, if you like powerful singing and mathematical drums. But watch out for the commercial gospel cassettes that crowd the markets and airwaves. Mainstream electronic gospel, often infused wit flaccid reggae grooves, would be of little interest to all but the most hardcore non-Ghanaian ear, unfortunately.

Luckily, locally-produced tapes (i.e. not big city productions made for the radio and high volume distribution) like Megborna contain much in the way of spirited jams for the adventurous listener.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


The Best of Yamoah's Band Vol. 1 "Ntoboase"

This is Ghanaian highlife at its most chill. Yamoah is one of the greatest highlife singers ever. Yamoah is not very well known outside of Ghana. Those who are into collecting music from West Africa will certainly have come across some of his recordings though.

Vols 1-4 can be found in the cassette stalls in Kantamanto market, down in central Accra.

Best of Yamoah's Band Vol. 1 is one of my all-time favorites (and its three other vols). Guitar highlife with that incredibly far behind the beat feel to it. The almost wailing vocal harmonies, laced with what sound like hymnal cadences...sweet.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Kouyate Sory Kandia - "Souaressi" from a self-titled cassette.

This is an old school Guinean vocalist of the crooning, occasionally belting, variety. It's all there: rhumba, jazz, and indigenous modes.

On the song "Souaressi", as on most of the songs, Kouyate Sory Kandia is accompanied by an orchestra of traditional and western instruments.

The whole album makes me feel retro or something. Yeah!

I bought this tape at a market in central Bamako, Mali. Tapes there cost like 700-1000 CFA Francs (which is about $1.50-$2.00).

Ata Kak - Obaa Sima

This is it. The song is called "Moma Yendodo".

You may never hear anything like this elsewhere.

I bought this on the street from a guy selling tapes displayed on one of those big, vertical wooden racks in Cape Coast, Ghana.

No one I know in Ghana listens to this frenetic leftfield rap madness.

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